I know most readers are unaware of, and probably don't care about, the underlying structure and craft of a novel. You just want a good rip-roaring yarn that drags you into the pages and doesn’t let you go. Good writers make this story telling seem effortless, but in reality, it isn’t. Some of us are good at dreaming up characters. Some of us know how to put together tension and action and drive the story through plot. The most fortunate of us can do both, but even then, word crafting to achieve what’s in our head becomes an obstacle.
My biggest obstacle is conflict. I’m the eldest daughter of a dysfunctional family and if you read the personality profile, you’ll see my goal in life is to please others and avoid conflict. Which means I don’t want my characters to get hurt. I want them to be happy achievers who have a jolly life dancing merrily around the ballroom and having wonderful conversations with exciting people.
Obviously, this does not lead to a good rip-roaring yarn. So my internal conflict is giving my characters conflicts. Since character development is the fun part of writing for me, I don’t have a problem knowing my current heroine has been babied all her life and has learned to manipulate her difficult family to get what she wants. Her internal conflict will have to involve discovering she’s dug herself in dangerously deep with her bad habits, then developing the maturity to find a better way of dealing with her problems. It’s also fun to see that she’s an uneducated but happy people person while the hero is a sardonic intellectual. She’s all about nurturing animals and he’s more likely to hunt them. And so forth. Those are simple conflicts.
For me, the hard part is developing a nailbiting, tension-racking goal-oriented conflict. In the book coming out next summer—THE WICKED WYCKERLY— the characters, their goals, and their conflicts magically fell into place with scarcely a second thought. He’s inherited a bankrupt estate, has never had a family, knows nothing of children, and needs to marry an heiress. She knows nothing except family, has no money, and is desperate to raise the half-siblings their guardian has taken away. Characters and goals all neatly opposed and impossible to resolve except through the magic of love. (No cool cover image yet, sorry!)
The manuscript in progress refuses to be so uncomplicated. My characters are quite willing to bite each other’s noses off or fall into bed, whichever comes first, but once they do that, there’s no story. All they need to do is fight off a few bad guys and voila, they’re free to be happy. Everyone makes marriage of convenience stories seem so easy, but while I fight with this manuscript, all I’m seeing is drawbacks. And my brainstorming partners refuse to let me bomb or set fire to anyone again. <G>
So, how are you at resolving conflicts, personal or work-related? Anyone remember a book with the kind of conflict that kept you turning the pages? How about some good marriage of convenience story recommendations? I’m desperate for direction. Or distraction. Or I may bite someone’s nose off.