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: An Elderly Parent Requiring Care
Category: Relationship friction, duty and responsibilities, moral dilemmas and temptation, miscellaneous challenges
A parent being diagnosed with cancer and needs immediate surgery
A parent with Alzheimers or dementia who requires constant monitoring
A parent who sufferEd a stroke and needs help to recover
Having an elderly parent who doesn’t drive needing help getting to and from appointments
Having a stubborn parent with a medical condition (like diabetes) who isn’t managing it properly
Unsympathetic employers when the character has to leave early to take a parent to see the doctor
Being unable to afford in-home support
Moving a parent in to better monitor them and it creating friction with existing family members
A loss of freedom
Resentment over care-taking duties
Being unappreciated by the parent (who is bitter about needing help)
A loss of sleep
Having no time or energy to socialize or pursue hobbies
Other relationships that suffer because they aren’t being looked after
Potentially Disastrous Results:
Arguments with siblings over who will step up and it leading to a falling out
A frail parent resisting a care home placement who then is injured at home as a result
Resentment creeping into the character’s life at having to trade freedom for care-taking
Having to travel for work and so being unavailable to the parent at a critical time
Mounting medical bills
Developing a habit or addiction (to sleeping pills, drinking too much, etc.) to cope with trying to do it all
Possible Internal Struggles (Inner Conflict):
Resentment at the burden of care and then shame for feeling thus
Feeling guilty for wanting to pass the responsibility onto someone else
Anger when a parent is being difficult yet knowing if the character were facing restrictions and a loss of control, they would behave the same
People Who Could Be Negatively Affected: the elderly parent, family and friends, co-workers, other people or organizations the character is responsible to
Resulting Emotions: annoyance, anxiety, concern, conflicted, connectedness, depressed, despair, desperation, determination, dread, flustered, frustration, gratitude, grief, guilt, hopefulness, impatience, moody, pity, powerlessness, resentment, resignation, sadness, self-pity, shame, unappreciated, uncertainty, valued, wistful, worry
Personality Flaws that May Make the Situation Worse: controlling, cowardly, disloyal, disorganized, impatient, inattentive, irresponsible, oversensitive, perfectionist, pessimistic, tactless, temperamental, worrywart
Building a closeness with a parent that has been lost over time
Rediscovering compassion and grace
Gaining a deeper appreciation for the parent-child bond that causes the character to seek out stronger connections with their own children
Having an opportunity to make up for lost time (or past mistakes)
If you’re interested in other conflict options, you can find them here.
Need More Descriptive Help?
While this conflict thesaurus is still being developed, the rest of our descriptive collection (15 unique thesauri and growing) is available at our main site, One Stop for Writers.
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