This week Amalie Berlin talks about adding conflict. Please welcome Amalie!
The Importance of Romantic Conflict in Romance
The best thing I ever did for my writing was embrace the concept that all my character conflicts should be related. Writing got a lot easier, and my stories got a lot clearer and more focused when I began to come up with one unifying conflict theme and then work it through all my GMCs for each character. This is not to say that you can’t have disparate Internal and External GMC threads, but your story immediately gets bigger when you do so and will take more effort to tell well. You make your life harder going that route.
The second best thing I ever did for my writing was make defining the Romantic Conflict for each character at the start when I do all my GMCs and character planning. The final tweak to that was realizing that my best romantic conflicts spun out of the Internal GMC.
Romantic Conflict: What keeps the couple apart. This is the obstacle to their Happily Ever After, and why they are going to have to sort all their crap(those GMCs) out before they can be together.
In the first two books I sold, I did not start out with that Romantic Conflict planned. I assumed just because I had really well fleshed out GMCs, that the characters were sufficiently interesting and harried to carry a story. And they did, but those first drafts? Weren’t really romances. They were stories about how two people became best friends. I basically rewrote both of those books twice each, and those rewrites were all about pulling forward the Romantic Conflict and giving it the time and spotlight it deserved. Those rewrites made the books I had always intended to be romances… actually romances.
It’s very easy to hand wave Romantic Conflict—leave it undefined, generic, just rely on the idea that the character(s) are just too messed up somehow to be involved… without ever giving the real reason words. But without making it clear exactly why these two people shouldn’t be together along with why they feel compelled to fight it… that aspect of the story can remain undeveloped. If that happens, you lose this extra conflict outlet, and that leads at the very least to less satisfying romances.
For example: In my October release, my heroine’s main driving goal in life is to stay safe. Orphaned young when her parents died in a car accident, that loss has kept her from connecting with people. To stay safe. She has one connection—her brother—who is her polar opposite, and worrying about him all the time is about enough to drive her mad. She has no use for the idea of dating and marriage, she just doesn’t think she can take on one more person to worry about and possibly lose. She doesn’t want to love someone she’ll never feel is safe.
Staying safe is a very big factor in her life, and so her Romantic Conflict spins directly out of her Internal/External GMCs(staying not just physically safe, but emotionally safe too). If she doesn’t love anyone else, she can’t be hurt when something happens to them.
Tying their romantics obstacles directly into those internal fears give you an automatic outlet to ramp up the emotion when the characters start to get close. But it also allows you to really focus your story. Instead of having your romantic conflict be unrelated and thus needing a separate thread to address, your scenes that test those GMCs can also test the romantic thread. In category romance especially, it is important to make every scene do as much work for your story as you can(short books are hard!).
In my pre-story planning, I consider the Romantic Conflict to have its own GMC. I say I have three GMCs per character, and that’s why. Having them all there together keeps me focused and helps me understand how each element of the story relates to the other. I’m attaching a snapshot of my 3-GMC chart for Adalyn below to make it a little easier to see in action.
Amalie Berlin's latest release is:
Falling for a desert prince…
Sleep therapist Dr. Adalyn Quinn has had difficult patients before…but gorgeous Prince Khalil Al-Akkari presents a whole new challenge! Darkly brooding, and haunted by the night he failed to save his brother, Khalil is the last man Adalyn should desire…
But as they share long nights under a desert moon it becomes impossible to deny their sizzling chemistry. Can Adalyn help Prince Khalil recover the peace that eludes him…even if it means unlocking the heart she's protected for so long?