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: Being Blackmailed
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
Blackmail occurs when one party demands compensation of some kind in return for not revealing potentially damaging (true or false) information about the victim. The possibilities for a blackmail scenario are virtually limitless when you consider the many secrets a victim may not want revealed combined with the demands the blackmailer could make. Below are a few brainstorming options to get the wheels turning:
Secrets about the victim that a blackmailer could threaten to reveal:
A hit and run accident from the past
In return for the blackmailer’s silence, they may demand…
Lost sleep from worrying that the secret will get out
Inability to focus on work or school
Lying to many people and losing track of what has been said to whom…
Potentially Disastrous Results:
The secret (real or fabricated) getting out
The blackmailer coming back and demanding more
Giving in to a demand that requires the victim to break the law or become complicit in some way…
Possible Internal Struggles (Inner Conflict):
Being paralyzed with indecision about what to do
Constantly worrying over the situation
Imagining that other people know or suspect what’s going on…
People Who Could Be Negatively Affected: The victim’s family, innocent bystanders, people involved in the past transgression
Resulting Emotions: Anger, anguish, anxiety, apprehension, denial, depressed, despair, desperation…
Personality Flaws that May Make the Situation Worse: Apathetic, defensive, impulsive, indecisive, nervous…
Coming clean about something that has been weighing on the victim’s mind for years
Finally taking responsibility for one’s actions
Confiding in someone and seeing the relationship grow stronger through the trial…
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.