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: 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
The relationship dynamic changing for the worst—i.e., losing a friend because that person wants more and the character can’t comply
The pursuer refusing to take no for an answer (becoming obsessed, stalking the character, trying to manipulate them, etc.)
The pursuer becoming depressed or suicidal at the character’s rejection
Being pressured by others to accept the unwanted advances
Giving in, even though the character doesn’t fully return the pursuer’s feelings
The character having to leave their job/school/neighborhood to get away from the pursuer
The rejected pursuer using a position of authority or power to punish the character
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
The character second-guessing their decision or response to the advance
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, disbelief, dread, embarrassment, empathy, flustered, frustration, guilt, horror, indifference, indignation, intimidated, irritation, pity, powerlessness, reluctance, sadness, scorn, shock, stunned, uncertainty, unease, vulnerability, wariness, worry
Personality Flaws that May Make the Situation Worse: Abrasive, apathetic, callous, cruel, disrespectful, gossipy, nervous, tactless, worrywart
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.)
Clarification about what the character does or doesn’t want in a romantic relationship
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.
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