Conflict And The Happy Ending

Joanna here. Having spent yesterday, Valentine's Day, exploring all the ways we can be in love. (Yeah love!) I thought I'd take today to look at the conflicts that hold our hero and heroine apart.
What kind of conflicts do we choose for our hero and heroine? How do we write them?

So I asked the Wenches.

Wench autumn brideAnne had this to say:

"Conflict" is a term often misunderstood by new writers, who think it means a lot of arguments and yelling. A better term is "the source of tension" which can be really powerful with no yelling at all. It's the central story problem that is preventing characters from reaching their goals.

For me, there are two main main sources of conflict — situational (where he wants X and she wants Y — or they both want X for different reasons) and character-based conflict. For me the latter is almost always the main one, though I'm happier if I have both kinds working together, playing off each other. Character conflict is where the hopes and dreams and deeply hidden fears drive the characters, and they have to work through them to find their happily-ever-after. Think "What does s/he want? Why can't s/he have it?"

For instance, in my book The Autumn Bride, apart from the usual misunderstandings between the hero and the heroine, there are two main sources of conflict. The first is that she's living under a false identity, but that's a relatively small conflict, fairly easily solved. A bigger conflict, especially for the hero is that he's made a promise to marry another woman,  a promise to which money was attached — part of a significant loan agreement with the woman's father. It's not just a matter of changing his mind — it's breaking his word, which is his bond. He's a man who lost everything as a youth — his future, his position and his whole sense of self was stripped from him, but his honor — his word of honor — is the one thing in his life that nobody could take from him, so to break it now is a major conflict for him.

I love that conflict in The Autumn Bride because it's a choice between love and honor. I'm a sucker for those.

In some books, the conflict can be less clear cut. There's plenty to keep them apart. What's needed is equally strong bonds to draw them together.

Jo Beverley says: Wench bookcover beverley tvnawnewsm

Conflict in a romance novel is a complex subject for all the reasons given, but it's whatever believably gets between the couple and their final happiness. It's different in every book.

My next book, The Viscount Needs a Wife, is a marriage of convenience story, and they always come with built-in stresses and problems. Sometimes the couple are enemies, but even if not, making a marriage with a stranger is a pretty tricky thing! Kitty is a widow, so marriage itself isn't odd to her, but her husband seems to suit his title — he's daunting. In addition, the behavior patterns from her eight year marriage lurk to make difficulties. As they would.

The new Lord Dauntry is already troubled, because he doesn't want a title or the responsibilities that come with it. He had a comfortable life as a bachelor in London, and occasional security work for the government to ward off boredom. He thinks a sensible wife will take his rural responsibilities off his shoulders and should be no trouble at all. Ha!

But this is the beginning. I find conflicts change and grow throughout a book, and as Kitty and Dauntry find ways to get along, new problems rise. And then, as surprising to me as to them, they discover that they share apparently impossible hopes and dreams. It's scaling those new high walls that powers the latter part of the book. The Viscount Needs a Wife will be out in April, but it can be ordered now. There's more here.


Rice_MagicintheStars600When I asked Pat how she chose the conflict for her characters, she said:

Choose a conflict? We get to choose our own conflicts?

Sorry, I just had a moment of process panic…  We all approach a book differently. I start with characters and a situation. These people pop into my head, nattering at each other, and they keep getting stronger and demanding that I listen, so I start taking notes.

I try really hard to define their characters, their motives, their goals, their flaws, all that good stuff, before I start writing. And the best way to develop conflict, for me, is to look at that list of traits and goals and see where one character opposes the other. He’s an astronomer…she’s an astrologer. How could that go wrong? He’s building telescopes and gazing at the stars…she’s drawing zodiac charts and telling him he’s going to die. Cheerful little devil, isn’t she? (That's Magic in the Stars, coming out March 29, 2016)

And somewhere thereafter, they’re off and running and I just let them go. I’m not saying I advise listening to those voices in your head, mind you. Because that’s just crazy. <G>

 

Cara has a somewhat similar approach to mapping out the conflict of a story.

