Am I mad? Quite possibly. You see, the thing is, *whispers* I love internal conflict.
There, I’ve said it. I know, I know, it’s something that’s terribly difficult to get right and is the bugbear of many a wannabe writer, me included, but I. Love. It. Which is partly why writing for M&B is something I particularly want to do because their stories are driven by internal conflict. Not car chases and guns. Not bombs. Not even star-crossed lovers kept apart by their families. Just two people who are perfect for each other but have to change themsevles in order to get their HEA. And what could be more emotional than that? What could be more difficult than changing yourself?
Anyway, I fully admit that for all my love of internal conflict, I have yet to get this sucker right. Now the main problem (for me) is that the conflict required for M&B needs to be simple and yet deep. Kate Walker has lots of really good advice about this so get along to her site to read about it but I have to confess it’s this simplicity that has been eluding me for a while now.
Why? Well, my history of writing romance is twenty years of writing for my own pleasure. The last romance I wrote that wasn’t for M&B was 300k. Yes, you heard that right, 300k. I didn’t plot, I pantsed the whole thing, just chucking in whatever was going to make my characters suffer the most. Especially the hero because a tortured hero is my favourite thing in the world. So of course there wasn’t just one simple conflict, there were many, many conflicts. It was awesome. But nowhere, on this planet, would this book have been published, least of all by M&B. However, it was ALL internally conflict driven which was great training, but was it simple? Give you three guesses…;-)
I do not do simplicity. I tend to chuck in lots of conflict strands to up the tension and the angst. So, say my hero’s internal conflict is that his parents had a messy divorce and he was used as a pawn by both of them to hurt each other. As a consequence he might feel like he’s not good enough for love, guilt at letting himself be used, betrayed by people who are supposed to love him, etc, etc. All good stuff but I find myself trying to explore ALL of those emotions at once. Which complicates it. Because guilt might make you act in a certain way, anger might make you act in another, betrayal a third. Now, because you only have 50k in an M&B romance, you just can’t explore ALL of them and the consequences (hear that Jackie??). You have to choose ONE.
*gets out the flow chart*
He feels guilty for letting himself be used —-> which leads to him vow that no one will ever use him like that again —-> which makes him decide that he needs to stay in control of his life and himself —-> He MUST have control in order to feel good about himself.
There you go. Pretty clear what kind of thing his character needs to learn eh? Now, say this is a Jackie ms.
He feels guilty for letting himself be used. Also that’s he’s unworthy. And also betrayed. —> which leads him to vow that he won’t be used again (adds girl who used his bad boy image to annoy her parents), no one will make him feel unworthy again (adds teacher who told him he was useless), and people who are supposed to love you suck (add divorce) —> which makes him decide he needs to stay in control, he IS the best, and he won’t fall in love —> He MUST have control, he MUST be successful and love is for suckers.
Not so clear right? He has to learn not just to give up his control, but also that success isn’t everything and people who love you won’t betray you. All okay but not in 50k (there are also layers in which case anger might be a layer but I won’t mention that since it’s complicated enough as it is!).
So, how do I keep it simple? I make sure I decide my conflict first and then settle on ONE way that conflict might make my character feel, how that ONE way impacts on the way he lives his life and what he needs to do in order to resolve it. And I write that at the top of each ms to help me keep on track and to stop myself adding any more conflict strands.
Easy, peasy, lemon-squeezy.
BTW, there is a movie that is great for considering the layers of conflict – Inception. It’s kind of like internal conflict made external. Awesome.
Anyway, how do you feel about internal conflict? Hard? Easy? Put it up against the wall and shoot it?