More on Conflict

Okay, we were talking about internal conflict. Thought I’d discuss this a bit more because I got my revisions today! Yes!!! These are revisions for another story that is currently under consideration at Mills and Boon. I am hugely relieved to say that they like the story but there is one major problem with it that I have to address. And I thought I’d use it as an example as the major problem is to do with – yep, you guessed it – conflict!

So, lots of people liked the analogy of putting your characters in a room, shutting the door, and asking yourself if there was any reason why these two couldn’t be together right then and there. It’s a good one eh? But how, if they can get together right then and there, do you provide reasons for them not to? A good place to start is asking the ‘why’ questions.

Which brings me to my problem. The central issue with my story is that the heroine’s conflict needs to be stronger. When I wrote this story, I fell into the same trap as I fell into with Kate: I based my heroine on a social group rather than as a fully-rounded individual. She’s a geek. She’s shy, introverted, into computers. Cool, I thought. Lots of room for conflict there. But sadly I did not consider the most important question. Why is she a geek? Any yes, she does need a reason other than because she just really likes computers!

Okay, so I stick her in a room with my hero and ask myself why they can’t be together. He doesn’t want to because he’s afraid of love. Why? Because his parents’ relationship was a bad one. Why? Because his father loved his mother but she didn’t love him back and their marriage went to hell in a handcart. My hero now considers love ruined his childhood (see what it did to his parents?) and he’s not having a bar of it. Right, now this conflict came across as strong. Great.
But let’s compare with my heroine. She can’t get together with the hero because she’s a geek and is ashamed of it. Why is she a geek? Why is she ashamed? Um…. See? As was suggested to me, turn it on its head – perhaps it’s her insecurities that made her a geek rather than the fact that being a geek has made her insecure? Better. So, why is she insecure? Why is she so shy? What is it in her life that has her running from the hero? Why does she think she isn’t good enough for him? It has to be a very good reason for her to run away from the love of her life.

So, are you getting the hang of it? See Lucy King‘s blog for more on the why questions and how you can get a handle on that wretched internal conflict problem. As for me? Well, I need to go away now and figure out the answers to the above questions myself!

11 thoughts on “More on Conflict”

  1. Thanks for this Jackie – I too am at the WHY questions stage of my new mss!!! It’s so HARD!!! But worth it in the long run me guesses…

    Good luck with your revisions!

  2. Thanks Rach. Dunno if it helped but great if so – sounds like quite a few of us are at this stage in our wips? Anyway, it IS hard eh? Those who think writing category romance is easy need a good boot up the bum. 🙂

  3. It’s great they’ve got back to you and it’s fixable – thanks for sharing with the rest of us. It’s nice to know we’re not alone in this process 🙂

  4. Fingers crossed for a great response to your revisions!

    This is an excellent post. I bet the internal conflict is where a lot of competent writers with interesting premises that somehow aren’t just quite making it need to focus. The idea of asking those why questions at every stpe is sooooo useful!

  5. This is so helpful, Jackie. Thank you so much for sharing. Once you’ve worked out the answers to those questions about your h, will you give a hint of the answers in the first chapter or will the reasons come later?

    Is it enough to let the reader know (in the first chapter) simply that she’s a geek and ashamed of it? Or does the reader need a hint of the reasons behind her insecurities, right at the start of the story in chapter one?

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