She says: Scandalously yours

For me, conflict comes in two elemental forms, and I like to think of it with a Regency metaphor—the plot is like steel, and the characters are like flint, striking against the steel to set off sparks.  It’s the internal conflict of the hero and heroine that heats up the story. How they overcome doubts, fears, or whatever challenge stands in the way of achieving happiness is what makes us keep turning the pages.

 So . . . how do I going about creating these sparks?  I am a total pantser, so don’t ask. I get a story idea, I figure out basic conflicts that are torturing my main characters. For example, in Scandalously Yours, the heroine secretly writes fiery political essays pressing for social reform, but if her secret is made public, her family will be disgraced. The hero is an oh-so conventional lord who believes it’s important never to break the rules of Society. I had a perfectly good plot in mind for them, but by Chapter Two, they gave me the Evil Eye and started to rewrite everything. I was happy to hand them the pen. 

 

RogueSpy cover w-o blurbMe? My books are set in wartime. You got yer battling nations and divided loyalties. You got yer spies, lies, secrets, betrayals, misdirection, midnight flits, and the occasional gunfire, My heroes and heroines are now and then on opposite sides.

So my problem isn't so much creating the conflict to keep my people apart. There's distrust and cross-purposes scattered thick on the ground. The problem my unfortunate characters face is carving out some little niche of peace to fall in love in. My people have to learn to trust each other . . . and they aren't all that trustable.

In Rogue Spy, for instance, my hero and heroine, Pax and Cami, were children recruited as spies by the French Revolution, both trained to perform horrible deeds, both placed as covert operatives in England. They meet again as adults — ingenious, dangerous, tough adults who have to wonder if they can allow themselves to love each other.

(P.S. They do the trusting thing, but it takes a while.)

 

 

In your own reading, do you have favorite sorts of this-is-what-keeps-them-apart?
Do some sorts of conflicts just annoy you?

Some lucky commenter will win a book of mine. Their choice.

Guest Tracy Grant on Mystery, Mayfair . . . and Governesses

 

5.30.15TracyMelCara/Andrea, Today I'm delighted to welcome back my good friend Tracy Grant, who has come to give us a little historical backstory to the latest book in her marvelous Susanna and Malcolm Rannoch historical mystery series. For those of you who have not yet read Tracy's books, well, you're in for a treat! Set in the late Regency, they feature wonderfully nuanced, complex stories involving the world of espionage—where personal and professional loyalties are often tangled, and moral choices test the concepts of love, family and friendship. Her characters are beautifully rendered and her research of all aspects of the era is impeccable. I've been lucky enough to read an ARC, but rather than say any more, I'll now hand the pen over to Tracy and let her tell you more! Welcome, Tracy!

Read more

Teresa Grant on Love, Loyalty, Betrayal . . . and Paris!


Teresa_grant_portrait_color_Cara/Andrea here,
I'm delighted to have my good friend and fabulous author Teresa Grant visiting the Word Wenches today to talk about her Regency-set mystery series, which is set against the backdrop of political and social upheaval as Europe struggles to reorder itself after over a decade of brutal warfare. The attention to historical detail and descriptions of real-life people are wonderfully rendered in her books—which should come as no surprise given her stellar scholarly background in history. Teresa studied British History at Stanford, a
nd received the Firestone Award for Excellence in Research for her
honors thesis on shifting conceptions of honor in late fifteenth century
England.


THE PARIS AFFAIRThe third book in the series, The Paris Affair just released last week (you can read more about it
here) so I asked Teresa to chat with us about the the era and why she finds it such a compelling period to write about. So, without further ado . . . 

