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.
A Competitor Showing Up
Note: For Romantic Competitors, see this entry
Category: Power struggles, increased pressure and ticking clocks, relationship friction, losing an advantage, ego
A superstar co-worker who joins the team
A business that opens nearby with the potential to compete with one’s own
Someone new who begins hanging out with the character’s group of friends…
Being ignored or forgotten temporarily while the focus is on the new person
Having to go through new hoops to accommodate the competition
Dealing with jealousy…
Potentially Disastrous Results:
Being outmatched by the competition
Discovering the competition is flouting the law or doing a great amount of damage but being unable to prove it
A competitor who plays dirty…
Possible Internal Struggles (Inner Conflict):
The desire to play dirty because the competition is
Believing in capitalism yet resenting a newcomer who forces competitiveness
Feeling entitled to win due to loyalty, dedication, and having a history with the company or organization yet knowing the competition is more skilled or better at leading…
People Who Could Be Negatively Affected:
Family and friends caught in the crossfire, supporters who back the character and lose, loyal friends who cross the line (because the character asked them to) and get caught
Resulting Emotions: admiration, agitation, anger, anxiety, betrayed, bitterness, concern, conflicted…
When a competitor shows up, it may force the character to reflect on why winning or being chosen is important: are they doing it for themselves or to make others happy? This could help the character to double down and fight harder, or have an epiphany that they are chasing a goal for the wrong reasons, leading to them bowing out so they can pivot toward a better goal.
If the character has been coasting thus far, competition forces them to up their game and try their best so they can discover what they are truly capable of…
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.
“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
Angela is a writing coach, international speaker, and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also is a founder of One Stop For Writers, a portal to powerful, innovative tools to help writers elevate their storytelling.