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 your story, make a character’s goals more difficult to achieve, and force them to change or make hard choices to overcome what stands in their way.
To see the full entry, visit One Stop for Writers’ Conflict Thesaurus (Free Trial available) or buy the book.
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.)…
Flaring tempers and arguments
Making others involved feel uncomfortable
Having to swallow one’s pride for the greater good…
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…
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…
Personality Flaws that May Make the Situation Worse: abrasive, catty, childish, cocky, confrontational, controlling, dishonest…
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…
If you’re interested in other conflict options, you can find them here.
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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The Conflict Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Obstacles, Adversaries, and Inner Struggles
This thesaurus is also in book form, a two-volume set. Each volume contains expert advice on how to use conflict to improve your story, and a plethora of conflict scenarios to provide ideas on how to best challenge your characters.
Each volume is a unique gateway into conflict, but looks at this important element from different angles. Together, they profile 225 conflict scenarios.
Find out more about the GOLD and SILVER editions.
“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
Visit Goodreads to read more reviews about the GOLD and SILVER editions.
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.
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.