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: Losing a Job
Category: Power struggles, increased pressure and ticking clocks, failures and mistakes, duty and responsibilities, losing an advantage, loss of control, ego
Being laid off due to budget cuts, a merger, etc.
Having to leave a beloved job due to personal circumstances beyond the character’s control (needing to relocate, having to care for a sick relative, etc.)…
Difficulty finding another job
Leaving valued co-workers
The character having to explain to people that they lost their job…
Potentially Disastrous Results:
Angrily saying or doing things during the termination process that make a positive recommendation less likely (in the case of being laid off or let go reluctantly)
Having to take a job one doesn’t want or is overqualified for, resulting in a lack of fulfillment
Having to take a pay cut…
Possible Internal Struggles (Inner Conflict):
Struggling with bitterness or resentment (if the character didn’t want to leave)
Embarrassment over the termination
Internalizing any unfair accusations or claims that caused the termination…
People Who Could Be Negatively Affected: family members, clients and customers, co-workers, employees, subordinates
Resulting Emotions: Anger, anguish, annoyance, anxiety, apprehension, betrayed, bitterness, defensiveness…
Personality Flaws that May Make the Situation Worse: Abrasive, childish, cocky, confrontational, controlling, disloyal…
Being able to pivot into a new career that is more fulfilling and rewarding
Having the freedom to relocate to a better place for one’s family
Choosing to fight back against an illegitimate termination, thereby righting a wrong…
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.
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.
Great source of conflict. Some years ago I read that job loss/job change is second only to divorce in precipitating heart attacks. Thanks for sharing–and all that y’all do.
ANGELA ACKERMAN says
Yikes. But I could totally see that. It’s quite often a huge shock, something the person didn’t see coming.
Mary Hagen says
This is great information. Thank you.