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 Unprepared
Category: Increased pressure and ticking clocks, failures and mistakes, duty and responsibilities, losing an advantage, loss of control, ego
Going into an important work meeting, interview, presentation or speech, personal conversation, court case, etc. without proper preparation.
An emergency situation that steals the character’s preparation time
Being assigned the responsibility last minute and having to “wing it”
Poor time management…
Being embarrassed in front of peers or influential people…
Potentially Disastrous Results:
Not getting the desired job, promotion, account, etc.
Being removed from the project and losing out on future opportunities
Failing to bring about change (if the character was speaking at a rally, providing a witness testimony, pleading a case in front of a committee, etc.)…
Possible Internal Struggles (Inner Conflict):
Feeling guilty because other parties were impacted by the character’s poor planning
Struggling with feelings of inadequacy and insecurity
Toying with feelings of self-loathing…
People Who Could Be Negatively Affected: the character’s boss, other people working on the project, people benefiting from the project or presentation (conference attendees, the charity organization the character was representing, etc.)
Resulting Emotions: Agitation, anxiety, apprehension, confusion, defensiveness, doubt, dread…
Learning to plan ahead
Schedule more carefully
Communicate more clearly, or whatever needs to be done so the situation isn’t repeated…
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