Conflict is the heart and soul of all stories! It drives the plot forward, provides more context to the overall setting, can contribute to complex character development, and, most important of all, it’s what makes a story interesting.
Generally, when people think of conflict, their minds go to fight scenes, intense arguments, or a deep emotional struggle. These are all fine examples, but there are many many different ways to add conflict to a story. If you want to practice writing a variety of different conflict scenes, then these writing prompts are just what you need!
If you want a more detailed explanation of these different types of conflict, make sure you check out The 4 Main Types of Conflict in Stories (And Variations!)
Person vs Person
- Two characters are going head-to-head in a competition (racing, singing, playing chess, etc), but rather than win honestly, both intend to try to sabotage the other in some way.
- Two characters are planning their wedding, but they just can’t agree on the details. The points in their argument are relatively trivial, such as what color flowers to get or what kinds of cheese to serve during the after-party, but tensions are high! Is this argument really just about the flowers, or does it foreshadow some bigger disagreements for the lovebirds in the future?
- An assassin has been hired to kill another character, but they didn’t count on the job being this difficult.
- Two grandparents are arguing about their adult grandchild’s less-than-traditional lifestyle choices. These can be things like getting tattoos, having more than one romantic partner, dressing immodestly, or anything like that. The grandchild can be present for this conversation, or they can be absent—it’s up to you.
- A character is being mugged at knifepoint by a mugger that looks far younger and more nervous than the character would have expected.
- Two characters who hate each other have to get along for only one day, so that they can be there to support a mutual friend on their big day (like a birthday, wedding, competition, etc.).
- A prank that was supposed to be funny goes very, very wrong.
- A celebrity character barely survives a particularly violent encounter with the paparazzi—or at least, they had thought it was the paparazzi…
- A character is sick and tired of their best friend’s toxic habits. They decide to stage an intervention with the rest of their friend group. What are the terms of the intervention, and more importantly, how does the encounter go?
- A character has been hired to babysit for a family’s four kids, but as soon as the parents leave, it becomes clear that the children are not as innocent as they pretend to be.
Kids can be challenging to write, so if you need some tips, be sure to check out A Guide to Writing Child Characters Authentically.
Person vs Self
- A character decides they need to clean up their space and get rid of their clutter. However, once they start going through the piles, they struggle to part with some of the old trinkets and the sentiments they hold.
- Write a villain’s origin story, and focus on how the villain tries to justify their thoughts and actions. Do they sometimes struggle with the choices they make, or are they steadfast in their misguided principles?
- A character is coming to terms with the fact that their gender or sexuality is different from what they thought initially. How do they come to this realization? Are they worried about the reactions of their friends and family? How do they feel about this personal development?
- A character has to face their phobia. What is it, and how does this go?
Remember that a phobia is generally irrational and relates to things that are actually harmless. If you want more information on writing about phobias, you can look into Writing About Fears and Phobias.
- A character has to tell a lie, but they feel really bad about it. Even with the intended outcome, they still can’t help but feel guilty about deceiving someone.
- A character struggling with their mental health tries to come up with new ways to motivate themself to take care of necessities, like getting out of bed, showering, and making dinner. What are some of these strategies, (pretending their life is a simulation game, awarding points for doing chores, talking to a friend while they do stuff, etc), and how well do they work for the character?
- A character has accidentally killed someone and now has to make a decision about what to do next. Do they report the accident to the authorities, or try to keep it a secret? Do they implicate someone else? Try to hide the body? Do they tell a friend in a desperate bid for help, or do they not trust anyone well enough? Explore their thoughts and how they ultimately come to a decision.
- A character has lost a large portion of their memory, and it’s likely they’ll never get it back. Now they have to come to terms with their new life, but it isn’t easy to look at old photos and not recognize anything, or have to be introduced to friends they’ve had since childhood all over again.
Writing about memory loss can be hard, but if you need help, you can reference this other article: How to Write a Character with Amnesia.
Person vs Nature
- An unending snowstorm has swept across most of the globe, blanketing the world with ice. Native wildlife has started dying out everywhere, and society’s regular food sources have been severely impacted. With government rations tapering off and no food to be found foraging, people begin to die out. With no end in sight, only the most daring and innovative individuals have a chance at long-term survival.
