Thursday, June 25, 2015

In The Beginning....

We all know that love is the main ingredient in every great romance. In these stories love overcomes every seemingly impossible obstacle and in the end finally triumphs. We cheer when our hero and heroine eventually come together and live happily ever after, just as we expect they will. Love conquers all is at the heart of romantic novels and anything less won’t satisfy readers. Who can blame them?


But the way to HEA is a long, crooked path strewn with both external and internal obstacles that keep the hero and heroine apart until they resolve their differences at the end. The readers (and writer) suffer right along with the characters as the couple struggles to realize they’re really made for each other. However, if the hero and heroine resolve their differences too soon, they won’t have time to work through the obstacles that stand in their way of real love — and the reader will feel disappointed and cheated that it all happened much too fast.

As we get to know the characters inside and out, we learn to relate to them and empathize with the difficulties that keep them from the mate God has chosen for them. Heroes and heroines have raw wounds deep inside that prevent them from falling in love too easily or too quickly. Sometimes the internal conflicts are even stronger than the external ones. A wonderful story needs plenty of both kinds of conflict. A word of warning: we shouldn’t throw in every single obstacle we can think of. Save some for other stories!

Love draws the hero and heroine together but obstacles drive them apart.


In my novella, The Innkeeper’s Promise, which is part of With this Kiss, the historical collection, a young innkeeper tries to convince her absentee co-owner to keep their failing hotel open and operating despite his determination to make a quick sale. (external conflict) They’re fighting their attraction for each other until they learn that placing their own desires and ambition ahead of their loved one’s wants and needs will cause unhappiness for both of them. (internal conflict). The conflicts blend together in the story.

At the beginning of any romance the hero and heroine should meet in an interesting, and hopefully unique way, often on the first few pages or at least during the first chapter. They feel a pull toward each other. Sometimes they’re attracted by good looks, or they’re impressed by a kind or heroic action that heightens their emotions toward the other person.


Sometimes they’ve met before and have strong, unresolved feelings about something that happened between them in the past. Their feelings might be positive or negative. Sometimes people instantly dislike each other even though they’re strangers. I think the opposite can be true, too.

But there should be a spark of some sort when they meet because we definitely don’t want the hero and heroine to find each other forgettable. They need to stay on each other’s mind even when they’re not together. They’re relationship is the real reason for the story. It took me a long time to figure that out!

After the couple meets, the romance really begins. Then they’re drawn together through attraction and later love, and then they’re wrenched apart because of obstacles in their path. These barriers cause them to stumble and fall.

I’ve noticed in a lot of romance stories the couple is at odds with each other soon after they meet. They start arguing about an issue that’s important to them. The conflict should never center around a trivial matter because the reader won’t feel compelled to continue. Who wants to read about two people disagreeing over which brand of coffee to buy? (Okay, a married couple might bicker over coffee, but not a man and a woman on the brink of a promising love relationship.)

Their sparring should concern something worth fighting about. The environmentalist verses the developer or the vintner verses a crusader for prohibition have strong, differing opinions that they won’t change — at least not until the end after a lot of soul searching and compromising. Start the hero and heroine on two different sides of an issue and find a unique hook that will keep them apart despite their attraction to each other. A strong external conflict will keep the reader turning the pages.


Conflict sounds like the great way to start a story and it often is.

But what if your story doesn’t lend itself to an immediate clash of goals or personalities?

In some romances the couple fall in love right at the start without major barriers to drive them apart. They have fun, discover they share similar values, backgrounds, interests etc. They’re on the fast track toward love and marriage because so many things bring them together.

Many of the couples I’ve known who have had a successful relationship that ended in marriage didn’t face major problems beforehand. They fell head over heels in love and basked in the glow of their romance. The old saying love is blind means just that: the two lovebirds don’t see each other clearly. They gloss over each other’s faults and recognize only virtues.


However, romance without problems to overcome won’t make for a great story. It’ll be downright boring. In a book the hero and heroine can’t be speeding along or the story will end too soon.

