Conflict Thesaurus Entry: Being Falsely Accused

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: 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…
A crime
Taking or misplacing an important item (a work file, someone’s phone, etc.)
Having a personality flaw the character doesn’t possess (laziness, irresponsibility, self-righteousness, etc.)
Racism, bigotry, or another form of prejudice or discrimination
Favoritism at work or with one’s children
Doing something the character used to be guilty of but isn’t anymore
Being a bad parent, employee/employer, friend, etc.
Saying or implying something about someone else

Minor Complications:
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
Tension with the other person

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.)
Fallout from people believing the accusation (co-workers only trusting them with certain responsibilities, loss of a teenager’s privileges, etc.)
A romantic relationship falling apart
A lack of trust developing in important relationships
Being found guilty and having to spend time in jail
Living up/down to the accusations (a self-fulfilling prophecy)
Giving up on trying to change and falling back into old habits (if the character is accused of something they used to be guilty of)
Having to physically relocate (change jobs, move out of a neighborhood, etc.) to start over

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.)
Assuming that other people are accusing the character of things when they’re not (becoming defensive)
Second-guessing even innocent actions that could have led to the accusation (updating a collaborative file that ends up being deleted, 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, defensiveness, defiant, denial, desperation, determination, devastation, disbelief, discouraged, disillusionment, dread, emasculated, embarrassment, fear, frustration, guilt, indignation, insecurity, nervousness, paranoia, powerlessness, resentment, resignation, schadenfreude, stunned, unease, vulnerability, wariness

Personality Flaws that May Make the Situation Worse: Antisocial, confrontational, cynical, defensive, hostile, melodramatic, oversensitive, paranoid, prejudiced, uncooperative

Positive Outcomes: 
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
The character recognizing how they may have contributed to the situation, and taking steps to address those tendencies

If you’re interested in other conflict options, you can find them here.


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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