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: 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
In a media interview
In the principal’s office
At a public event that is being recorded
The Target of the Character’s Anger
A police officer or other person in authority
A physically or mentally disabled person
The Severity of the Outburst
Throwing, punching, or breaking things
Using insults or offensive language
Physical violence against the other party (grabbing, pushing, hitting, shaking)
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
Minor property destruction that must be fixed (breaking a knickknack, punching a hole in the wall, etc.)
The outburst causing a rift in a relationship that the character must address
The outburst being recorded and posted publicly
Potentially Disastrous Results:
Losing a friend
The situation devolving into a physical fight
Seriously injuring someone
Losing trust with the other party
The character’s insults damaging the target’s else’s self-esteem and confidence
Destroying an important piece of property (an antique, something that holds significant emotional significance for the other party, etc.)
Getting in a car wreck
Loved ones following in the character’s footsteps and repeating this abusive behavior (a child, niece/nephew, protégé, etc.)
Slipping into a dysfunctional behavior pattern of losing one’s temper when angry
Viewing the tendency as normal and acceptable rather than something that is disrespectful and damaging and needs correction
Reinforcing harmful stereotypes about the character’s occupation, race, gender, birthplace, etc.
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
Struggling with shame or self-loathing
The character feeling that they have let others down
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, denial, determination, devastation, disappointment, discouraged, disillusionment, doubt, dread, embarrassment, frustration, guilt, horror, humiliation, insecurity, powerlessness, rage, regret, relief, remorse, satisfaction, schadenfreude, self-loathing, self-pity, shame
Personality Flaws that May Make the Situation Worse: Abrasive, callous, confrontational, controlling, cruel, defensive, disrespectful, hostile, impatient, impulsive, macho, perfectionist, stubborn, violent, volatile
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.
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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