At some point they need barriers to slow them down, both external and internal. Their love must be tested and through these difficult situations they’ll grow and develop as characters and learn to deal with the problems that prevent from getting together.

But at what point does this happen? That depends on the story. The writer has to decide when to throw obstacles in the way of the romance.

Personally, I think trouble should erupt or at least be strongly hinted at by the middle of the book. Some writers say smooth sailing can continue nearly to the end. To keep the story interesting the reader must see hints of trouble looming ahead. Those hints need to create enough tension about the future to keep the reader turning pages.

In You’ve Got Mail the hero and heroine fall for each other online without knowing they’re opponents in real life. There’s still tension since they don’t know the entire truth about each other but the viewers do. The audience anticipates fireworks in the future and that keeps them glued to the screen.

Where do you think obstacles should start to disrupt the romance? In the beginning or a little later? Any reason for one preference over the other?

Please leave your name and e-mail address if you’d like to be in the running for a $15.00 gift certificate from Starbucks, my favorite coffee shop.

Have a cappuccino and a croissant and have a wonderful day!



78 comments:

Vince said...

Hi Cara:

What I like is for there to be multiple streams of valid conflict that enter the story in layers at different stages and that seem to the reader to be irreconcilable.

I want the reader to feel very sympathetic towards the hero and heroine because there really is no soultion to their problems. Then at the end, like Sherlock Holmes, a solution is arrived at that is fully justified by the foundation created by the author and which, once revealed causes the reader to wonder why she didn't think of the solution herself.

All this is just like the way Sherlock Holmes sometimes solves cases. All the clues were there! The author played fair. Why didn't I see it?

This surprise, eye-opening, solution doubles the emotional impact of the HEA while at the same time earning the begrudging admiration of the reader for having worked such literary magic right before her eyes.

Now that is what I really like in a romance. Is that too much to ask? : )

Vince

Cindy W. said...

Hi Cara! Great post! In regards to where an obstacle should disrupt a romance for me it depends on the genre. In a suspense novel I think it should be early on, the hero and heroine are working together which means they shouldn't have an interest in each other and that is one of the obstacles they overcome, once the job is done. In a contemporary romance I like to see the love story unfold and somewhere in the middle or two thirds through the obstacle hits and is resolved in the last part of the book.

I would love to be entered in your giveaway.

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Cara, I love that you mentioned the secondary choice of a happy path that then gets muddied by life/events, etc.

I'm working on a book like that right now, a marriage of convenience story that seems like all should work out...

AND THEN FATE AND GOD STEP IN....

And our happy couple is stymied. They thought they had it all figured out, everything boxed up with a nice little bow and then OOOOOPS....

And it's how we weather those "oops" in our lives that makes all the difference! Grab hold of the "oops" moments, pray hard and hang on tight!!!!

But you're so right, trying to nail the beginning is crucial!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

COFFEE HAS ARRIVED AND A TRAY FROM JACKSON'S BAKERY IN ROCHESTER!!!!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Vince, I agree, that is like the quintessential romance right there.

One of my favorites that hit all those notes was Sweet Hush by Deborah Smith.

Another one was Falling Home by Karen White.

The family and history elements are there, they don't take over the story, but they deepen it with purpose.

Also from the romance angle, Lisa Wingate's early "Texas Cooking" series, funny, warm, evocative and not overtly Christian, these are the kind of books that lend the reader to introspect about faith and love and holding on without browbeating.

Beautifully done!

Tina Radcliffe said...

I like what Swain says, paraphrased..."let 'em know there's going to be a fight and let 'em know it's going to be a doozy! Right from the start.

Tracey Hagwood said...

HI Cara,
I know conflict is what propels the story forward, but sometimes when a story is so full of conflict I like to get some glimpse of satisfaction along the way. Some writers keep me stirred until the end then resolve the conflict in the last page or two.

I just finished Glynna's Christmas book last night so I'll use that as an example of what I do like. Plenty of conflict, but about the 70% mark a big dose of gratification even though the biggest conflict was yet to come. Loved that.

