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: A Romantic Competitor
Category: Increased pressure and ticking clocks, relationship friction, losing an advantage, ego
Dating someone who isn’t exclusive
A love interest’s old flame showing up and wanting to resume a relationship
An ex trying to win back the love interest…
Having to find ways to one-up the competition
Having to go to a special event solo because they acted too slowly
Being distracted (which interferes with work, school, and other responsibilities)…
Potentially Disastrous Results:
Jealousy that gets out of hand and causes a breakup
Getting caught spying on the love interest (while they are out with the competition)
Becoming so obsessive it drives the love interest toward the competition…
Possible Internal Struggles (Inner Conflict):
Insecurity causing neediness (and self-loathing for that neediness)
Anguish over the partner’s indecision
Feeling “not good enough” but also angry for being made to feel this way…
People Who Could Be Negatively Affected: the love interest, rival, third-party individuals who may also have a stake in the outcome (perhaps someone who has feelings for the character but has not made it known to them yet)
Resulting Emotions: agitation, anger, anguish, anticipation, anxiety, bitterness, conflicted, confusion…
A character who has been holding back out of a fear to commit could come to the realization that this was unfair to the other person and make changes moving forward
The appearance of a rival may force the character to reflect on whether this relationship is worth fighting for or not
A character struggling to show or articulate feelings may finally find the inner strength to push through the mental blocks holding them back…
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