Conflict Thesaurus Entry: Losing a Phone

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: 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
A teenager’s phone being confiscated as a consequence
Being without a phone while it’s being repaired
Partially breaking a phone and being unable to replace it; having to use it though certain important features don’t work

Minor Complications:
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
Not having immediate access to emails, voicemail, and texts
Getting lost without the phone’s GPS
Missing an appointment because the character can’t access their calendar
Missing out on impromptu get-togethers that are set up via text message
Losing meaningful pictures that had not yet been backed up
Needing to replace the phone but not being able to afford it, meaning the character has to go without for much longer

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
A loved one needing desperately to get in touch
The character experiencing an emergency (being carjacked, running out of gas in a deserted area, the character’s house catching fire and the neighbor not being able to reach them, etc.)
Missing a vital work meeting
Having an occupation where missed calls have great impact—e.g., a lawyer whose friend has been arrested and uses their one call but is unable to contact them
Losing business opportunities because of not being able to receive and respond to emails quickly
Being stalked by the thief, who uses the character’s calendar to track their location
Replacing the phone with one that is more than the character can afford
Suffering from a disorder that makes the loss much more difficult (anxiety, OCD, etc.)
Being in a situation that makes the loss much worse (a child needing to be picked up and having no way to contact the character, a parent suffering a heart attack and relatives are unable to reach the character, etc.)

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
Worrying that the character’s personal information (their address, banking info, etc.) has been compromised

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, impatience, inadequate, panic, unease, worry

Personality Flaws that May Make the Situation Worse: Addictive, compulsive, controlling, disorganized, extravagant, forgetful, martyr, melodramatic, needy, nervous, perfectionist, temperamental, timid, worrywart

Positive Outcomes: 
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
Recognizing how much time the character is wasting on the phone and vowing to exercise restraint in the future
Recognizing the value in delayed gratification—not needing to see and respond immediately to everything that happens
Learning to be more responsible
The character being more appreciative of the luxuries and “extras” they’re able to indulge in
Adopting a new perspective on what’s important and necessary in life

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.


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. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
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Traci Kenworth
1 year ago

This could be disastrous in a tight spot.

Brenda Felber
1 year ago

Eager for the conflict thesaurus to come out and add to my collection!