Today I have fellow Sassy Sister (yes, they took pity on me and asked me to join a while back) and mega-prolific Mills & Boon Presents author Maisey Yates talking the BIG C!!! CONFLICT! Something I think we NEVER stop learning about. Take it away Maisey...
Thank you for having me, Rach! I really appreciate you asking me to blog. :)
Sustainable conflict is essential to any story. If there’s no conflict, there’s very little interest. I’m not talking conflict in terms of your characters screaming and yelling at each other either. I’m talking about something deeper.
Most books have two main types of conflict. There’s external conflict, and there’s internal conflict.
External conflict stems from external forces. Example: your heroine wants to buy her father’s company, but he’s selling it to someone else. Internal conflict comes from within a character. You heroine feels like she’s not good enough, because her father has never seen her value.
One of the best ways I’ve heard it put was that external conflict forces your characters together (your heroine proposes to your hero in order to get herself into a position to buy her father’s company) and the internal conflict keeps them apart. (your hero’s fear of being hurt prevents him from admitting her loves the heroine)
I’m a big believer in internal conflict in romance novels. Without it, what you end up with, very often, is conflict that could have easily been cleared up if the two of them had sat down in a room together and just engaged in honest conversation.
Real, sustainable, deep conflict isn’t that simple. In order to solve it, your characters have to change. They have to reach a crisis point and address a world view they’ve held for years, and make a conscious decision to think and feel differently.
I did a post a long while back called the onionparfait , about how a book is layers upon layers. Layers of conflict, layers of character.
You have, especially in category romance, the external right up front. It’s the thing that pushes your characters into close proximity with each other. And then as the story progresses, that part of the conflict starts to recede into the background as the deeper conflict and theme emerges.
Conflict and character go hand in hand. Their internal conflict will affect how they act, how they relate to other people. The relationships they’ve had in the past, the relationships they have now. It will affect how they interact with the hero or heroine. It will affect how the sex plays out in the loves scenes. Conflict is a part of the character, not just something you talk about in exposition.
With characters you have layers as well. You have essence vs identity. Who they are, and who they show the world they are. Or, in some cases, who they are vs who who they THINK they are. These can be very contradictory things, and when they are, I think it makes a character more interesting, more dynamic.
In my most recent MS, A Game of Vows, the heroine, Hannah, is an extremely competent and gutsy business woman. She’s probably the most full-on heroine I’ve ever written. She doesn’t just go toe to toe with the alpha hero, she does her level best to flatten him, particularly when she begins feeling a connection to him.
That heroine, who was so intense and hard on the outside, is by far my most broken on the inside. Her image is essential, projecting strength is essential, because her wounds are so great, and exposing them would mean dealing with them.
So she has a very clear cut difference between who she is, and who she pretends to be. Getting to the heart of her conflict is a stripping away of layers.
Very much like the external/internal conflict structure in the whole MS, you start with the simple, the obvious, and move deeper into the truth as the story progresses.
The black moment happens when the conflict comes to a head. When one character is pushed further than they’re ready to go. Example: your heroine is asking for love and your hero is not ready to give it.
All along the way the characters have been changing. They’ve been confronting elements of their conflict. But this is the big break. This is where everything, all the self protection, has to fall away.
This is the moment where your character has to decide: what’s scarier? Letting go of everything they’ve put into place to protect themselves? Or losing the person they love?
That’s how I deal with internal conflict, and how I use to take my characters on a journey, and hopefully take the reader on one as well!
If you have any questions about character or conflict or...anything...please ask in the comments!
Thanks Maisey! And yes, please DO ask questions!! Maisey is one wise and VERY knowledgeable lady :)
Blurbs for Maisey's recent books:
The first time Maddy Forrester heard her boss’s mesmerizing voice barking orders down the phone, she knew he was a force to be reckoned with. But nothing prepared her for the sight of Aleksei Petrov. He is the last thing Maddy needs, but the first thing she wants!