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: Getting Caught in a Lie
Category: Power struggles, failures and mistakes, relationship friction, moral dilemmas and temptation, losing an advantage, loss of control, ego
Examples: Though most people believe lying is wrong and strive to avoid it, no one is 100% honest all the time. Here are a few scenarios where a character might be tempted to lie:
To save someone’s feelings
To protect someone
To keep from getting into trouble…
The other person questioning the character’s honesty in the future
The other person being reluctant to broach certain topics with the character
Potentially Disastrous Results:
The character’s reputation being damaged
Important people in the character’s life outside of the event (a spouse, children, friends) questioning the character’s honesty
Being called out publicly…
Possible Internal Struggles (Inner Conflict):
Struggling with insecurity, guilt, shame, or self-loathing
The character believing that the lie was justified
Misremembering or being blind to the facts, believing that the lie was the truth…
People Who Could Be Negatively Affected: The person who was lied to, anyone impacted by the lie being revealed (employees, co-workers, certain people groups, etc.), people who looked to the character as a mentor or inspiring figure and now feel let down
Resulting Emotions: Anger, anguish, anxiety, appalled, apprehension, defensiveness, defiant, desperation…
Personality Flaws that May Make the Situation Worse: Antisocial, apathetic, callous, childish, cocky, confrontational…
Recognizing the importance of always telling the truth
Realizing that a person’s character can be destroyed with a simple word, and vowing to protect that
Eventually becoming grateful for being called out because it led to important revelation and growth…
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.
New to One Stop for Writers? Swing by and check out our video walkthrough, because it’s time to change the writing game.
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.
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.