Today, I'm talking about writing stuff. There's a Banana muffin breakfast recipe as a reward at the end.
CONFLICT. Aaaaaargggggghhhhh! (That's my heroine screaming.)
I recently had a chat with a new writer who told me she found it hard to create an ongoing conflict that could last over an entire book. How could she make the conflict last 90,000 words? And not only that, she said, some of the romance books she'd read recently didn't appear to have any conflict in them at all. So, she asked, do you really need to have conflict in a romance?
Hmmm. I must admit I've never read a romance without conflict, ever.
Here's my reply:
In my experience there is NO exception to the rule about conflict in romance. In fact the more conflict you have the better.
With romance there are three things to nail for the heroine/hero right at the beginning. Goal, motivation and conflict. (Goal and motivation will be in later posts).
Conflict is never one incident or ‘thing’ it needs to be much more than that. In romance you need external conflicts – to a point – it must never overshadow the internal emotional conflicts between the main characters.
So you could have, say, the hero wanting to buy the heroine’s business/family home etc., that would be external. However between them there needs to be an undeniable attraction which one or both does not want for whatever reason.
An emotional conflict uses, yes, emotions: pride, guilt, grief, overwhelming attraction that causes fear, mistrust of her/himself. The reasons should be many and varied, perhaps the heroine is a widow and she’s buried her heart with her husband and stillborn child (yeah, make them suffer) or a divorcee who still hankers after her charming ex and blames herself for the failure of her marriage. Or an independent career woman who’s afraid of commitment and sworn off men. Or a woman who can’t have a child and her lover desperately needs a family of his own because he never had one. Perhaps she’s a pleaser etc. The hero could be the one to help her see sense etc. Or you could turn those points on their head and have the hero dealing with those same issues.
You need to have many conflicts in a romance, up to about five imo, because if you give them one conflict, whether it’s external or emotional, that will never be enough to keep going over 90,000+ words.
However, not all conflicts are created equal. Have various levels and shades of conflict from misunderstandings/communication issues to differences in values or beliefs. The latter means that one of them needs to change in a fundamental way, all good stuff for a character arc. A character arc is how the heroine/hero changes over the course of the story. What does she/he learn about her/himself?
However, certain ‘rules’ for writing a romance are exactly the same as writing any fiction. Write great characters the reader can cheer for and care about. And, most important, have a hero to die for. He doesn’t need to be a tdh (tall, dark & handsome, although I adore them too) or even an alpha. Men can be heroic in many, many ways. One of the most powerful is when he puts the heroine’s needs and desires before his own. Of course that can throw up tons of conflict too!
What have you read recently that had brilliant conflicts between the protagonists? And what makes a hero for you?
MUFFIN RECIPE - BANANA MUFFINS
As promised yesterday, here is a CREAMED muffin breakfast recipe,which will ensure a healthy digestive tract. If you feel adventurous and are one of those strange creatures who wakens up alert and singing to face the day - you wouldn't be welcome in my house, just sayin - then you can top these will brown sugar, cinnamon or muesli.
200ml (3/4 cup) milk
250ml (1 cup) oat bran or All bran
3 ripe bananas
375ml (1 1/2 cups) flour
30ml (2 Tablespoons) sugar or sugar alternative
20ml (4 teaspoons) baking powder
60grams soft butter
Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees C.
Combine milk, mashed bananas & oat bran - set aside for twenty minutes to soak (lets the bran swell before it hits your stomach). Mix the dry ingredients. Beat the butter & egg, add the banana mixture then add the dry ingredients till just combined. Bake at 180 degrees C for 15-20 minutes. Voila.
Today we're going to talk about the secret to perfect muffins. The secret lies in the mixing. Muffins are quick to mix (my type of food) and even quicker to bake. There are two types, stirred and creamed.
STIRRED muffins are the easiest to make (she says). To mix, the beaten liquid ingredients are added to the dry ingredients with a few flicks of the wrist, er don't forget the spoon. Mixing is kept to the absolute minimum. Which will leave the batter lumpy, but worry not. Do not overbeat, you want a globby mess. (Sorry for the poor description, but I'm sure you get the picture.) When you bake stirred muffins, fill the greased muffin tin or paper cups 2/3 full. If all the tins are not filled, fill the rest with water to keep the other muffins moist. Bake immediately (unless I say different) for 20-25 mins in a pre-heated oven at 180-200 degrees C. Remove from oven and allow muffins to stand for a few mins. This makes them easy to remove from the tin.
CREAMED muffins taste more like a sponge cake and the texture of the batter is smoother. This method requires creaming softened butter and sugar, then add eggs followed by the dry ingredients.
You can make muffins a head of time and they freeze really, really well. For even better results, the unbaked batter can be frozen, yey! Line the muffin tins with foil or use paper cups. Fill these with the batter and freeze - easy peasy. When hard transfer to plastic bags/containers (label them because if you don't you'll think they're yorkshire puddings, trust me.) To bake, put them back in the muffin tin and increase the baking time by five minutes. Dead handy for the breakfast muffins below.
