Conflict Thesaurus Entry: Being Physically Assaulted by a Stranger

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 Physically Assaulted by a Stranger

Category: Power struggles, loss of control, ego

Being attacked as part of a mugging or robbery
Being randomly victimized by a violent or unstable individual
Being targeted by a gang or group of attackers

Minor Complications:
Discomfort from minor scratches or bruises
Inconvenience arising from trying to avoid the attackers or the site of the attack
Embarrassment arising from having to explain the injuries to others
Decreased productivity due to distraction and difficulty focusing

Potentially Disastrous Results:
Suffering from severe physical injuries (broken bones, lacerations, teeth being knocked out, etc.)
Long-term physical effects (spine or brain injuries, migraines, etc.)
Living with scars that act as constant reminders of the attack
Developing a mental illness (agoraphobia, a panic disorder, etc.)
The trauma of having to testify in court about the event
Loss of innocence
Being unable to successfully function at school or work
Abusing alcohol or drugs as a coping mechanism
Becoming paranoid about the safety of family members; driving them away by holding on too tightly

Possible Internal Struggles (Inner Conflict):
Struggling with embarrassment, humiliation, or shame
The character wondering if they were somehow to blame
Distrusting people who are “like” the attacker (race, gender, physical appearance, etc.)
Plummeting self-esteem
Living in constant fear of being attacked again (if the perpetrator was never caught)
Developing a victim mentality
Retreating inward; being reluctant to stand up for oneself

People Who Could Be Negatively Affected: The victim’s family members, the attackers (if they’re caught and punished)

Resulting Emotions: Anger, anguish, anxiety, apprehension, depressed, dread, emasculated, embarrassment, fear, hatred, humiliation, insecurity, panic, paranoia, powerlessness, rage, remorse, self-pity, shame, tormented, vulnerability, wariness

Personality Flaws that May Make the Situation Worse: Addictive, compulsive, controlling, cynical, gullible, insecure, martyr, needy, nervous, nosy, obsessive, paranoid, prejudiced, self-destructive, timid, withdrawn, worrywart 

Positive Outcomes: 
The character becoming more aware of their surroundings
Being proactive about safety and security
Realizing that life is unpredictable, and vowing to live more fully
Gratitude to the people who helped save the character making him or her want to follow in their footsteps (as a cop, paramedic, doctor, physical therapist, etc.)

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

If you like, swing by and check out the video walkthrough, and then give our Free Trial a spin.


Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
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