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: Failing at Something
Category: Power struggles, failures and mistakes, relationship friction, duty and responsibilities, losing an advantage, loss of control, ego
Blowing an important business opportunity (failing to land a client, losing out on a promotion, doing or saying something that results in a demotion, etc.)
Having to file for bankruptcy…
Continuing to live in circumstances that are less than ideal
Living beneath one’s true potential
A pattern of underachieving due to a fear of failure or change…
Potentially Disastrous Results:
Being estranged from loved ones
A drastic change in lifestyle due to a new financial situation
Avoiding responsibility for the part one played; being destined to repeat one’s mistakes…
Possible Internal Struggles (Inner Conflict):
A burgeoning fear of failure
Being obsessed with one’s failures; not being able to see one’s strengths…
People Who Could Be Negatively Affected: loved ones, friends, co-workers, rivals
Resulting Emotions: Anger, anguish, anxiety, appalled, apprehension, defensiveness, denial, depressed…
Personality Flaws that May Make the Situation Worse: Addictive, controlling, defensive, impulsive, inflexible…
Learning from one’s mistakes so they aren’t repeated
Taking advantage of new opportunities that wouldn’t have been possible without the failure (starting a new business, changing careers, enjoying time on one’s own instead of jumping into a new relationship, etc.)
Being able to see oneself realistically and accurately for the first time…
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.
[…] The Right Writing urges us to vary characters’ reactions to tragedy, and Becca Puglisi suggests using the conflict of failing at something and tells us the character-building detail writers shouldn’t […]