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: Wrong Place, Wrong Time
Category: Increased pressure and ticking clocks, relationship friction, duty and responsibilities, moral dilemmas and temptation, loss of control, no-win situations, miscellaneous challenges
Witnessing a crime (a robbery, murder, counterfeiting operation, etc.)
Overhearing sensitive or dangerous information being shared
Discovering something about someone the character loves or respects that casts them in a negative light…
Having to take another route, causing a delay
Missing a meeting or appointment due to the fallout of the situation
Losing time to dealing with the aftermath (giving a police statement, waiting to be checked over by a paramedic, being held for processing, etc.)…
Potentially Disastrous Results:
Being viewed as a threat and fired (or booted out of an organization, etc.)
Being placed in life-threatening danger
Becoming responsible for the welfare of others when the character doesn’t feel capable or want such responsibility…
Possible Internal Struggles (Inner Conflict):
Trying to decide what to do: tell the truth, or lie
Trying to move forward when it’s difficult to do so
Self-blame (for not foreseeing what would happen, for not taking a different route, for not reacting differently at the moment, etc.)…
People Who Could Be Negatively Affected: innocent bystanders, victims and their families (if one doesn’t come forward as a witness, or provide aid), family members (who may be targeted in an effort to ensure silence)
Resulting Emotions: anguish, anxiety, appalled, betrayed, conflicted, disbelief, disgust, disillusionment…
Personality Flaws that May Make the Situation Worse: confrontational, cowardly, dishonest, disloyal, flaky…
Discovering information the character never expected to may open their eyes to what was right in front of them but they were missing.
While hurt or disillusionment may follow, knowing who is genuine and who is not will help the character cut toxic people out of their life and make more informed choices moving forward.
While a difficult and unexpected situation is never desired, it may help your character better see their own worth when they step up and meet the moment…
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.
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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.
Find out more about the GOLD and SILVER editions.
“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
Visit Goodreads to read more reviews about the GOLD and SILVER editions.
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.