Conflict is very often the magic sauce for generating tension and turning a ho-hum story into one that rivets readers. As such, every scene should contain a struggle of some kind. Maybe it’s an internal tug-of-war having to do with difficult decisions, morals, or temptations. Or it possibly could come from an external source—other characters, unfortunate circumstances, or the force of nature itself.
It’s our hope that this thesaurus will help you come up with meaningful and fitting conflict options for your stories. Think about what your character wants and how best to block them, then choose a source of conflict that will ramp up the tension in each scene.
Below is a sample version of this entry that shows how conflict can deepen the story, make a character’s goals harder to achieve, and force them to change or make hard choices to overcome difficulties.
To see the full entry, visit One Stop for Writers’ Conflict Thesaurus (Free Trial available) or buy the book.
Conflict: Doing Something Stupid While Impaired
Category: Failures and mistakes, relationship friction, moral dilemmas and temptation, loss of control, ego
Telling the boss or coworkers what the character really thinks (about them, the company, personal beefs, etc.)
Calling up an ex in hopes of getting back together
Calling up an ex to tell them off…
Embarrassment or humiliation
Making a bad impression on someone…
Potentially Disastrous Results:
Discovering their actions while impaired were filmed and are now on the internet
Losing their job
Destroying a relationship over a bad choice (being unfaithful, sharing another’s secret and breaking trust forever, being caught in a big lie, etc.)…
Possible Internal Struggles (Inner Conflict):
Shame over their own actions while being angry at those who encouraged them to drink excessively
Guilt at losing control yet resenting the stress and pressure that led to the need to self-medicate
Embracing responsibility due to remorse while resenting others who never seem to suffer any consequences for similar behavior…
People Who Could Be Negatively Affected: Family, friends, co-workers, a business’s image, people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time and were injured or had to witness something they would have preferred not to see
Resulting Emotions: anguish, appalled, bitterness, contempt, denial, depressed, devastation, disappointment…
Hitting rock bottom and being determined it will never happen again
A realization that one’s drinking has become a problem and making a choice to seek help
Making a mistake and realizing to do so is human, and this leading to them to let go of perfectionist tendencies…
Use Conflict To Transform Your Story
Readers have a lot of choices when it comes to selecting books, so make it easy for them to choose yours. Conflict will help you deliver a fresh story premise every time, drawing readers in through meaningful challenges that reveal a character’s innermost needs, fears, weaknesses, and strengths.
The Conflict Thesaurus is part of the largest, fiction-specific Description Database available. Access it here.
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“Many of the conflicts listed were ones I had never even thought of including in a story…” ~ Annie Lima
“Angela and Becca have done it again—and left no conflict stone unturned…” ~Jarm Boccio
“Ackerman-Puglisi’s thesaurus is so much more than just a “thesaurus”. It’s a tutor, a guide, and a writing mentor all crammed into one…” ~ Sacha Black
This book is amazing; another priceless resource…” ~ Brandi MacCurdy