Thursday, 1 September 2011

Do you have conflict in your romance? If not, why not?

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?


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
1 egg

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.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post, Christine. You offer so many great examples in this, and conflict is a must with any story as far as I'm concerned!