July 20, 2016

Conflict in Romance Stories

By Ellen Butler

The framework for romance writing includes conflict between your hero and heroine. Conflict can entertain and carry your couple through a 70K word novel, but done incorrectly will have your reader tossing the book aside for something better. Without the conflict between your hero and heroine either a) your story isn’t a romance or b) Your novel becomes a nice short story about how a couple met and got married—The End. When writing conflict there must be a fundamental reason for your characters to be at odds. Below are three easily made mistakes in romance conflict creation.

The Misunderstanding - The biggest mistake in romance writing is the creation of conflict because your characters don’t talk to each other. Maybe they heard part of conversation and made inaccurate conjecture. This is called The Misunderstanding which you can use for a chapter or two, but The Misunderstanding can’t be your main source of conflict throughout an entire story. It gets old quickly and a reader will want to reach through the pages and slap your main characters for being so stupid.

The Love Triangle – Be very careful using a Love Triangle. An open Love Triangle where a woman has to choose between two good men rarely happens to adults. It’s more likely to happen to struggling teens or new adults, but even then it’s rare. What usually causes a Love Triangle is a significant other sleeps with a person outside of the relationship—we call that Cheating and can certainly make for great conflict, like vase throwing conflict, but isn’t a true Love Triangle. It’s also difficult to pull a Love Triangle through an entire book, if you start with a Love Triangle, it needs to end sooner rather than later. Using the Love Triangle as your conflict throughout the entire book will also wear on your reader’s patience because it makes your hero/heroine look like a wishy-washy flake who doesn’t know their own mind and can’t make a decision.

The Third Party – What do I mean by this? A woman falls in love with a man, but her annoying sister is intrusive, doesn’t have her act together, or uses her as a doormat and the couple fight about this. Now this is true conflict and certainly happens in real life. Families stick together and can become enablers of bad behavior and written well it can last an entire manuscript. However, if your character throws off the chains of the family screw up, you need to build up to it. Don’t give me 250 pages of a very sweet character who plays the doormat then have her stand up for herself in the last 5 pages of the book. We need to see the character grow through the book and perceive smaller steps being made before the big break.
Ellen Butler twitter style: author, mother, wife, shoe lover, chocoholic, fashion fan, sarcastic wit, autumn enthusiast, dancer, book worm, and good-time devotee. Ellen is an award winning novelist living in Northern Virginia with her husband and two children. She writes sexy, sassy romances with laugh out loud humor and edge of your seat suspenseful women’s fiction. Her recent release includes the Love, California Style series. When she’s not writing Ellen can be found running around after her children, giving interior decorating advice to neighbors, or holed up in her favorite chair with a glass of wine. Ellen admits to having a penchant for shoe shopping and is an admitted chocoholic. Stalk Ellen At: Website:  Twitter: @EButlerBooks

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