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: The Death of a Pet
Category: Failures and mistakes, relationship friction, duty and responsibilities, losing an advantage, loss of control
Pets provide so much encouragement, love, and comfort that their loss can be a huge blow—especially when it’s unexpected or brings with it an element of guilt. Tack this debilitating event onto the end of a string of minor conflicts, and it can be the proverbial final straw that pushes a character over the edge.
Needing to do something with all the pet products in the house because looking at them causes too much pain
Having to make final arrangements (if the pet is going to be cremated, preserved through taxidermy, etc.)
Having to explain the death after the fact (when the vet’s office calls months later with a reminder about a scheduled appointment, to neighbors who ask about its absence, etc.)…
Potentially Disastrous Results:
Adopting a new pet and realizing that one wasn’t ready
A well-meaning loved one buying a replacement pet for the character before they’re ready to start again
Being unable to adopt another pet because the character was partly to blame for the death of the first one…
Possible Internal Struggles (Inner Conflict):
Blaming oneself (legitimately or not) for the death
Wanting another pet but being afraid of losing it and having to experience grief again
Being unable to forgive a family member for the part they played (even accidentally) in the pet’s death…
People Who Could Be Negatively Affected: Family members
Resulting Emotions: Anger, anguish, bitterness, denial, depressed, despair, devastation, disbelief…
Personality Flaws that May Make the Situation Worse: Irrational, martyr, melodramatic, needy, nervous…
Remembering the good times
The character recognizing the good they did in taking in an animal needing a home
Deciding to contribute a monetary gift to an animal charity in the pet’s memory…
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.
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.
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.
Trine Grillo says
This is a very helpful post which has given some great ideas to work with.