One of the reasons I enjoy epilogues so much and wish more books would utilize this tool to give the reader more of what their after, the HEA.

Jackie said...

Hi Cara,

I was just craving Starbucks. Please add my name to the drawing.

I like the attraction to start in the beginning and then something pulls the H/H apart.

I agree with Tracy about epilogues. After we spend so much time trying to get the H/H together, I like to spend a little time with them.

Have a great day!

Mary Hicks said...

What Vince said. :-)

Glynna Kaye said...

Good morning, CARA! Great post--lots to think about.

I write for a short Love Inspired line (55-60K), so conflict has to get rolling in that first chapter and very often the first scene. Sometimes the initial conflict is overt having to do with an external conflict; other times it's internal having to do with something the heroine and/or heroine "brings to the table" behind the scenes. Then throughout, the conflict/stakes can increase--with a brief lull where it looks like things might work out--THEN the seeds that were planted in those early scenes blossom to a "black moment" that they have to overcome to find their happily ever after.

Glynna Kaye said...

Good morning, TRACEY! So glad High Country Holiday fit your expectations of what you like to see in a story. :)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Tracey Hagwood, you nailed the art of storytelling in my humble opinion....

In every thunderstorm we want a glimpse of sun, slanted rays or a rainbow hinted in the clouds.

Weaving the hope among the waves is like Jesus sleeping in the boat. The presence is there but not fully understood until the end of the story.

Your perspective is wonderful.

Cara Lynn James said...

Vince, you described a great story that could be any genre. Getting the story right takes a lot of planning or a lot of revision. In a mystery it's definitely easier to plan ahead.

Love your photo!

Tracey Hagwood said...

RUTHY, you KNOW you are one of my FAVORITE storytellers because you are so skilled at weaving your magic with light versus dark, sun versus rain. Still basking in the aftermath of the last story of yours I read and I think I'm going to read it again before I review it. So, so good!

Cara Lynn James said...

Ruthy, I'm also writing a story where the couple falls for each other right away despite a few internal obstacles. But big problems are coming. One understands that but the other doesn't. It's so much fun to write. What I like is that they don't argue etc. through out the entire book.

Thanks for going to the bakery for us!

Sandra Leesmith said...

HI CARA, Great post and great reminder that we are after all writing romance. smile Sometimes I get so involved in keeping the conflict going I forget to put in the romance that TRACEY talked about. Then I have to go back and put those emotions in.

How nicely you packaged up the elements to include. smile Good timing for me also as I'm needing them in my current wip.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Yes, VINCE that is what we strive for when writing, but I call it a miracle in my case anyway when I achieve that. Sometimes I go back and read something I've written and go "wow, did I do that?" So I guess while writing we subconsciously and consciously think of all those things.

I think that is why it is important to read a lot so you have that internal sense of story-like when things should happen.

And pray a lot. LOL

Cara Lynn James said...

Cindy, I agree conflict should start as soon as possible in a suspense/romantic suspense. Readers expect fireworks since the genre has a strong external plot. Putting the hero and heroine at odds just adds to the tension.

Sandra Leesmith said...

CARA to answer your question, I like the conflict to be snuck in. Too much conflict and bickering annoys me. I am there for the romance after all. I like stories where they have a lot of attraction and fun together in spite of their conflicts.

Oh well, I'm an escapist so I guess that is just me. smile

Cara Lynn James said...

Sandra, I like conflict (the important kind that's hard to overcome) but I dislike bickering over trivia. To me, a couple having fun together is much more realistic that constant quarreling.

Cara Lynn James said...

Tina, Dwight V. Swain's Techniques of a Fiction Writer (that may not be the exact title) is a fantastic writers' book and one of my favorites. I think I'll reread it in my spare time. LOL

Missy Tippens said...

Great post, Cara! I like to see that conflict at or near the beginning. Because at the midpoint, I like them to have a bonding moment--yet they're not quite ready or able to change enough to commit.

Missy Tippens said...

Vince, that's a great point. We (the reader) feel for the characters because we think there's no way possible for them to get together. Love it!

Glynna Kaye said...

