Conflict Thesaurus: Running Out of Critical Supplies

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: Running Out of Critical Supplies

Category: Increased pressure and ticking clocks, failures and mistakes, duty and responsibilities, moral dilemmas and temptation, losing an advantage, miscellaneous challenges

Running out of food in a remote location
Having no access to water
Running out of gas in the middle of nowhere
Running out of medication
Emptying the last clip in battle
Experiencing a food shortage in a time of crisis
Having mo more emergency supplies to distribute (blankets, rations, vaccines, etc.)
Running out of medical supplies in a crisis
Having no seeds to plant
Having no feed for one’s animals

Minor Complications:
Discomfort (hunger, weakness, thirst)
Wounds going unattended
Pain resulting from a lack of treatment
The psychological discomfort of anxiety, fear, and dread
Sacrificing to secure what is needed (trading money, promises, or something else of value that one would rather not give up)
Having to think of temporary solutions that are less than ideal
Having to lie or hide information so people don’t panic
Going without personally so others have what they need

Potentially Disastrous Results:
Infections or a worsening of a condition
Becoming physically compromised
Disorientation or weakness leading to a serious injury or mistake
Being captured in battle
Being forced to surrender
Having to give up something of importance to survive (power, security, freedom, etc.)
Seeking help and becoming lost, stranded, or injured
Having to do something that one is unsuited for or inexperienced in (performing emergency surgery when one is not trained, for example)
Trying to remedy the situation out of desperation and doing something dangerous (stealing and being caught, drinking contaminated water, etc.)

Possible Internal Struggles (Inner Conflict):
Feeling like a failure (if the character is responsible for others)
Guilt for worrying about one’s own needs when everyone is suffering
Trying to think of ways to secure the necessities for loved ones even if it means others go without
Lying to others so they don’t panic yet also feeling they have a right to know
Weighing the moral cost of leaving a group in need because it may be easier to survive as an individual
Jealousy toward those who have enough
Weighing the right and wrong of breaking the law when survival is at stake
Wanting to obey the laws but feeling abandoned by those who made them
Anger directed inward for not being better prepared yet knowing there was no way to forecast what would happen

People Who Could Be Negatively Affected: Family and loved ones, people the character feels responsible for, others caught in this situation who are known to the character

Resulting Emotions: anger, anguish, anxiety, betrayed, connectedness, defeat, denial, despair, desperation, determination, disillusionment, dread, fear, frustration, empathy, gratitude, guilt, hopefulness, horror, obsessed, overwhelmed, panic, paranoia, powerlessness, regret, resentment, self-loathing, self-pity, shame, shock, vulnerability, wanderlust

Personality Flaws that May Make the Situation Worse: addictive, confrontational, controlling, cynical, disloyal, extravagant, frivolous, gullible, haughty, hostile, impatient, impulsive, jealous, lazy, materialistic, melodramatic, needy, paranoid, pessimistic, possessive, resentful, spoiled, ungrateful, whiny, worrywart

Positive Outcomes: 
Experiencing a shortage will lead to gaining a better appreciation of resources that will change the character in the future
A collective loss or trying situation can lead to community as people come together to navigate the difficult experience
Shortages often lead to creative thinking and innovation in order to circumvent the problem

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.


Angela is a writing coach, international speaker, and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also is a founder of One Stop For Writers, a portal to powerful, innovative tools to help writers elevate their storytelling.
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