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 Assigned an Undesirable Partner
Category: Power struggles, increased pressure and ticking clocks, relationship friction, duty and responsibilities, loss of control
Being saddled with the boss’ entitled, clueless kid as an intern
Getting stuck with new recruit (as a police officer or similar job)
Being told by parents to buddy up with the new kid next door
Having to work on a school project with someone who is unmotivated
Having a slob for a desk mate at work
Partnering up with someone with a poor work ethic
Being assigned to a “poor performer” to try and turn them around
Being matched with a dance partner, fellow actor, or co-host that the character can’t stand
Having to work with someone who is not a good personality match
An arranged marriage proposal that disappoints
An inbalance in responsibility, workload, and accountibility
Potentially Disastrous Results:
Starting a feud that brings out the worst on both people
Talking behind the person’s back and being overheard
Being reprimanded for not being a “team player”
Getting fired for inter-office sabotage
Being demoted for bad behavior
Breaking ties with family (in the case of a bad marriage match)
Being pressured into “making it work” leading to deep unhappiness
Possible Internal Struggles (Inner Conflict):
Wanting to succeed but being angry as the partner will benefit too
Wanting to give the benefit of the doubt but growing more suspicious of who is responsible when too many small things go wrong
Being torn between acting professional and giving in to childish behavior as friction escalates
Resentment at the situation yet knowing no one is really to blame
Being resentful for having to cover up a partner’s actions yet not wanting them to be discovered
Wanting to respect loved ones who created the situation but also harboring anger and betrayal for having their own happiness have so little value
People Who Could Be Negatively Affected: The character themselves, the partner, friends and family, co-workers, people who depend on the two and need them to work together well
Resulting Emotions: agitation, annoyance, bitterness, contempt, defeat, defensiveness, determination, discouraged, disgust, disillusionment, dread, emasculated, embarrassment, frustration, hopefulness, impatience, irritation, jealousy, paranoia, powerlessness, rage, regret, reluctance, resentment, resignation, schadenfreude, self-pity, smugness, suspicion, unappreciated, wariness
Personality Flaws that May Make the Situation Worse: abrasive, confrontational, controlling, disloyal, grumpy, gullible, hostile, humorless, inflexible, martyr, obsessive, perfectionist, rebellious, reckless, tactless, temperamental, uncommunicative, uncooperative
Once differences are put aside, each party may come to appreciate the other’s uniqueness
Dealing with people who are not easy to work with will teach the character strategies for getting along and keeping emotion out of it, which will serve them in the future
Standing up to whoever is responsible for the match (parents, a boss, etc.) and refusing to continue to participate will help the character reclaim their power
A character who is exposed to another person’s negative qualities or behaviors may become more self-aware and adjust their own
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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