I think there can be conflict without constant bickering. If it's only bickering, that's not a story-length conflict.

Cara Lynn James said...

Tracey, a great example of never giving the heroine a break is in Forever Amber, an old book written 60 or more years ago. It's a swashbuckling adventure that never lets the tension down even a little. She goes from one adventure to another without a pause. I found it exciting but really exhausting.

I like Epilogues, too. I'm always curious about what happens in the future.

Cara Lynn James said...

Jackie, I like Epilogues because I want to know what happens to the 'people' I just spend so much time with. It's like in real life — because of Fb etc. I've been in contact with a lot of old friends from elementary and high school. Over the years I often wondered what happened to them. It's great to get to know them again.

Cara Lynn James said...

Hi, Mary! Vince made some wonderful observations.

Glynna, you're right about shorter novels — you can't let the h/h get too happy without adding conflict because of the need to compress a lot into a short word count. You have to get right into the story.

Myra Johnson said...

Loved this, CARA!!! My favorite line? "A word of warning: we shouldn’t throw in every single obstacle we can think of. Save some for other stories!"

I think the greatest temptation to throw a barrage of obstacles at the H/H is when a writer gets to the middle of the book. Things start slowing down, and we look for anything to up the ante and keep the reader hooked.

I agree with Missy about needing a sense of the conflict early in the story, and then that special bonding moment near the middle but still some problems to overcome. If there's not at least a little doubt that the HEA is assured (or how they'll actually get there), why read on?

Keli Gwyn said...

Cara, your post took me back to my early days of writing romance--before Tina plucked me from obscurity and introduced me to the wonderful world of writers online. At that point I was such a florescent green newbie that I glowed brightly with idealism. I'd read so many romances in which couples encountered seemingly insurmountable obstacles that I set out to change that. I decided, in my naiveté, that my characters would fall in love early on, and readers would enjoy seeing a real romance play out. Can you say clueless?

Once I grasped the concept of conflict, I realized why it's such an important element int a story, but it took time, scores of rewrites and a healthy dose of realism. Readers don't want to read stories that parallel real life. They want stories with bigger-than-life characters who lead extraordinary lives. Our readers know what an ordinary life looks like. Most of them are living one. They want a story that takes them beyond that, a story that stretches them, challenges them and, above, all entertains them. Boring stories such I wrote in those early days don't cut it. Exciting, gripping, conflict-laden stories are where it's at.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Cara, I'm so glad you said that! This is new territory for me, and I keep looking at it, thinking I'm gilding... but I know the impact is around the corner and it feels weird, prepping for it when normally by couples are so at odds early on... You and me, CARA!!! :)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Tracey Hagwood, your words have made my day!!!!

You bless me.

Tracey Hagwood said...

GLYNNA, I loved your story so much I went straight to Amazon and put in a review. I haven't always been good about leaving reviews, but I know it helps the writer, so one of my goals is to get better about doing that for books that really touch me like yours did.

Pam Hillman said...

I think different stories call for different tactics. Some conflicts are more driven by external forces, some by internal. But, like Vince, I like multiple layers of both. Granted, there's not enough room to flesh out too many layers in novellas, so I'm mostly talking about full-length now.

But even those layers need to be woven seamlessly into each other. In Stealing Jake, we have a sheriff's deputy and a former pickpocket, and their attracted to each other right away. Actually, the FALL for each other right away! lol On the surface, that's the romantic conflict.

He likes her, but has too much on his plate to pursue her.
She likes him, but he's the law, and she's been running from the law her whole life.

BUT talking, thinking, rehashing that one thing for 300+ pages gets old fast. So, there are more obstacles that hinder this relationship, but even those obstacles are directly related to the initial conflict. Since Stealing Jake releases in print in SIX WEEKS (yay!!!), I'm not going to list everything, but there are external situations and people that drive a wedge between them, but that also forces them together.

And those external situations also tend to come back around to the crux of the matter of "this is the worst person in the world for me to fall in love with."

