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: A Partner Being Unwilling to Commit
Category: Power struggles, relationship friction
A significant other who doesn’t want to get married
A partner who doesn’t want to move in together
Refusing to call the relationship “exclusive” even though there is no one else
Arguments and friction in the relationship
Having two of everything (two homes, two beds, two closets and sets of clothes, etc.)
Awkward questions from family and friends
Being judged or talked about by those outside the relationship
“Bleeding money” because finances and assets are not consolidated
Feeling like an outsider around the partner’s family
Potentially Disastrous Results:
An ultimatum being delivered
A partner leaving the relationship
A partner looking elsewhere for the commitment they desire (engaging in emotional cheating or an affair)
A rival seeking to move in due to a belief that the existing relationship isn’t serious
A pregnancy forcing the issue or upping the ante
Possible Internal Struggles (Inner Conflict):
Loving someone yet hating the part of them that can’t commit
A character feeling like they are defective (low self-esteem) yet knowing the commitment issues lie in their partner’s painful past
Feelings of self-doubt; soul searching as to whether they are making a mistake by staying in the relationship
Wanting marriage and a family but being unsure if their partner will ever “get there”
People Who Could Be Negatively Affected: The character and their partner, any children in the mix if commitment issues spill over into the child’s life
Resulting Emotions: bitterness, conflicted, confusion, contempt, defeat, desire, determination, disappointment, frustration, hopefulness, hurt, insecurity, longing, neglected, powerlessness, resignation, self-pity, unappreciated, vulnerability, wistful
A resistance to commit also means not committing too early, especially if the couple is very possibly a mismatch
Being unable to commit may cause friction that will lead the character to search within for reasons as to why, hopefully leading to personal growth and being able to let go of the past
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.