HEALTHY BREAKFAST MUFFINS
I don't know about you, but I am NOT a morning person. It takes me an hour after a couple of strong black coffees just to grunt to the world never mind actually make a breakfast. But these are so easy, even I can do it. The batter can be stored in the fridge for up to three weeks and can be used whenever you want to impress a new man or your mother-in-law (every little helps!)
3 eggs, beaten.
500ml (2cups) brown sugar (if you're sweet enough, reduce the sugar.)
375ml (1 1/2 cups) oil
4 cups All-bran
4 cups plain flour
20ml (4tspns) baking soda
20ml (4tspns) baking powder
45ml (3Tbspns) molasses
10ml (2tspsns) salt
1ltre (4cups) milk
500ml (2cups) rasins or whatever dried fruit you fancy.
250ml (1cup) nuts - go for it.
Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees C. Beat together the eggs, sugar and oil. Mix the other ingredients, add egg mixture and stir until JUST combined. Bake at 180 degrees C for 15 - 20 minutes.
Writerly stuff update:
One of these days I might even talk about writing. I was going to chat about conflict in romance, but then my microwave burst into flames and it took up time making sure the kitchen remained intact. On this occasion it wasn't me, OH was responsible, and that's all I'm going to say about it. He's still being very nice and managed to work out how I'd managed to lose my gravatar image.
At the moment I'm busy building a platform on Wordpress, Myspace, Facebook (two pages, one a fan page. Hey, I live in hope!) and of course, twitter and tweetdeck, which I have to say I'm enjoying, people have been incredibly kind to a newbie.
Next post will be about 'Does your romance wip have enough conflict? If not, why not?'
Oh, and I'll give you guys a breakfast muffin recipe that needs to be CREAMED.
I know, from cakes to feet what is the connection? Bare *grin* with me. I recently received an email and the writer said, 'I'm crossing my fingers and toes for you.' A simple sentence that was like a match to the touchpaper of a debate among my critique group about feet.
I always wanted a man with long narrow feet with lovely toes. I didn't get one, btw, I got a neanderthal. And that's all I'm going to say about my OH because he's been very nice to me recently and I don't want to rock that particular boat. He also reads this blog, but worry not, I'll soon put a stop to that. I daren't put up a photo of his feet, but this one should give you a rough idea of what I live with.
Anyway, a few years ago a certain member of a certain family in high circles, ended her marraige in fine style by sucking on the toe of a man who was not her husband. She shall remain nameless, but you know who I mean. At the time I simply could not understand it, I mean most men's toes look something like this after a hard day.
And who in her right mind would want to suck on those tootsies? Another thing that really gets up my right nostril is men who wear socks with sandals? Whisky Tango Foxtrot is all that about?
Here's a few tips on how to keep tootsies nibble fresh.
Feet. Feet need to be washed, dried and creamed twice a day. Pay particular attention between toes. They can be kept soft and pink by regular use of a pumice stone or a visit to those little fish that nibble dead skin. I've never tried them myself, but my daughter tells me it is the ult. Regular trimming of nails is essential - especially for men - because as the photo shows, their feet can be minging.
Personally, I like to wander about with bare feet as much as possible. However those of you with children need to take particular care because your home has become a danger zone what with toy cars etc., but the very worst thing is the small pieces of LEGO. Honestly, the air will be blue, and I put good money on it your little darling will quote every Whisky Tango Foxtrot you utter. Especially to your mother-in-law. Why give the woman more ammunition?
Yesterday was 'D' day for me on twitter and thanks to Nicola Morgan's book I am *mastering* haha, tweetdeck. An awesome tool and the man who thought of it deserves every penny he received imho. It's not the number of followers you manage to find, it is the quality of said followers in that they are nice and normal people who are interested in the same things I am - writing, chocolate, wine and cake. So here's a recipe to kick us off.
CHOCOLATE CHEESECAKE MUFFINS
1/2 Cup Cream Cheese.
1 Tablespoon Sugar
1 1/2 Cup Flour
1/2 Cup Sugar
2 Tablespoon Cocoa
2 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1 Egg, slightly beaten
1/2 Cup milk
1/3 Cup oil
Preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius.
Mix the first three ingredients - cream cheese, cornflour and sugar together and set aside. Combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder and salt. Mix thoroughly. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients. Combine egg, milk and oil. Add to dry ingredients and mix till just combined. Spoon 2 teaspoons of mixture into greased muffins tins and drop 1 teaspoon of cheese mixture on top, then fill with more batter. Bake at 180 degrees C for 20 - 25 minutes.
My contemporary romance, Sweet Seduction (more about that in a minute) is being 'read' after the second revision. My heroine, Bronte Ludlow will guest blog with me. This is tricky since I don't want to spoil the story or give anything away, but I hope it will give you, the reader an idea of my writing style.