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: Misaligned Goals
Category: Power struggles, relationship friction, duty and responsibilities
- One character wants to have a baby while her partner doesn’t
- One character wants to get married while the partner doesn’t
- One character wants to right a wrong while the other seeks to maintain the status quo…
Tension in the relationship
Making assumptions about the other person based on their goals (they don’t want kids so they must be selfish, their assertive business tactics mean they’re aggressive and domineering, etc.)
Misunderstandings delaying the decisions that would lead to improvements (forward-thinking business decisions, pursuing self-actualization, etc.)…
Potentially Disastrous Results:
Avoiding the issue (to keep the peace), allowing it to fester and grow
The character pushing their agenda to the point of driving away the other person or damaging their own reputation
Being blocked by the other person from doing what’s right or best…
People Who Could Be Negatively Affected: the party opposing the character’s goal, people who are close to the situation (co-workers, the boss, clients or customers, family members, friends, etc.)
Resulting Emotions: Anger, annoyance, betrayed, bitterness, conflicted, confusion, contempt, defensiveness…
Possible Internal Struggles (Inner Conflict):
Feeling personally slighted or invalidated
Resenting the other party…
Opening up to new or challenging ideas
Learning how to compromise in a healthy way…
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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“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