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: 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…
Personality Flaws that May Make the Situation Worse: Confrontational, controlling, greedy, gullible, indecisive, know-it-all…
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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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.
Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling.
Traci Kenworth says
A good one! Misaligned goals can do heavy damage to a relationship. Score: conflict!
BECCA PUGLISI says
I like this one because it can happen in so many different situations: family relationships, romantic relationships, work settings, etc.
Jan Sikes says
Excellent source of conflict for our stories!! Thank you for sharing!
BECCA PUGLISI says
Thanks for reading, Jan!
Patricia Hansen says
When will the Conflict Thesaurus be published for sale?
ANGELA ACKERMAN says
Thanks for your interest in this thesaurus. 🙂 Becca and I always test out a thesaurus idea here before choosing what we will turn into a book. If enough people ask for it, then that usually means we will work on it next. And regardless if we do or not, we also expand each thesaurus and add it to a permanent home at One Stop for Writers: https://onestopforwriters.com/