Conflict Thesaurus Entry: Doing Something Stupid While Impaired

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.

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
Picking a fight with someone
Taking stupid risks (jumping over a campfire, climbing out on a roof to stargaze, standing on a high ledge to prove fearlessness, going swimming at night, taking a shortcut through a dangerous neighborhood)
Drunk driving
Indecent exposure
Sleeping with a best friend’s significant other, a co-worker, or other person who should be off limits
Trying to cross the friend zone when it’s a bad idea
Rioting during a celebration
Breaking the law
Pulling a dangerous prank where others get hurt
Sleeping with a stranger (when this is not the norm)
Abandoning friends to go off with strangers
Revealing a secret (their own, or one belonging to another)

Minor Complications:
Being hurt
Embarrassment or humiliation
Making a bad impression on someone
Losing the trust of others
Worrying loved ones
Letting someone down
Waking up in a compromised situation (alone in a sleazy hotel with no memory of what happened, having their wallet stolen, discovering they had unsafe sex or used drugs they would normally never take, etc.)
Causing their family, friends, or the company they work for embarrassment

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.)
Getting a disease (through unsafe sex or drug use)
Doing something that cannot be taken back (like killing someone while driving impaired)
Being convicted of a crime and losing custody of one’s children
Being sued
Being convicted of a crime and going to jail
Hurting someone while under the influence
Being attacked while under the influence

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
Feeling shame and humiliation but also believing that the punishment for the lapse in judgment is too much
Shame at what one did but shock and disbelief at the fallout

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, disbelief, disgust, disillusionment, emasculated, embarrassment, guilt, horror, humiliation, hurt, hysteria, panic, powerlessness, regret, remorse, resentment, resignation, self-loathing, self-pity, shame, tormented, worthlessness

Personality Flaws that May Make the Situation Worse: addictive, childish, cocky, confrontational, disloyal, flaky, foolish, gullible, impulsive, irresponsible, jealous, macho, martyr, melodramatic, promiscuous, rebellious, reckless, rowdy, self-destructive, tactless, temperamental, unethical, vindictive, violent, volatile

Positive Outcomes: 
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

If you’re interested in other conflict options, you can find them here.

Need More Descriptive Help?

This conflict thesaurus is still being developed, but if you would like to access our entire descriptive collection (14 unique thesauri and growing), visit our main site, One Stop for Writers.


Angela is a writing coach, international speaker, and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also is a founder of One Stop For Writers, a portal to powerful, innovative tools to help writers elevate their storytelling.
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9 months ago

Haha! Been there done that. =-O I have a character who always likes to be in control. I have a story planned in his series where he has to smoke something in order to see something important (sci-fi/fantasy). So he struggles to decide between staying in control or risk looking like a fool. Fun!

Jan Sikes
Jan Sikes
9 months ago

This is a great source for a varied amount of conflict! Thanks, ladies!