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 the story, make a character’s goals harder to achieve, and force them to change or make hard choices to overcome difficulties.
To see the full entry, visit One Stop for Writers’ Conflict Thesaurus (Free Trial available) or buy the book.
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…
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…
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…
Personality Flaws that May Make the Situation Worse: Addictive, callous, catty, childish, cruel, cynical, defensive…
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…
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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“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