One thing I struggle with and try really hard to overcome, is jarring scenes where the hero and heroine go at each other in a shouting match for no apparent reason. Then, suddenly, they're having tea again. That's fine to write those scenes in in the first draft, but in rewrites, the transitions need to be smoother, more believable.

Proven techniques are to have an interruption: in the heat of the argument, the hero kisses the heroine, or gunfire erupts, or a tornado bears down on them, or a child interrupts and they put aside their differences and play nice. I sense another blog post coming on.

HOW TO WRITE BELIEVABLE TRANSITIONS

Tracey Hagwood said...

CARA, I like swashbuckling adventures with a lot of excitement and tension too. I think MaryLu Tyndall does a great job with all her pirate books. I just need small peeks of "it might just work out" along the way to help ease some of my own tension, lol.

Kathryn Barker said...

Thank you, Cara, for a scrumptious post! I brought my cuppa tea...ready for those baked goods Ruthy's passing out!

I like conflict early on in a story. I'm an impatient person...and...a bit skeptical of the "no issues" relationships...the only ones in real life I'm aware of ended badly. Probably because one of the partners never expressed any true feelings...until it was too late.

All the books I've read from this group have been fantastic...everyone is so creative with conflict and romance!!

Epilogues, when present, are delightful...but if not included, I just make up my own!! Quite satisfying!

Took a minute to run over to Amazon and order Dwight Swain's book...the one called Techniques of the Selling Writer...thanks, Cara...it's one I didn't have!!

Have a tea-lightful day everybody...

Audra Harders said...

Wise words, Cara! I need to hear them over and over.

Tina mentioned Dwight Swain's quote about let them know there's a fight right in chapter one. That is the HARDEST things for me to do! I love how you made - point by point - the process of romance.

Love it, love it, love it!!

S. Trietsch said...

Cara,

I seem to be carried away (in my WIP) by the conflict that is like a house of cards. Once difficulty rears it's 'ugly' head other issues become apparent and I'm hoping drive my hero/heroine toward one another. My question: when do you think there is too much turmoil? I'd love to be entered in your contest!

Stephanie T.
stephanie.trietsch@gmail.com

Tracey Hagwood said...

I checked out Forever Amber. It outsold every other book in the forties, although it was banned in Boston for its "sheer sexiness". It weighs in, and I mean that literally, at 652 pages originally and the 2000 version at 976 pages, similar in length to Gone With the Wind. Wow, I don't think I've ever read anything longer than maybe 550 pages, but now you have me intrigued CARA!

I think I'm ADD when it comes to books, I want to read everything and bounce all over the place.

Now PAM has me wanting to read Stealing Jake!

So many books and so little time!

Cara Lynn James said...

Tracey, the author (Kathleen Windsor???) of Forever Amber couldn't have divided the stories in at least a couple of books. If I remember correctly, the book was episodic which was probably fine when it was written.

That said, I read the whole long story and enjoyed it.

Myra Johnson said...

Dwight Swain's Techniques of the Selling Writer is one of my very favorite books on craft! Highly recommended!

Cara Lynn James said...

Stephanie, I think if you have a tendency to complicate the plot with too many side issues (like I do), then you should try to stick to the main goal. This is especially true in short novels.

Maybe someone else can add to this.

Cara Lynn James said...

Audra, you don't have to start out with a major conflict with the H/H. But you have to give broad hints and maybe sprinkle in a sentence or two of backstory to keep the reader interested and looking forward to the clash that's coming.

Meghan Carver said...

Good morning, Cara! You named my favorite movie! I know we're talking about hero/heroine today, but aren't the secondary characters incredible in that movie? I adore Frank -- "A hot dog is singing! You need quiet while a hot dog is singing?" :-) I would love to write a book like that...where they fall in love before they meet.

Cara Lynn James said...

Missy, a bonding moment mid-point in the story is important. They can open up to each other a little bit and that creates more understanding between them.

Debby Giusti said...

Cara, great blog about my favorite writing subject: CONFLICT! Love how you've explained the various ways love can grow in a romance. This suspense author has problems if I don't kill or seriously injure someone at the beginning of the story. LOL! My hat's off to all the romance writers who don't kill people. Tough to sustain a story, IMHO. At least, it's hard for me. Thanks for showing how it can be done.

