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: 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…
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…
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…
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…
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…
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