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.
The other person questioning the character’s honesty in the future
The other person being reluctant to broach certain topics with the character
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
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
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.
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