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: Losing One’s Temper
Category: Power struggles, increased pressure and ticking clocks, failures and mistakes, relationship friction, duty and responsibilities, moral dilemmas and temptation, losing an advantage, loss of control, ego, no-win situations, miscellaneous challenges
A character can lose their temper in any circumstance, with any person. The severity of the situation (and, therefore, the fallout) will depend on a number of factors:
In the bedroom…
The Target of the Character’s Anger
The Severity of the Outburst
Throwing, punching, or breaking things…
The Frequency of it Happening
Does the character lose their temper often, meaning, it’s expected and is blown off as part of their volatile nature?
Was this unprecedented—a total shock and completely out of character?…
Being thrown out of an establishment and forbidden from coming back
Being reprimanded at school or work
Losing the respect of others…
Potentially Disastrous Results:
Losing a friend
Possible Internal Struggles (Inner Conflict):
Feeling intensely guilty following the outburst
Knowing it’s wrong but enjoying the sense of power the outburst brings when it happens
Wanting to respond differently but feeling powerless to do so in the moment…
People Who Could Be Negatively Affected: The target of the character’s anger, onlookers, loved ones, friends, neighbors, co-workers, people who admired the character
Resulting Emotions: Anger, anguish, appalled, apprehension, conflicted, defensiveness, defiant…
Personality Flaws that May Make the Situation Worse: Abrasive, callous, confrontational, controlling, cruel…
Seeing the damaging results and vowing to be more controlled
Recognizing a dangerous pattern of behavior and determining to make a change
Achieving the desired result—getting one’s opinion across, stopping an undesirable decision from being made, regaining control, etc.—despite using a dysfunctional method to bring it about…
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.