Hugs!

Cara Lynn James said...

Hi, Meghan! Secondary characters always tend to be my favorite characters in a book or movie because they're freer to be themselves. They don't have to be heroic!

Cara Lynn James said...

Debby, you're lucky — if the suspense story sags, just kill someone off!!!

Lyndee H said...

Hi Cara,
This post is full of things to consider. I think I do well introducing my characters during the initial chapter/chapters. But then I go off road, miring them in minutiae.
I have to WORK to stay focused on the big picture,keeping GMC in mind for each scene.

(THANK YOU,GMC TINA!)

I appreciate your mention to save some conflict for other stories. I read a book recently where, by the end, I was waiting for the kitchen sink, too. I was SO ready for the H/H to call it a wedding! That book caused me reader's fatigue. When I thought about it later, I realized it's exactly what I do, too! DUH! Talk about God's timing. I learned a lot from that book and it has helped me with my writing at a time I REALLY need to be smart about it.

Janet Dean said...

Cara, excellent thought provoking post! Conflict is story so I like to start the trouble fairly early on.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Cara, forgot to say I love the great images in your post! And I enjoyed your innkeeper novella!

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Vince, I think those layers come from the small scene goals that build to the book length goals. Along with all the baggage these characters carry. It's really fun for the reader to see these two people are perfect for each other when they're still too trapped in the forest to see that.

Janet

Chill N said...

Hi Cara! I read your post twice. Not because it was difficult to read but because it triggered so many thoughts.

I like both internal and external conflict, and I don't care which is the stronger as long as the characters aren't the same at the end as they are at the beginning. As both a writer and reader, I like the "yes ... but" kind of conflict. A conflict is seemingly resolved only to introduce a new conflict. I have that moment of "Ahh" and ease of conflict followed by the "Uh oh" as the new conflict becomes apparent.

In a novella, I like to get to know the characters just a bit before the conflict is introduced. That way I have the fun of anticipating how the character will react. So maybe that's 1/4 of the way way into the story?

Thanks for making me think!

Nancy C

Sandy Smith said...

I think the conflict needs to be introduced early on or at least hinted at so the reader is aware there is going to be conflict. But I also agree that too much conflict makes it hard to read. Then it can become too much a soap opera. In the old days when I used to watch soaps, I wondered how anybody could endure all the trauma inflicted on the characters and still survive without needing to be institutionalized. So the conflict does need to be realistic.

Vince said...

Conflicts in Conflict!

Sometimes you can make conflict too strong.

I remember reading "Charity's" book "A Passion Redeemed" and thinking that the conflict won. I thought "Give it up Mitch. I don't want you to marry her!" Now that's strong conflict. To be fair, Emma's book, "A Heart Revealed" amazingly meets my description I gave for an ideal romance plot at the top of these comments! (Julie says God gave her the solution to the conflict.)

Story: The Baptist boy wanted to marry the Catholic girl. To be married in the Catholic Church, the boy had to attend 8 weeks of Catholic doctrine classes. The instructor did such a good job that after the class was over the boy entered a seminary to become a priest.

Sometimes Conflict Does not Count

I read a romance where the conflict looked irreconcilable so the hero and heroine just decided to get married anyway and work it out later! Love conquers all! (I think the book had reached its maximum page length and had to be ended where it stood!)

I remember thinking: this couple will be lucky to have their HEA last thru their honeymoon. : )

Whiter thou goest, thou goest alone. Ruth 1:16

In these stories the heroine loves the hero but she loves her life in Bohunk, North Dakota even more. She won't marry him unless he gives up his great high paying job in Dallas and becomes a greeter at Wal-Mart in Bohunk.

Well, if that is how much she loves the hero, I always root for the hero to move on and find someone who really, really loves him!

