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: Being Falsely Accused
Category: Power struggles, increased pressure and ticking clocks, relationship friction, losing an advantage, loss of control, ego, no-win situations
Examples: Being falsely accused of…
Taking or misplacing an important item (a work file, someone’s phone, etc.)…
Time wasted doing damage control
Following stricter procedures and protocols to make sure the situation doesn’t recur and the accusation isn’t repeated
The character constantly having to prove their innocence to the accuser…
Potentially Disastrous Results:
Blowing the accusation off only to have it turn into a major problem
The character’s reputation being ruined despite their innocence
The character’s job being affected (getting fired, demoted, not being considered for important projects, etc.)…
Possible Internal Struggles (Inner Conflict):
Worrying that other people may think the accusation is true
Believing what other people are saying (that the character is untrustworthy, will never grow up, is a slut, etc.)
Difficulty trusting the person or kind of person who made the claim (business executives, people in authority, people of a certain race/gender/age/culture/economic status, etc.)…
People Who Could Be Negatively Affected: The accuser, peripheral people who are hit with collateral damage or are forced to take sides (co-workers, family members, friends, supporters of the accused, etc.)
Resulting Emotions: Anger, anguish, anxiety, appalled, apprehension, betrayed, bitterness, confusion…
Adopting reasonable practices to keep the situation from recurring (having a witness present during conversations with the accuser, documenting certain actions or decisions, etc.)
Developing positive traits that will keep the character from being accused of the specific misdeed (honesty, organization, reliability, etc.)
The character discovering who their true friends are…
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.