Conflict – The Parent Trap

I have had more feedback from Anna at M&B re my conflict for my heroine. One word: argh!!!

Want to know why? Alrighty, no, having parents dictate a characters actions is not acceptable. A bad relationship with a parent should add to the conflict, not define it. And add is the key word here. In other words, the reasons a character behaves the way they do must be for their own reasons alone and not be explained by another person’s ill treatment of them.

So what does this mean for my poor heroine? Well, her mother’s ill treatment of her cannot be the reason she is the way she is. Whether this happens in the real world or not is beside the point – this is what they are looking for in a character and so this is what I must provide.

Do I have a solution? Oh yes, indeed. In fact I had a brainwave about this last night. My heroine at the time the story opens is feeling lonely. Why is that (why question again)? Because she feels no one understands her. Why? Because she’s different and she feels she’s never fitted in. Aha! I sense a conflict coming on… And indeed, Anna suggested the feeling of not fitting in, in her feedback to me. So that’s what I’m changing. My heroine now has always felt like an outsider. She’s completely different to everyone in her family, is fearfully intelligent and this has always set her apart. Her conflict is that she yearns to belong. How is this a conflict? Well, the hero makes her feel she does belong in the little world she creates with him. Until his conflict blows this world apart.

Complicated huh? Anna told me the aim is to create a believable character and not just invent reasons for already existing behaviour. Can you see why it’s hard to do this with an already written mansucript?? Luckily my heroine’s behaviour is to do with confidence issues so fitting this conflict into the ms shouldn’t be too difficult. I just have to fight the urge to over-complicate it. And also I have to find a resolution for her. Which is the thing that’s getting to me now. Does her resolution involve her finally accepting her differences? They are what makes her special after all. Or does she decide that she has let her differences define her and hasn’t noticed the parts of her that do make her belong?

8 thoughts on “Conflict – The Parent Trap”

  1. How interesting about the parental influence thing. I can see what they mean – I guess if the way a character behaves is only down to the influence of someone else they might come across as a bit weak.

    As for the revisions, Anna wouldn’t have suggested them if she didn’t think they were possible and you could do it! You go, girl 🙂

  2. Would it be parental domination, I wonder, if her ambitious mother placed her in an exclusive school where she was the odd one out? A lifetime of being looked down on by snotty classmates would definitely result in confidence issues.

  3. Oooh, Lucy, I feel sick! I’ve changed things yet again. Such a drama queen! Had a nice chat to my mother tonight and discussed it with her – I find that talking it through with someone really helps.

    Anyway, upshot was that I was definitely overcomplicating so I’ve simplified her conflict (my heroine’s, not my mother’s!) from what I was intending. My only consolation is that I’m learning so much that I will probably never have such difficult revisions again!

    And Romy, yes, the whole odd one out thing is what I’m trying to do. But I’m steering clear of mother issues for now. I’ve decided that although school makes her feel like a Martian, university makes her feel like she belongs. However she makes a social mistake that ensures she’s cast out from the one group she feels like she’s a part of. So not only is she back being the outsider again, she’s also got that added insecurity of wondering if somehow, somewhere, she’s going to get ‘it wrong’ again…

  4. This internal conflict thing is soooooooo hard ain’t it! I’m trying to think back over my stories and a lot of them had ‘The Parent Trap’ as you so aptly put it. At least we’re learning!!

    Are you guys on FB?? Was thinking we should start a page – WANNABEE MH authors! Of course… Lucy… you’re already there 🙂

  5. Strange isn’t it? Lots of people say using enneagrams (probably spelt that wrong) is the way to go. Maybe it’s ok to be influenced by your parents (I mean, who isn’t?) but not dictated to.

    I blame my being a sport mad freak on my parents. If they hadn’t watched sports as a child I probably wouldn’t feel the need to get up at ridiculous o’clock to watch Olympic finals live. Or get up and watch the recent rugby world cup at 7 in a morning. On a weekend.

  6. Thanks for sharing this Jackie, it does seem very tricky to work out which conflicts are acceptable and which aren’t. I think Lucy had a good point about your character not appearing weak. Would an alpha male really still be letting his parents still dictate to him? And a strong heroine would bring all sorts of other opinions and experiences to the the initial parental influence.
    I think I get it. I HOPE I get it – need to go and examine my WIPS!

    I think your answer for resolution might end in your last sentence “Or does she decide that she has let her differences define her and hasn’t noticed the parts of her that do make her belong?”
    She might be afraid to believe that they would actually be there for fear of rejection but Joseph’s acceptance allows her to acknowledge them…

  7. Thank you, so much for sharing this. It’s seems very difficult to get the basis of this conflict thing right.

    Still not sure I know how to account for a character feeling inferior/different. I’d have used the parent thing if I hadn’t read this.

  8. I think I’ve got it – a character’s bad relationship with her parents can stem from who she is, but not from the way they treated her as a child – is that right?

    Your heroine sounds very likable – vulnerable and sweet. And I’m dying to read what social gaff she committed at uni.

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