- A group of best friends managed to scrape together enough money for them to go on a cruise ship. However, their perfect vacation turns into a nightmare when the ship sinks (the specifics are up to you, whether it is caused by catastrophic malfunction, striking an object at sea, getting attacked, poor weather conditions, etc). Now, they must survive floating out on the ocean in a raft or lifeboat with only what they managed to grab from their rooms.
- When the volcano erupted on a small island, everyone expected the initial explosion and subsequent lava spilling into the streets to be the worst part. However, for the survivors, the worst was yet to come. Smoke blacked out the sky and all drinking water was contaminated. Animals died out over time, and the people who stayed in the area had to deal with the health effects of the volcanic gas and ash. Since all boats on the island had been burned up or taken by others during the initial eruption, the survivors have no way to escape. Instead, they must try to find food and clean water, while many of them are dealing with burns and smoke-related illnesses—all while protecting their eyes and lungs from further damage from the toxic compounds in the air.
- A sinkhole opens up beneath a corporate office, trapping many employees underground. The characters find themselves in a cave, however, and spend some time exploring while they wait for a rescue team to arrive. While underground, they encounter something unexpected.
- A character decides to go hiking—alone, of course. However, they didn’t plan to encounter an angry bear along the path, and they now have to choose their next moves very carefully.
- Recently, a bizarre new illness has been spreading across the world. Despite countries’ best efforts to contain the disease, it soon becomes a global emergency. What is this illness like? What are the symptoms, and what about it makes it unique? Try to be as creative as possible, and be sure to reference “How to Create a Fictional Illness for Your Story” if you need help.
Person vs Society
- A group of children band together to oppose the oppressive rule of their nanny. In reality, these rules are things such as a reasonable bedtime, no sweets before dinner, and other things of that nature, but the children take their mission very seriously.
- A character is on the run from the law. They claim to have been falsely accused, but are they telling the truth? How do they try to prove their innocence without getting apprehended?
- A character has recently moved to a new neighborhood, and at first, everything was better than they could have imagined. Their house was a good price, their neighbors are nice, and the area is clean and well-maintained. However, after a few mysterious disappearances go uninvestigated, it becomes clear that the town is hiding a dark secret.
- In a world where everyone over the age of 60 gets executed, two young characters become increasingly desperate to save their aging parents. They begin to stir a revolution, intent on completely overthrowing their government.
- One character believes themself to be the ultimate judge of right and wrong, and routinely breaks laws that they disagree with. Explain their reasoning behind the crimes they commit, and why they think they are morally right in their choices.
Person vs God
- A character discovers they are a prophet—but there’s a problem. They don’t want to have any connections to the divine. They merely want to live a normal life, but they keep getting plagued by prophetic visions. Soon, angels start appearing to them in disguise, urging them to spread the word—but the character remains stubbornly steadfast in their resistance.
- A group of characters must prevent the awakening of an old god.
- A group of characters decides to flee from their god to escape the harmful rules and regular sacrifices the god demands. However, escaping from a divine being is far from a simple task.
- A character gains godly powers for the purpose of overthrowing an unjust deity, only to become the very thing they swore to destroy.
- A character’s very existence seems to anger their god, despite them not doing anything wrong. Maybe they were conceived in a way that goes against the god’s rules, their parents were sinners, or they’re only half human (and half elf/demon/etc). How do they go about life while incurring divine wrath for simply existing?
- The gods are sheltered and misguided. They are oblivious to the ways their people suffer. One character embarks on a quest to try to reach these gods, to share the truth with them, and plead for their help.
It’s hard to write about gods without fully understanding the context these gods exist in. Be sure to check out Creating a Fictional Religion for Your Story if you need help with this part!
Person vs Fate
- A character is able to get a glimpse into the future, but what they see is tragic. Armed with this knowledge, the character must now do everything in their power to change their fate—but it’s futile. It ends up becoming reality anyway, but unexpectedly, the character learns that they had misinterpreted the real meaning of what they saw.
- A person travels back in time to prevent something from happening. However, they botch it the first time, and the outcome ends up being the same. They travel back in time to try again, but despite doing everything differently this time, the outcome is the same again. No matter how many different things they try, they cannot alter the ultimate end result.
- A character is told that they are fated to do something, but they are determined not to. However, by trying to prevent this from coming true, they end up accidentally fulfilling it. If they had never known about this fate, they would have acted differently and therefore avoided it. The character’s knowledge of their fate made it inevitable. This is known as a self-fulfilling prophecy.