Your books are not only compelling mysteries but also explore the complex psychological struggles of men and women trying to define their personal moral compasses in a world torn apart by the chaos of conflict. Can you talk a little about why you chose the Napoleonic Wars as a backdrop for your stories?
There are so many wonderful opportunities for spy stories in this period. I love spy stories, both James Bond adventure and the sort of intricate chess games and moral dilemmas John le Carré dramatizes so brilliantly. The Napoleonic Wars offers are a wonderfully rich setting for both types of story. So many different sides, so many different factions within sides. The French under Napoleon had been bent on conquest, but they had also brought much-needed reforms to many countries. Some liberal Spaniards saw supporting the French in the Peninsular War as the quickest route to progressive reform. And after the Napoleonic Wars, a number of the victors wanted to turn the clock back to before the French Revolution  and saw any hint of reform as one step away from blood in the streets. Friends easily melt into enemies and back again. Napoleon’s longtime foreign minister Prince Talleyrand  later became prime minister under the Bourbon restoration, Joseph Fouché who had been ruthless in using terror against enemies of the Bonapartist government was equally ruthless in going after Napoleon’s supporters who were proscribed from the amnesty after Waterloo. In the midst of breakneck adventure, a love affair can have political consequences, a tactical decision can shatter a friendship, it can come down to a question not of whether or not commit betrayal but only of who or what to betray.

Read more

Intrigue and Mistletoe

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MischWwmistletoewikiief and Mistletoe is out in the big wide world as of last week.  I am so delighted to be part of this anthology. 

Let me just meander aside here for an instant and mentiion that I haven't written a short story since I was in Grade School, so the whole concept was a bit baffling.  I had ta kinda feel my way through this.

Since I write Regency spies as my own particular metier, I figured my contribution to the anthology should be … Regency spies.
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I'm sticking with the secrecy and intrigue, of which there was any amount lying about in this time period, but shifting my focus just a bit.  One of the sad realities about spies in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries is that much of the spying they engaged in was against their own countrymen.  While the English crown certainly worried about the French armies milling about across the Channel, they were somewhat more terrified of the disaffected at home. They spied upon them diligently. 

In several of my books, my protagonists have been patriots on opposite sides of the long, bitter political struggle between France and England. In this short story, I considered the problems of a spy working in his own country. It's his duty to go undercover in England, playing a part, lying to Englishmen.

My hero, Jack, pretending to be a man he isn't, courted Elinor.  In the

Wwbuilding in snow attribe 1sox4

pictures are attrib creativity+, jennydowning, 1sox4.

end, he betrayed her trust and broke the bone and sinew of her life when he uncovered the treason of her uncle. 

Just a job.  Just another job. 
He hadn't counted on falling in love with her.Wwsnowinpinesattribjennydowning

Now it's two years later.  Christmas is the end of the old year, the beginning of the new.  From ancient times this has been the season of renewal and forgiveness.  I bring Jack and Elinor together, sheltering from the storm under the same roof, and ask the question, "Can she forgive the man who lied to her and betrayed her?"

Oh.  There's a secret list gone astray, naughty Latin texts, and a dangerous French agent flitting here and there about the corridors of the old inn.  The usual.   

So … what's your favorite book about 'second chances' and 'forgiveness'.  I'm thinking Susan Elizabeth Phillip's Nobody's Baby But Mine and Sherry Thomas' Not Quite A Husband.

Georgian and Regency Mayhem, Oh My

Fame-prize-stokes-koBecause I write about spies — some of them women — and because spies have a not-totally-unmerited reputation for violence, I decided to look into acts of violence and mayhem Regency women might have got up to. 

Prior to considering this subject, I hadn't noticed all that many references to women duking it out or poking each other with fencing foils or shooting holes in each other with pistols at dawn in a formalized way. 
I though maybe this was common sense on the women's part.
Researching further, however …

London's Central Criminal Court, the Old Bailey, is where perpetrators of Regency violence tended to end up.  Here's some glimpses into the unfortunate and violent side of life in Regency London.

