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: Confiding in the Wrong Person
Category: Failures and mistakes, relationship friction, duty and responsibilities, losing an advantage
Sharing information with someone who can’t keep it to themselves
Having something private or personal be sold to tabloids
Having information be used against the character in some way…
Damaged relationships and mistrust
Being unfairly blamed for fallout
Damage to their reputation…
Potentially Disastrous Results:
A relationship ending
Losing a position of prestige
Losing an advantage that was hard won…
Possible Internal Struggles (Inner Conflict):
Anger and disillusionment warring with lingering feelings of friendship or love for the one who betrayed
Anger that cherished memories have now been tainted or spoiled by backstabbing
Guilt or self-blame at one’s nativity at odds with rage toward the one who upended the character’s life…
People Who Could Be Negatively Affected: Family, friends, loved ones, people the character is responsible for, people who are associated with the character (if the fallout paints any associated with them in a negative light)
Resulting Emotions: anger, anguish, anxiety, betrayed, bitterness, conflicted, defeat, defensiveness, defiant…
Personality Flaws that May Make the Situation Worse: cocky, compulsive, confrontational, controlling, dishonest…
Being called out for one’s actions allows for an opportunity to take responsibility
When something private is made public, the character may gain perspective about where their loyalties should lie, who may be a toxic influence in their life, or who is working against their best interests, leading to freedom and independence
If there’s dysfunction at work, the character can seek help once everything is out in the open…
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.
Jan Sikes says
Oh, that is a good one. The classic example is a woman who thinks her man is cheating confides in the woman who he is actually cheating with. This happened to me in real life. 🙂
ANGELA ACKERMAN says
Oh my gosh. I can’t even imagine, Jan. I am so sorry. Hopefully you projected the people who hurt you into your stories and made those characters suffer. Free therapy *stabby-stab*
Love this one! I have no idea why I didn’t already have this on my own personal list of character conflicts. God knows I’ve confided in the wrong person more than once in my life, and even inadvertently been the committer of this crime.
ANGELA ACKERMAN says
Agreed! And I agree about being on both sides of the fence. I think there has been times for all of us where we share something forward we shouldn’t, or act on something to benefit ourselves or others. I think this is a gray area sometimes, because everything we learn is information and we do have to decide how to apply it. The question is always motivation, for us and for our characters. What are our reasons for responding or doing something with information shared in confidence? Can we look ourselves in the mirror afterward…or not?