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 your story, make a character’s goals more difficult to achieve, and force them to change or make hard choices to overcome what stands in their way.
To see the full entry, visit One Stop for Writers’ Conflict Thesaurus (Free Trial available) or buy the book.
Conflict: Experiencing a Crisis of Self-Doubt
Category: Increased pressure and ticking clocks, failures and mistakes, relationship friction, duty and responsibilities, no-win situations, miscellaneous challenges
When a new challenge is introduced after a long battle
As the character is getting ready to propose
When the character is about to take a leap of faith to try something new (singing tryouts, apply for a new job, etc.)…
Delaying and missing an opportunity
A competitor getting the edge
Missing the perfect moment…
Potentially Disastrous Results:
A criminal escaping
Losing the chance to take out a difficult target
Disappointing a loved one…
Possible Internal Struggles (Inner Conflict):
Feeling paralyzed by past failures yet wanting to believe something better is possible
Wanting to give up because it’s hard but knowing others are counting on them
Being tempted to give in because it’s easier…
People Who Could Be Negatively Affected: Those who are relying on the protagonist, people the protagonist is responsible for or to, people who could be hurt if the character fails
Resulting Emotions: anguish, anxiety, conflicted, defeat, despair, desperation, devastation, disappointment…
Personality Flaws that May Make the Situation Worse: cowardly, flaky, gullible, insecure, weak-willed…
Following through and discovering inner strength
Gaining the clarity in the moment to know what they really want and doubling down
Breaking away the chains of fear and doubt by following through…
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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The Conflict Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Obstacles, Adversaries, and Inner Struggles
This thesaurus is also in book form, a two-volume set. Each volume contains expert advice on how to use conflict to improve your story, and a plethora of conflict scenarios to provide ideas on how to best challenge your characters.
Each volume is a unique gateway into conflict, but looks at this important element from different angles. Together, they profile 225 conflict scenarios.
Find out more about the GOLD and SILVER editions.
“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
Visit Goodreads to read more reviews about the GOLD and SILVER editions.
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.