Think of tensions as conflict. Think of having a series of small conflicts snowball into greater conflict.
1. raise or lower the stakes.
2. switch the conflict to something else.
3. remove the conflict to show alternative is worse.
4. change the stakes.
5. have someone wearing something that is annoying or threatening.
6. reduce the time left to finish task.
7. have someone with a habit that drives the other person crazy, like snapping fingers.
8. have someone who talks too low or too fast or too slow to be heard or to be understand. Speaker could be just sing-song: something that will annoy the other party.
9. have someone break something; messy or of sentimental value.
10. place a small obstacle in front of a big one: person can’t find his keys when he must rush out to his car because of an emergency. He could even then drop keys on the law in the dark.
11. have person get a traffic ticket, followed by having an expired license, etc. parlay problems.
12. have person’s long-talking mother call at the wrong time -- when character is busy and under stress.
13. when in a car have traffic jams, accidents, painting dividing lines on the road, resurfacing parking lot and so on.
14. embarrassments: “Jones, you left your resume in the copier again”.
15. lost items, wrong items, wrong files, make problems worse.
16. have car make a strange noise, smell, or red warning light come on.
17. car problems of all types: tire problems, water leak; fan belt.
18. late charges on credit cards because check was delayed in the mail.
19. have the conflict just be a symptom of a bigger problem: this can be a variation of increasing the stakes.
20. have person lose a filling or break a tooth.
21. have the new boss be someone who hates the main character from past dealings.
22. have person win an award that another person wanted to win and that the other person does not value.
23. give a reason for person to have a strong dislike for another person: perhaps he learns a person is a bigot; perhaps a whole group is full of bigots; gut that person or group’s help is needed.
24. make the character physically uncomfortable: music too loud, road construction too loud, room too hot, too cold, person is hungry, has blood sugar that is getting too low.
25. get an incorrect bill for a utility: one of those crazy ones like $56,000 for a month’s water bill.
26. have someone find out someone they trust has been lying to them. Could be on an unimportant matter but a lie none the less.
27, have someone find a book in the other person’s car about some topic that is scary: living with AIDS, etc.
28. have a dog or cat get lost.
29. have a child or relative’s child go missing.
30. have person or whole meeting be evacuated when there is a bomb threat.
31. have person in hurry denied entry to an airplane because they are mistakenly on the no-fly list.
32. person forgets to take his medicine.
33. a raise goes to co-worker but not you.
34. you hear there is going to be a 10% reduction in force. This is something for the character to worry about.
35. person has small house fire. It may look suspicious.
36. someone has tried to break into character’s home but didn’t get in.
37.the mosquito spray truck goes by while characters are in a tense moment on the front yard.
38. there is a small earthquake – 2.9 not that uncommon in the area -- but is a bigger earthquake coming?
39. talk about your employer being taken over by global company.
40. IRS audit.
41. big increase in ad valorem tax.
42. reveal small area where parties have conflicting interests: even likely different sport teams. Things that make the other uneasy.
43. fight over a political view, candidate or referendum.
44. one party is always late for dates and this time it causes problems, one party blows up.
45. Freudian slip made by party; how can it be fixed? Once you said it?
46. awaiting test results: could be a school exam or medical test.
47. have credit card rejected at restaurant while on date.
48. being bumped on an important airline flight.
49. party makes comment that the other party sees as a disqualifier as a future mate: something like not wanting to have any children. May not be what other party really thinks.
50. date has an annoying habit of speech as in saying “You know” all the time.
51. party contributes money to organization other party hates.
52. strong difference of opinion on aspect of how to raise a child: perhaps on corporal punishment.
53. party does not take seriously something the other party does; one party just brushes it off like it is of no consequence.
54. party breaks a confidence and is caught.
55. party is caught snooping; perhaps it only looks like snooping.
56. party is caught listening to other person’s phone messages.
57. the newspaper boy did not stop paper as he was told to do; 14 newspapers are in yard.
58. someone runs a red light, almost kills character, and gets away with it.
59. person is losing money at poker game when he gets emergency call taking him away.
60. character can’t keep herself from crying and looking weak in a given situation.
61. someone borrowed car and left it almost out of gas.
62. character was not asked to attend business meeting; this could be nothing or it could indicate a loss in status.
63. locking oneself out of one’s house or apartment for the second time in a week.
64. seeing that someone has damaged your car in a parking lot and took off.
65. character’s child has problem; not selected for cheerleading team; did not make the baseball team. This is now your problem too.
66. lawnmower catches on fire as you are cutting lawn.
67. you see you neighbor face down on his front lawn.
68. character’s mother is dating a con man or bum.
69. unexpected bills create short term money problems.
70. character overhears others saying unkind things about her; perhaps her hair or clothes.
71. your doctor or dentist is retiring.
72. you wear the wrong eyeglasses to work and are annoyed all day.
73. neighbor is painting his house an ugly iridescent color.
74. just when problems are getting worse, you are called out of town to solve a business emergency.
75. you were given a wrong prescription at the pharmacy and it made you act weird at an important meeting/. You are not sure why it happened.
76. a killer is being sought and you look just like the artist’s drawing they are showing on TV.
77. last minute changes prior to a stressful event; like change in speaking order before important talk.
78. you scratched your ear and find out it is bleeding.
79. getting laryngitis before an important talk.
80. twisting your ankle going into an important meeting; walk with limp; look less powerful.
81. something you are putting together has missing parts so you can’t complete the job.
82. garbage strike and you have lots of garbage.
83. you break a bottle of something that smells real bad before guests arrive.
84. your internet website goes down because someone forgot to renew your domain name.
85. you think someone is stalking you.
86. you get hate mail.
87. you find a pregnancy test in your girlfriend’s bedroom, daughter’s bedroom, you name it.
88. your icemaker floods the kitchen.
89. your garage door remote does not work.
90. your automatic window won’t go up in your car.
91. you’ve erased all the photos from your vacation trip.
92. someone has stolen your identity.
93. your condo association comes out with a big special assessment.
94. the self-checkout at the grocery store won’t work right. You are in hurry. No live people available.
95. the shoplifter alarm goes off when you go out the store door.
96. there is a horse loose on the highway.
97. there are several strange cars in your driveway when you arrive home.
98. your blind date does not speak English.
99. you set the alarm off on a car you try to enter just because it looks just like yours.
100. a letter from the IRS says you made a mistake and you must send $1,200 to them.
101. Your bank deducts $500 from your checking account because they credited one of your deposits twice.
102. your golf shot breaks a car window in the parking lot near the pro shop.
103. parking lights are out and you have to walk to your car in the dark. Long scary walk.
104. elevator is out of order and you have to walk ten flights down to leave work (in the dark because power if off).
105. you take a wrong turn on expressway and find yourself in a gang infested neighborhood.
106. a lot of scary people get on your subway car, train car, or bus. This is stressful even if nothing happens.
107. your cab driver does not match his picture.
108. someone at work gets an envelop full of white power.
109. your new car has been recalled.
110. you find out your lover has a twin he or she did not tell you about. Why?
111. you see what looks like a drug buy going down and hope they don’t see you.
Aslo See: Over 100 Examples of Physical Proxies!