- A character visits a psychic to ask about their love life. However, they are shocked to learn that their soul mate is supposedly the one person they despise more than anyone. Over the course of the story, however, the character finds themself overthinking everything they dislike about the other person, and they begin to find those elements kind of… endearing. (As a bonus, the concept of fate could be completely bogus, and the character was just tricked into seeing the good in someone that they hadn’t previously taken the time to understand.)
- A character was always intended to be the “chosen one” (to save the world, embark on a specific quest, etc). What is it about them that makes them special? Is it their lineage or special abilities, or was it simply foretold in a prophecy? How do they end up dealing with all the pressure of these expectations? Do they inevitably become the hero everyone expects them to be, or do they twist the trope and become the villain instead?
Person vs Supernatural
- A character witnesses a faerie switching their baby out with a changeling. They then embark on a quest to find the faerie and get their real baby back—all the while toting around the magical faerie child they didn’t have the heart to leave behind.
- In a comedic turn of events, a character ends up accidentally bonding themself to a demon. Now, they must go everywhere together—which can sometimes be hard to explain.
- Scientists discover bizarre supernatural creatures and keep them locked away in a laboratory, hidden from society. However, at some point, the creatures escape their restraints and spread out through the building. The scientists must subdue the threat or escape alive, facing off against rightfully vengeful creatures that are much stronger than they are.
- Zombies ended up being a much bigger threat than most people expected. Instead of being slow, shambling, mindless creatures, they’re incredibly fast and agile, and no matter how much they are shot at or injured, it never really seems to stop them. On the plus side, they generally end up mauling their victims far too much for them to become functional threats too, but there is still enough of them to cause widespread mayhem.
(Psst! If you’ve never tried to write a zombie story before, I highly recommend it! Check out my other article Zombie Writing Prompts and Story Ideas for more!)
- An unknown beast has been ravaging a nearby town. A character has been commissioned by the townspeople (or governor) to track down and kill the beast—but things don’t go exactly according to plan.
- Aliens have recently decided that humans make the cutest pets, and have started abducting people at alarming rates.
- A character has always been able to see ghosts. Surprisingly, however, they aren’t a very common sight since most people move on without issue. When they do encounter the dead, it’s usually in a place that makes sense, like a hospital, graveyard, or the site of a past tragedy. Naturally, this makes it all the more unusual when they encounter a spirit in an unexpected place, such as a playground or an amusement park.
For more ideas like this, check out Writing Prompts About Ghosts.
Person vs Technology
- Characters have to deal with some mundane piece of technology malfunctioning, such as an elevator getting stuck right when the building is supposed to close.
- A character has always believed that the rise in robot servants would backfire eventually, so they always made sure to treat the robots with respect—a behavior that got them teased by nearly everyone. When the robot uprising does begin, the main character teams up with their robot companion to quell the uprising.
- As technology evolves, companies and governments alike are able to harvest more and more information about their users. Now, no one can get away with anything. Every single thing they do, in public and private, is monitored and recorded. Even their very thoughts can be spectated if they have opted in to using implanted chips that connect their brains to the internet. Your character is part of a guild that lives completely underground without technology. The guild’s ultimate goal is to dismantle the technological dystopia their world has evolved into.
- A character has to learn how to use a complicated machine under pressure, like making an emergency landing in a plane or disarming a bomb.
- A character is driving across the country on a solo road trip when their car stalls. They can’t get their car running normally again, and they are in a completely unfamiliar city. What do they do when no one seems willing to help them?
- The power goes out right as a student is trying to submit their paper at the last minute. Now they have to rush to the library in the hopes of being able to submit the paper before midnight, but everything seems to be going wrong and slowing them down. They manage to get to the library just before midnight—only to realize they’ve left the flash drive with their paper on it on their desk at home.
- A character has always been alone and never had any luck with dating or making friends. One day, they stumble upon an AI chatbot and decide to vent their feelings to it. Surprisingly, they receive a thoughtful and sympathetic reply from the AI, and soon, they find themself coming back to chat with it often. Over time, they end up falling in love with this AI, and further isolating themself from society.
Some Parting Advice
Good stories have more than one kind of conflict occurring at different points in the plot—or at the same time. If you really want a challenge, try combining more than one of these prompts into the same story. It’ll make the story harder to write, but it will create a sense of complexity and depth that will make it much more interesting to read.