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: An Unwanted Romantic Advance
Category: Power struggles, relationship friction, moral dilemmas and temptation, losing an advantage, ego
A friend who doesn’t want to stay in the Friend Zone
Being pursued by someone in a position of power or authority (the boss, a teacher, one’s landlord, the security guard in one’s building, etc.)
Romantic advances from someone crossing a moral line (the best friend’s significant other, a sister’s ex, the fiancé’s mother-in-law, etc.)…
Awkwardness around the pursuer
Having to keep the situation secret from an important person (one’s spouse, best friend, sibling, etc.)
Inconveniences arising from trying to avoid the pursuer…
Potentially Disastrous Results:
Other people finding out, and important relationships being damaged as a result (even if the character never encouraged the pursuer)
Trying not to hurt the pursuer’s feelings and inadvertently giving them false hope
The person the character is really interested in stepping out because he/she thinks the character is already involved with someone…
Possible Internal Struggles (Inner Conflict):
The character being conflicted about their feelings for the pursuer
Struggling with guilt from having to reject him or her
Wanting to respond respectfully but being angry or embarrassed from being put in the situation…
People Who Could Be Negatively Affected: the pursuer, those close to the pursuer (if they don’t appreciate him/her being slighted), those close to the character (if they don’t appreciate someone else making advances), co-workers
Resulting Emotions: Anger, annoyance, appalled, apprehension, conflicted, contempt, denial…
Personality Flaws that May Make the Situation Worse: Abrasive, apathetic, callous, cruel, disrespectful, gossipy…
A boost in confidence that comes from being found desirable
Learning to give bad news graciously and respectfully
The situation clarifying the character’s true feelings in some way (realizing they love someone else, recognizing the importance of a vital relationship in their life, realizing they don’t have time for any romantic attachments right now, etc.)…
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
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.