This past Saturday, I attended my monthly NH Romance Writer’s Meeting in Bow and the group was treated to a lecture/talk by uber-bestselling author Judith Arnold (JudithArnold.com) on the subject of CONFLICT. As writers of romance, we know that the main road to a happy ever after story is usually peppered with snags, twists and turns, until the end, where our heroes and heroines finally get together for evermore. Those snags, twists and turns are typically taken up with conflict. Conflict between our protagonists, or with other people or situations in the story.
Judith quoted one famous author who said the basis behind a conflict in a romance story is such: Your hero is a firefighter and the heroine is an arsonist. How’s that for conflict? Now of course, we all know the heroine isn’t actually an arsonist, but is suspected of being one, and the hero must discover who the actual bad guy is so he can clear the heroine’s name and they can live… you got it: happily ever after. Or maybe it just looks like the heroine is our arsonist because she is acting suspiciously. Either way, we know our firefighter will have to do more than just fight a fire to get the girl. He’ll probably have to go through a fire to do so. This is defined as interpersonal conflict, or conflict between characters.
Conflict is also evident within our characters’s makeup. Perhaps your heroine is a strict vegan PETA member and your hero is a died in the wool carnivore cowboy. Can your heroine come to grips with her own strict moral beliefs and come to accept another viewpoint? Can the hero? This is internal conflict, or the conflict that rages upon us internally. I once wrote a short story about a female police officer who had been abused by her pastor as a teenager. As an adult, she struggled with the professional convictions of her job to protect and serve, and her personal desire for revenge. I won’t tell you the ending, but when I wrote it, I drew on my own thoughts as to what I would do if placed in the same situation. Those of you who know me know I love me a good revenge story!
Man against the Machine is the ultimate external or global conflict. Fighting against the forces of Big Brother corporations, or deadly political regimes, government corruption and so forth.
So, when we’re writing, we need to remember that conflict is key to the romance story, because after all, the story of a guy who meets a girl and marries her is just too boring for words. STUFF needs to happen and the stuff is conflict.
What do you think about this? Drop me aline and let me know.
Until next time, I’m off. And I’m conflicted: should I nap or should I write?