72 “Big Bads” to Save your Story


Is your character frequently cooking an elaborate meal for a party of one? Have your characters fallen madly in love the moment you introduced them? Or are they making a long, transcontinental journey through daisy fields? If you answered yes to any of those, your story is probably in distress.

Author Raymond Chandler once said, “When in doubt, have a man come through the door with a gun in his hand;” in other words, when your story is losing steam, create a new conflict. Can’t come up with a meaningful event? Use one of these 72 Big Bads to Save your Story:

What you’ll need

  • A basic premise: Who are the main characters, what do they want out of life, and what setting are they in?
  • A random number generator: For best results, pick a number generator that allows you to set the range. I prefer this one.
  • An imagination: You could use these conflicts at face value, but you’ll get the most out of this list if you look at them from a number of angles.


Step 1: Generate a random number between 1-72.

Step 2: Find your number on the List of 72 Big Bads.

Step 3: Use Bubbl.us to brainstorm which character will experience the conflict and how.

Step 4: Write the scene!

Allow yourself no more than 2 options– no excuses. Approach them from multiple angles for the best way to apply it to your story. (e.g. #20 “Chased by a fear”: Your protagonist’s fear can literally chase them, but what if your protagonist is stuck with someone who personifies their fear? Maybe they only feel like they’re being chased by their fear because they coincidentally keep running into it.)

By limiting your options, you’ll be forced to make it work for your novel, resulting in a new conflict that is not only exciting and creative, but also cohesive with the rest of the story. Trust me on this.

List of 72 Big Bads

1. A wounded stranger appeared
2. A peculiar stranger appeared
3. A suspicious stranger appeared
4. Got a disease
5. Something was stolen
6. Something was lost
7. A deal gone wrong
8. Double crossed
9. Embarrassed/mortified
10. Shunned
11. Betrayed by someone trusted
12. Robbed
13. Kidnapped
14. An important item was repossessed
15. Transportation was taken away
16. Lost one of the 5 senses
17. Lost an ability
18. Lost love to a familiar source
19. Lost love to a friend
20. Chased by a fear
21. Lost source of income
22. Evicted
23. Unplanned pregnancy
24. Suddenly a guardian
25. Something exploded
26. Passed out
27. Lost friend due to argument
28. Lost love due to argument
29. Abused by someone trusted
30. Failed to solve critical problem
31. Prohibited from being yourself
32. Refused by gatekeeper
33. Journey extended at the last minute
34. Punished
35. Shamed
36. Death of family member
37. Death of friend
38. Sudden disappearance of family member
39. Sudden disappearance of friend
40. Lost a large sum of money
41. Indebted
42. Failed a test
43. Lost a game
44. Rejected by family
45. Got misled
46. Joined a cult
47. Rejected by peers
48. Got left behind
49. Lost
50. Abandoned
51. Arrested
52. Lost Shelter
53. Lost mode of transportation
54. Betrayed by a friend
55. Physically abused
56. Verbally abused
57. Abandoned as a kid
58. Cheated on
59. Cheated on someone else
60. Lost mobility of limbs
61. Secret got discovered at the wrong time
62. Loved one dies
63. Abandoned by your love
64. Lied to
65. Ruined a potential business opportunity due to character flaw or accident
66. Abused by someone in authority
67. Publicly humiliated
68. Gave someone the wrong item/bag/paper
69. Ousted by family
70. Followed by a strange person
71. Caught with your pants down
72. Tricked!

Did we save your story? What did you come up with?

Related Topics:
Writing Tips


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