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: Lacking an Important Resource
Category: Increased pressure and ticking clocks, failures and mistakes, relationship friction, moral dilemmas and temptation, losing an advantage, loss of control
Examples: Characters are always going to be somewhat goal-oriented-whether they’re pursuing an overall story goal or a smaller-level scene one. When they lack the resources they need to get what they want, it creates a problem. Conflict can easily be generated if a character finds themselves lacking one of the following:
Food or water
A safe place to live or stay
Money or other commodities
Tools or equipment
A skill or ability
An ally in a position of influence
Paperwork (ID, a travel permit, a hall pass, etc.)
Lost time and energy as the character turns their focus to obtaining the resource
Tempers flaring among allies as time passes and emotions escalate
The character being blamed for the lack when it wasn’t their fault
Potentially Disastrous Results:
Losing allies or investors who are tired of waiting for the character to gather what they need
A window of opportunity closing while the character is obtaining resources
The character cutting corners in obtaining resources, resulting in disastrous results
Ego pushing a character who doesn’t understand the resource to try and obtain it him or herself (instead of letting someone more qualified do it)
Crossing moral lines to get the resource
Reaching a physical or mental breaking point
Missing a crucial deadline
Other resources breaking or being depleted as a result
Not recognizing or admitting the importance of the missing resource until it’s too late
Someone within the group challenging the character’s ability to fulfill their role
Lashing out at the person responsible for the lack
Possible Internal Struggles (Inner Conflict):
Stressing and worrying over how the resource can be obtained
Blaming oneself for not getting the resource before the lack became a problem
The character doubting their ability to lead or fulfill their role
Struggling with moral dilemmas surrounding how to obtain the resource
People Who Could Be Negatively Affected: Anyone on the character’s team or in their group, people depending on whatever the character is trying to achieve (leading a revolution, building a bomb shelter, getting from one location to another, etc.)
Resulting Emotions: Annoyance, anxiety, appalled, apprehension, concern, defensiveness, denial, desperation, determination, disappointment, disbelief, discouraged, doubt, embarrassment, fear, flustered, frustration, guilt, impatience, inadequate, insecurity, overwhelmed, panic, stunned, uncertainty, worry, worthlessness
Personality Flaws that May Make the Situation Worse: Disorganized, flaky, foolish, forgetful, fussy, impatient, impulsive, insecure, perfectionist, scatterbrained, uncooperative
Discovering skills the character didn’t know they possessed
Becoming more organized
Getting better at anticipating problems before they occur; being proactive
Learning to delegate; allowing others to be a bigger part of the process
Being able to ask for help when it’s needed
Connecting with people who can provide necessary resources
Learning to work through pain, discomfort, anxiety, or whatever else the lack may be causing
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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