Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Character Development - Day 2: Conflict, or what is keeping them apart

Yesterday we spoke about the idea of finding the right characters to put together in your romance. Hopefully you had a chance to explore that idea with your own writing. Today, we are going to look at the idea of conflict within the story. In this case, we're talking about those things that are going to keep the characters apart.

We have spent a lot of time here on this blog talking about conflict so for some of you, this might be a bit of a refresher course.

Conflict is really the driving force within your story. It is that problem that drives the characters to trying to figure out how to conquer it and get to that happily ever after. Again, we have to remember that there is a huge difference between conflict and complication. Conflict deals with something that truly is preventing the characters from getting together and/or getting to what they want. A complication, on the other hand, is simply a bump in the road. In most cases, this is something as simple as a misunderstanding or miscommunication. Maybe the character has a flat tire on their car. The solution is easy. With conflict, the solution simply cannot be that easy.

Now, when we look at a romance, we have to have something that really stands in the way of the couple actually getting together. If your characters meet and can get together immediately from the start, then what is the point of the story? There certainly isn't anything exciting to keep the reader moving through your story. On the other hand, if you create a conflict that is impossible, then the characters simply won't want to fight for the relationship and your readers will certainly give up. For you as an author, the only way to get them through an impossible conflict would be to create a plot device that will come across as being contrived. When you do this, you really let the readers down.

If you think about your conflict between the hero and the heroine, you have to set it up so that, in some way, one of the two of them will have to give up on something. In other words, to get to the romance, to get to the happily ever after, someone will have to give up on that personal goal they were working for.

Think of this example. It's probably something a lot of people have faced when they were first looking at getting married. You meet the person of your dreams, everything seems to be going great. And then the job offers come in. Both of you want the jobs, but the jobs are in different states. To be together, one of the two of you has to give up his or her job. Or, you can both have the jobs of your dreams and give up on the relationship..

In this situation, you have external conflicts (the jobs) working against the personal internal goals, motivations and potentially conflicts of each of the characters. As readers, this is what we love to see. We want to figure out how the characters are going to work through this.

As you move your characters toward solving that ultimate conflict, you can certainly have them experiencing a series of smaller complications. When you do this, think of the idea of putting together a puzzle. Each of these complications will lead to solving that bigger conflict. The characters learn something new that will help them solve this big issue. Sometimes they learn something that moves them away from where they want to go. Sometimes they misinterpret the puzzle piece. Sometimes they get it right. This is how you keep that story moving.

So, examine that conflict in your story today. Tomorrow, we explore the motivations and goals of your characters. We want to really figure out what makes your characters tick!

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