Conflict Thesaurus Entry: Having to Work with an Enemy

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: Having to Work with an Enemy

Category: Power struggles, increased pressure and ticking clocks, relationship friction, duty and responsibilities, loss of control, ego, no-win situations

Competitive co-workers placed on the same project or team
Teammates with a common goal of winning
Ex-spouses co-parenting during a challenging time (a difficult health diagnosis, a child who suffers from depression, etc.)
Feuding family members trying to save a family business
Enemies engaged in a cover up that will ruin both their lives if discovered
Enemies stuck in a situation they cannot handle alone (escaping a danger, being lost in the woods, etc.)
Siblings teaming up to stand against abusive parents
Estranged family members having to plan a mutual loved one’s funeral

Minor Complications:
Flaring tempers and arguments
Making others involved feel uncomfortable
Having to swallow one’s pride for the greater good
Having to monitor one’s tone and words to avoid splintering the group
Being distracted by resentment and negativity
Holding back to not give up an advantage, leading to self-sabotage
Wasting mental energy on questioning the other’s motives
Struggling with mistrust

Potentially Disastrous Results:
Revealing secrets that will have repercussions after the crisis is over
Unintentionally giving an enemy Intel they can use later
Being manipulated into giving up an advantage that wasn’t necessary

Possible Internal Struggles (Inner Conflict):
Discovering likeable qualities about someone one should hate
Resentment warring with appreciation (hating to need help but being glad to have it)
Trying to hang onto knowledge or a strength to keep the advantage but being forced to share it solve the current situation
Worrying about what others will think regarding the collaboration Worrying about what will happen after the crisis has ended
Achieving growth through the awareness of one’s flaws due to the perspective of an enemy unafraid to point them out
Wanting to dismiss a great idea only because of its source

People Who Could Be Negatively Affected: family members who will be disappointed by the collaboration, friends invested in the friction remaining in place or who are invested in the enemy’s downfall, other people who have something riding on the outcome, win or lose, people who are relying on the two to succeed so they can avoid negative consequences themselves

Resulting Emotions: agitation, anger, betrayed, bitterness, certainty, conflicted, contempt, defensiveness, defiant, denial, dread, emasculated, frustration, guilt, humiliation, inadequate, insecurity, intimidated, irritation, jealousy, paranoia, powerlessness, reluctance, resentment, resignation, schadenfreude, scorn, self-pity, skepticism, smugness, stunned, suspicion, unappreciated, vengeful, vindicated, vulnerability, wariness

Personality Flaws that May Make the Situation Worse: abrasive, catty, childish, cocky, confrontational, controlling, dishonest, hostile, inflexible, insecure, jealous, martyr, melodramatic, oversensitive, paranoid, stubborn, tactless, temperamental, uncommunicative, uncooperative, vindictive

Positive Outcomes: 
Discovering common ground that helps each gain a better perspective
The adversity forcing each character to deal with internal hangups that hold them back
Overcoming difficult circumstances leads to greater self-confidence
The experience gained makes the character better able to work with people in the future
Working out past issues that really needed to be dealt with to move forward

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


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

This is a tough one to do without being cliche. You had some good examples. One I’m working on right now is I have an older brother who agrees to help the enemy escape if they agree to help his little brother. Trust is hard, but he doesn’t have any other options.