It's 1804.  This is a man visiting a house of what he believes to be extremely hospitable women.  Little does he know …
"I was walking in a street; I do not know the name of it; I was called by the signal ofBeadleampBarrowwomanrowlandson1819 a young lady; she was standing before her door. …  I went into the house with her, and the mistress of the house … said, if I would speak to the young lady, I had better go up stairs.  After I had been up stairs, I came down again, and  … I said to the ladies, if they would give me the change of a one-pound note, I would give them half a pound.
"Mrs. Beard …  gave me a punch in the guts, a push, and a blow on the stomach; then they all fell on me at once, striking and beating me; the tallest woman, Ann Johnson, took me by the coat, and they all took me by the coat, and tore the part, where the pocket-book was, off; with that they all fell upon me … after they had beat me well, I sung out so badly, that they were obliged to open the two doors, and then they shoved me out in the dirt, all four of them." (Proceedings of the Old Bailey)

Which sounds like a lively time was had by all.

Or this, from a woman walking home in the evening.  "I was coming from Bishopgate-street, I had a gown and umbrella with me; I was tyeing up my shoe at a corner of a street in Bishopsgate-street, there were three women came up to me, one seized me round my neck, another gave me a knock of the head and knocked me down, and the other took my bundle and ran away."  (Proceedings of the Old Bailey)

Domenicomaggiotto c18And:  "On the evening in question, I had been to Covent Garden Theatre; I was returning in company with Mrs. Hill. In the narrow part of Rathbone-place, I was suddenly without any provocation knocked down by the prisoner Paget, with her fist; she struck me on the face; while I was on the ground, I was severely kicked and bruised; I was stunned by the blow I received on my face; she took the shawl from my shoulders as I lay; I had it round my shoulders very close, and she pulled it to get it away; she did get it away at last."  (Proceedings of the Old Bailey)

Ah, the good old days when women were nurturing and gentle creatures. 

Besides this unfortunate tendency for mugging with violence, at least some small portion of the female population indulged in professional fisticuffs.

This match in 1723 was advertised: "There has not been such a battle for these twenty years past, and as these two heroines are as brave and as bold as the ancient Amazons, the spectators may expect abundance of diversion and satisfaction, from these female combatants."

The Morning Chronicle of March 24, 1807 reports:  "There were several fights amongst the lower orders on Sunday morning near Hornsey Wood; but the one which afforded the most diversion, was between two women; the opponents were Betty Dyson, a vender of sprats, and Mary Mahony, a market-woman. These Amazons fought in regular order upwards of forty minutes, until they were both hideously disfigured by hard blows. Betty was once completely blind, but the lancet restored her sight; and Mary was at length obliged to resign to her the palm of victory. The contest was for five guineas."

This to the left is a later prizefight.  Late Nineteenth Century.  The fights in Georgian and Regency rings would be bareknucklPoster Police Gazette C19ed.

When half-dressed females boxing got to be dull, sometimes they fought with swords.  Cesar de Saussure wrote in 1725:

"I witnessed an extraordinary combat, two women being the champions. As soon as they appeared on the stage they made the spectators a profound reverence ; they then saluted each other and engaged in a lively and amusing conversation. They boasted that they had a great amount of courage, strength, and intrepidity. One of them regretted she was not born a man, else she would have made her fortune by her powers; the other declared she beat her husband every morning to keep her hand in, etc. Both these women were very scantily clothed, and wore little bodices and very short petticoats of white linen.

"One of these amazons was a stout Irishwoman, strong and lithe to look at, the other was a small Englishwoman, full of fire and very agile. The first was decked with blue ribbons on the head, waist, and right arm; the second wore red ribbons. Their weapons were a sort of two-handed sword, three or three and a half feet in length; the guard was covered, and the blade was about three inches wide and sharp only about half a foot of it was, but then that part cut like a razor.

"The spectators made numerous bets, and some peers who were there some very large wagers. On either side of the two amazons a man stood by, holding a long staff, ready to separate them should blood flow. After a time the combat became very animated, and was conducted with force and vigour with the broad side of the weapons, for points there were none.