The "I won't be hurt again" conflict


Here the hero/heroine has lost a loved one on the job. The hero/heroine has the same job. He/she is in love but could not endure the pain of losing a second love one the same way. The solution is always the same: Wait around for love to grow until the pain of not having the new love becomes grater than the possible pain of losing the new love in the future. (These are 'thunder storm' conflicts. You just have to wait them out.)

Conflicts Requiring Heavy Lifting

Widow with three kids living next door. Single hero. There's no easy way to write this one. This is the shotgun of conflicts. Missy did a great job with this theme in "A House Full of Love".

Medical problems

Serious medical problems, unseen by the hero/heroine, keep parties apart. Here conflict can increase simply by having the hero and heroine fall more and more in love. Both Ruth ("The Lawman's Second Chance") and Tina ("The Rancher's Reunion" have written this theme to perfection!

I believe that the books I most remember and have the highest regard for are the ones with the most serious conflicts. I call these 'heavy-lifting-required' books. Like "Autumn Rains", "The Bossy Bridegroom", "The Atonement Child", "Red Kettle Christmas", "Band of Brothers", just to mention a few.

Maybe the best way to write an outstanding and highly memorable book is to pick a unique set of conflicts that will require heavy lifting and then execute that theme to perfection.

Yep, I think that is how to do it.

Cara Lynn James said...

Glad you found a new writers' book, Kathryn!

I think a lot of readers are impatient for conflict. But in some stories delaying the conflict a little longer works too.

Cara Lynn James said...

Lyndee, when I'm writing a romance I have to keep reminding myself that the romance is the main thing and not the secondary plot. I like external plots.

Cara Lynn James said...

Hi, Janet! I'm glad you liked The Innkeeper's Promise. Novellas are fun to write.

Cara Lynn James said...

Nancy, the peaks and valleys of a story are so important. Too much tension or not enough doesn't make good reading. But if i had to choose, I'd rather err on the side of too much tension.

Cara Lynn James said...

Sandy, I used to watch soap operas, too, and I loved them! They always hooked me into watching the following day.

Julie Lessman said...

CARA!!! Perfect timing, my friend, because I am stuck on the plot of my next novel, and the headache for me has been both external and internal conflict, so you've just given me a few leads in my train of thought -- BLESS YOU!!

In thinking about all of my stories, I noticed that I begin with conflict right off the bat or at least in the first three chapters. Of course, conflict is easy when you kick off the book with head-butting in stories like Taming of the Shrew, McClintock, or Gone With the Wind, but even with those stories where the hero and heroine get along initially, I love to throw in a monkey wrench as soon as possible to keep me interested, if not the reader!

It's SO fun reading your posts again, Cara -- have missed them!!

Hugs,
Julie

Julie Lessman said...

VINCE SAID: "I remember reading "Charity's" book "A Passion Redeemed" and thinking that the conflict won. I thought "Give it up Mitch. I don't want you to marry her!" Now that's strong conflict."

LOL ... you have no idea just HOW strong that conflict was, my friend, because both my agent and my editor were sweating bullets over that one, not sure I could pull it off with a heroine nobody liked, including the hero! :) But ironically, it is my favorite book in the Daughters of Boston series, and Charity is my favorite heroine. I guess because she did more growing up in this family saga than anybody else. :)

VINCE ALSO SAID: "To be fair, Emma's book, "A Heart Revealed" amazingly meets my description I gave for an ideal romance plot at the top of these comments! (Julie says God gave her the solution to the conflict.)"

Thank you, Vince -- I always treasure your compliments, my friend, because they are so deep and well-thought-out. And, yes, God DID give me that ending/twist, so I can't take the credit. Mmmm ... where was He when I was writing Charity's story??? ;)

Hugs,
Julie

Cara Lynn James said...

Vince, I'm impressed by how much you read!

Sarah Claucherty said...

Thanks to Vince for the breakdown of different conflicts! Great examples :)

Julie, I have to admit I struggled with Charity! I identified with Faith (and later Lizzie, too) so strongly in A Passion Most Pure that the return of Charity as the main female character in A Passion Redeemed was difficult to take. But the deeper background of her history and learning why she became the way she was helped a lot, and ultimately I came to understand her better and enjoyed the story.

