Conflict Thesaurus: Getting Caught in a Lie

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: 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
To hide their true opinions or feelings
To get what they want
To tell someone what they want to hear
To project or maintain a certain image
To impress others
To keep the peace
To sabotage, manipulate, or control others
Because they’re a pathological liar
Because they don’t believe that lying is wrong

Even when a character’s motivations are good, there are consequences when others discover that they’ve been lied to.

Minor Complications:
The other person questioning the character’s honesty in the future
The other person being reluctant to broach certain topics with the character
Relationship friction
People dismissing the character’s ideas or words because they never know when they’re lying

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
Being fired or demoted (if the lie reflects badly on the character’s employer)
Important relationships being seriously damaged
Losing friends
People losing faith in someone or something important (if the character was an influential person)
The character losing their influence or platform
An entire company or organization suffering (and the people associated with it) because of one person’s lie
A hurtful stereotype or bias being reinforced
Conflict arising from the character digging in their heels and refusing to admit to the lie
Trying to save face or reverse the narrative (by telling more lies, discrediting the accuser, etc.)
Lashing out in anger instead of taking responsibility

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
The character doubting him or herself

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, devastation, disbelief, discouraged, disgust, dread, emasculated, embarrassment, fear, guilt, horror, humiliation, insecurity, panic, regret, remorse, resentment, sadness, self-loathing, self-pity, shame, stunned, tormented, unease, vengeful, worry, worthlessness

Personality Flaws that May Make the Situation Worse: Antisocial, apathetic, callous, childish, cocky, confrontational, controlling, defensive, hostile, hypocritical, ignorant, impulsive, inflexible, macho, manipulative, martyr, oversensitive, paranoid, resentful, self-destructive, stubborn, tactless, uncooperative, vain, vindictive 

Positive Outcomes: 
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
The incident inspiring a moral status check, resulting in growth and change

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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