Conflict Thesaurus Entry: Lacking an Important Resource

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
A weapon
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.)

Minor Complications:
Lost time and energy as the character turns their focus to obtaining the resource
Physical discomfort
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
Positive Outcomes:
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

If you like, swing by and check out the video walkthrough, and then give our Free Trial a spin.


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. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
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