Cara, great post! I appreciate the discussion of conflict, as I'm working to improve my craft and seeking out examples of strong craft in the books I read. This post definitely gives me a lot to look for in a book, especially my current reading of Saving Amelie by Cathy Gohlke (WWII)!

Sarah Claucherty said...

Oh! sclauche@gmail.com

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Vince, I use the term "heavy lifter" in my current WIP. It's how the hero describes himself, he's a sticker.... a heavy lifter. He won't fade when the going gets tough like her first husband did.

And then seeing you use it here, I love it!!! SYMPATICO!!!!!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Wow, Vince is on a roll. WTG, VINCE. Does this mean the RPP book is near launch??? Dare I hope?

Sandra Leesmith said...

Good Points PAMMERS. Good transitions are crucial. I thinnk that is a great blog idea. smile

Sandra Leesmith said...

DEBBY you don't need lessons on conflict. LOL You do a great job.

Good point SANDY SMITH conflict does need to be realistic. I laughed at your reference to a soap opera. Please don't let me write like that. sigh Even though they are popular.

NANCY you're the only person I've ever heard actually admit they like to know the characters more before the conflict hits. So many want that conflict right on page one. I guess maybe because so many don't read past page one unless they are hooked. But how refreshing to know someone actually wants a little appetizer before the main dish. I'm like you. I like that too. smile

Sandra Leesmith said...

VINCE you are tooo funny. I so agree with what you said:
In these stories the heroine loves the hero but she loves her life in Bohunk, North Dakota even more. She won't marry him unless he gives up his great high paying job in Dallas and becomes a greeter at Wal-Mart in Bohunk.

Well, if that is how much she loves the hero, I always root for the hero to move on and find someone who really, really loves him!

I so agree. So many Hallmark movies have that premiss and it annoys me no end. However, that being said, I do love Hallmark movies because I get so tired of cop shows and cut 'em up and bleed shows. (Hubby loves em so they are there - however hubby will record Hallmark movies for me. yay) Hmmmm there's a conflict for you.

Donna said...

This is a very helpful post, Cara! It is definitely a keeper.

I have trouble pairing internal and external conflicts. Sometimes I can start with one and the other will come about organically. Sometimes not.

Please enter me.
lostie815@hotmail(dot)com

Cara Lynn James said...

Donna, very often the internal and external conflicts are woven together. They're related to each other. Whatever is inside the character, her flaws, fears and backstory influence how she reacts to the hero and the external conflict which is the secondary plot in a romance.

Cara Lynn James said...

So, Sandra and Vince, what is the heroine going to give up for the hero who is becoming a Walmart greeter for her??? It works both ways!

Cara Lynn James said...

Sarah, I really like WW2 stories because I grew hearing them from my father.

Edwina said...

Cara,

Loved this post! For me, I like the conflict to begin about 1/3 of the way into the book. By waiting until then, the reader has a chance to get to know the hero and heroine, their likes, dislikes, etc. The conflict can be hinted at earlier, but I want to know more about the main characters (and secondary characters) before the conflict is introduced.

Please enter me in the drawing!

Blessings,
Edwina

Cara Lynn James said...

Edwina, I also like to wait a while for the conflict to begin. It gives me a chance to get to know the characters first.

Sarah Claucherty said...

Cara, Saving Amelie is so sad and yet full of hope. I picked it up becUse of the WWII setting and the blurb on the back that described it as focusing on a woman's efforts and trials during the war. But the strong emphasis on faith, "costly grace," and hope in spite of the horror of the Nazi regime...it just keeps me turning the pages late into the wee hours!

Deanna Stevens said...

As a reader I learn so much about writers reading these posts from Seekerville !
Toss me in, I was at Starbucks yesterday, but I'd love to have a reason to go again :)
Deanna Stevens, dkstevensne AToutlookD oTCoM

Anna Weaver Hurtt said...

I'd love to be in the running for the Starbucks card... Hubby and I love their coffee! :)

writer_weaverATyahooDOTcom