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: Losing a Phone
Category: Increased pressure and ticking clocks, failures and mistakes, duty and responsibilities, loss of control
A phone breaking
Leaving the phone somewhere
The phone being stolen…
Being bored (while standing in line, at a red light, etc.)
Not being able to call or text others when away from home
Having to recreate the information on one’s phone because it wasn’t backed up properly…
Potentially Disastrous Results:
The phone being stolen and one’s private information being accessed
The thief using credit card information to make unwanted purchases
A stolen phone being connected to a crime…
Possible Internal Struggles (Inner Conflict):
Feeling stupid about having lost or misplaced the phone
Worrying that a stolen phone could put loved ones at risk (due to the information that was on it)
Being afraid to tell others (a parent, a spouse) that the phone is missing…
People Who Could Be Negatively Affected: Anyone who is inconvenienced because the character is without a phone: children, a spouse, extended relatives, co-workers, the boss, clients, neighbors
Resulting Emotions: Agitation, anger, annoyance, anxiety, disappointment, embarrassment, frustration…
Learning to be present with others (rather than being glued to the phone)
Forging stronger face-to-face connections with others
Being more efficient because less time is wasted on the phone…
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
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.