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.
A Divorce or Break-Up
Category: Power struggles, failures and mistakes, relationship friction, ego
Awkwardness arising from running into the person in social situations
Having to attend social events and functions alone…
Potentially Disastrous Results:
A difficult and drawn-out divorce settlement
A bitter custody battle
The character’s children suffering…
Possible Internal Struggles (Inner Conflict):
Insecurity and self-doubt
Self-blame (if the character’s actions caused the break-up)
Having to go through the stages of mourning…
People Who Could Be Negatively Affected: The ex, the character’s children, family and friends, co-workers
Resulting Emotions: Anger, anguish, anxiety, bitterness, conflicted, denial, depressed, despair…
Personality Flaws that May Make the Situation Worse: Addictive, controlling, cynical, defensive, gullible, insecure…
Recognizing the part the character played in the break-up and taking steps to make changes and grow
Making the most of the time without a partner; the character learning to be comfortable and happy with him or herself
Distance revealing truths about the other person that the character had been blind to…
If you’re interested in other conflict options, you can find them here.
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
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.