"The Irishwoman presently received a great cut across her forehead, and that put a stop to the first part of the combat. The Englishwoman's backers threw her shillings and half-crowns and applauded her. During this time the wounded woman's forehead was sewn up, this being done on the stage; a plaster was applied to it, and she drank a good big glass of spirits to revive her courage, and the fight began again, each combatant holding a dagger in her left hand to ward off the blows. The Irishwoman was wounded a second time, and her adversary again received coins and plaudits from her admirers.  … The surgeon sewed it up, but she was too badly hurt to fight any more, and it was time, for the combatants were dripping with perspiration, and the Irishwoman also with blood. A few coins were thrown to her to console her, but the victor made a good day's work out of the combat." 

Brawls in brothels, mugging with violence, or public boxing and swordfights would have involved women of the lowest classes.  In Romance, our heroine shoots pistols and fences.  How wild is this idea?  Did women of the respectable classes train and fight for sport, the way their brothers, husbands, and cousins did? 

Seems so.

The Eighteenth Century Duchess of Queensbury, Catherine Hyde, was a notable fencer and trained at Rowlandson angelos fency madame collie of rome feb 8 1816 Angelo's School of Arms in London, the famous fencing studio. The print to the right, from 1816, is Rowlandson showing another woman fencer, Madame Collie of Rome, in white jacket and skirt. 

So training with the foil would not have been outlandish and incredible. In 1815 a traveller to Geneva can say, "Neither is it rare for mothers to have their daughters instructed in fencing till they are ten or twelve years old, for the purpose of giving flexibility to their limbs." (The New Monthly Magazine, Volume 3)

Duel-le-bourgeois-gentilhommeThere are a few famous woman-woman duels in the period.  If they seems fairly silly, I suspect most male-male duels were silly too.

In 1792 Lady Almeria Braddock and Mrs Elphinstone fought what was referred to in the press as the "petticoat duel".

"A certain Mrs Elphinstone paid a visit to Lady Almeria Braddock and was rude to her hostess.  'You have been a very beautiful woman,' declared Mrs Elphinstone in the somewhat unflattering past tense.  'You have a very good autumnal face even now, but you must acknowledge that the lilies and roses are somewhat faced. Forty years ago, I am told, a young fellow could hardly gaze upon you with impunity.'

"Lady Almeria, not surprisingly, was furious and demanded satisfaction in Hyde Park in central London.  They began with pistols at ten yards, Mrs Elphinsonte putting a bullet through Lady Almeria's hat.  They then set to with swords, and Mrs Elphinstone was lightly injured.  Lady Almeria declared herself satisfied, Mrs Elphinsonte agreed, and both women curtsied to each other before departing the field."  (James Landale The Last Duel)

Here's another one.  Aristocrats behaving badly, as it were. 
In France, in 1721, the Comtesse de Polignac and the Marquise de Nesle, both lovers of the Duc de Richelieu, indulged in a most undignified scrap in the gardens at Versailles. 
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"Lady de Nesle, losing all control of herself, had sprung like a tigress upon her rival, and attempted to tear a diamond necklace from the Countess's neck. Failing in this, however, she snatched the blush roses from their nest in the snowy bosom, and flung them in the face of her rival. …  In a moment jewels and flowers and ribbons and laces strewed the floor, and there is no telling to what extent the extraordinary exhibition would have gone had not thDame de qualite1778e enraged amazons been separated by the Marquis de Malbuisson and Mademoiselle Nathalie de Condacet.

"Out of this grew the duel, the Countess of Polignac being the challenging party. The ladies met at six  in the morning, in July, 1721, and fired one shot at each other without effect. Their seconds (the Marquis de Malbuisson and the Comte de Penthievre for Polignac and M. de Remusac and Vicomte D'Allagne for de Nesle) then rushed in to prevent further hostilities; the fair demons, however, would not be appeased, but called for a change of pistols, and again blazed away—this second time with satisfactory effect, for the Marchioness fell dangerously wounded by a bullet in her left side, while the Countess was just quietly touched in an ear." (The Field of Honor, Benjamin Truman)

Whenever I hear, 'history is dull', I always wonder what these folks have been reading. 

So, what's your most memorable fighting moment — as spectator or participant?