Conflict Thesaurus Entry: Peer Pressure

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: Peer Pressure

Category: Power struggles, failures and mistakes, relationship friction, moral dilemmas and temptation, loss of control, ego

Doing something irresponsible or dangerous because others are doing it (using drugs, cliff diving into unknown waters, etc.)
Giving in to a dare (picking a fight with a stranger, vandalizing property, etc.)
Going farther physically than one wants to because they’re pressured to do so
Laughing at an off-color joke, even if one feels uncomfortable about it
Seeing wrongdoing and not pointing it out, due to fear of losing friends
Covering for someone who’s doing something they’re not supposed to do
Taking part in a prank
Allowing oneself to be subjugated to someone else (laughing off insults, agreeing to ideas the character doesn’t believe in, etc.)
Participating in activities one isn’t really passionate about because important people in the character’s life are involved (joining a country club, trying out for a sports team, etc.)
Living beyond one’s financial means to keep up appearances (buying a luxury car, taking expensive trips, only wearing designer clothes, etc.)
Expressing support for political, religious, or social ideals one doesn’t actually believe in
Going to great or unhealthy lengths to maintain a certain physical appearance simply to look like everyone else
Making important life decisions based on what others are doing (where to go to college, where to send one’s kids to school, what career to pursue, where to live, etc.)

Minor Complications:
Embarrassment over the foolish decisions one has made
Getting into minor trouble at school or work
One’s reputation being damaged

Potentially Disastrous Results:
The character losing their sense of personal identity and values
Experiencing physical, mental, or emotional trauma from the fallout (getting pregnant, developing an eating disorder, being abused, getting into a car accident, etc.)
Being guilty by association
Choosing dysfunctional relationships over healthy ones, and losing the friends and loved ones who would speak wisdom into the character’s life
Seeking other unhealthy ways of gaining control (self-harming, promiscuity, controlling people outside of one’s peer group, etc.)
Going into debt (if the peer pressure impacts financial decisions)
Being arrested
Getting suspended or expelled from school
Getting fired
Developing co-dependence tendencies
Living an unhappy or unfulfilled life
Hurting someone else (if the peer pressure involves oppressing or bullying others)
Losing the ability to think for oneself

Possible Internal Struggles (Inner Conflict):
Feeling powerless and trapped, like the character isn’t really in charge of their own life
Struggling with feelings of insecurity and self-doubt
Constantly feeling conflicted about what one is doing and what one really wants to do

People Who Could Be Negatively Affected: friends and family who truly care about the character, anyone who is victimized by the character’s choices (someone who is belittled or bullied, for instance), people who look up to the character and are negatively influenced by their example

Resulting Emotions: Agitation, anxiety, appalled, apprehension, conflicted, confusion, contempt, defeat, defensiveness, denial, depressed, discouraged, doubt, dread, emasculated, embarrassment, flustered, guilt, humiliation, hurt, inadequate, indifference, insecurity, intimidated, loneliness, nervousness, powerlessness, regret, reluctance, remorse, resignation, self-loathing, shame, tormented, uncertainty, unease, wariness, worry, worthlessness

Personality Flaws that May Make the Situation Worse: Addictive, callous, catty, childish, cruel, cynical, defensive, dishonest, evasive, frivolous, gullible, hypocritical, ignorant, impulsive, indecisive, insecure, irresponsible, mischievous, selfish, subservient, timid, unintelligent, weak-willed

Positive Outcomes: 
Recognizing manipulation in others so it can be avoided in the future
Wanting to regain control of one’s life
Seeing how far one has come from their roots, and determining to get back to their true origins
Learning to accept responsibility for one’s actions, even for things that happened because one stood passively by
Deciding to be a leader instead of a follower

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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