Sunday, 29 March 2015

Conflict - a pain in life, essential in fiction...

...or why bad things need to happen to your characters, especially the nice ones.

Consider the following:
  • Romeo meets Juliet and they instantly fall for each other. After initial reservations, the Montagues and Capulets agree to the match. Romeo and Juliet get married and live happily ever after.

  • Mr Darcy, while visiting his friend Mr Bingley, comes across the poor but bewitching Elizabeth Bennett. He cannot overcome his passion for her, and proposes. She realizes that beneath a chilly fa├žade, he's not only hot but a good egg. They get married etc..

  • To his consternation, Hamlet finds his mother has married his uncle quite soon after her husband's death. However, he reflects that she has a right to find happiness again, and he's in no hurry to start the tedious business of ruling a kingdom. He finds consolation in the beautiful Ophelia. They get married etc..

  • On arrival at Manderley, the second Mrs de Winter perceives Mrs Danvers will be nothing but trouble, so persuades Maxim to retire her, leaving them to enjoy their new life together in the beautiful house.
You get my drift. Are you feeling restive yet?

If fiction is not to be bland and boring, your characters must struggle against a tide of misfortune, betrayal, and misunderstanding. Villains are out to get them. Bad turns to worse.

The hero and heroine must earn their happy ending.


  1. Absolutely agree Lexi .... especially in a romance novel!

    It is necessary to create barriers to overcome with the consequent pain in order to sensitise the reader in readiness for the final bliss of HEA.

    The so called black moment is considered part of the anatomy of the romance novel.
    It is widely discussed in craft books on the genre. Anna Campbell Is a master of the art:
    How do you go about creating a heart-wrenching black moment? A technique that’s terrifically effective is something I heard in a Donald Maass workshop:

    * Work out the one thing your character would never do, then make him/her do it.
    * Work out the one thing your character would never sacrifice, then make him/her sacrifice it.
    * Work out your character’s greatest fear then make him/her face that.

    Using the answers to one or more of these questions can lend enormous emotional power to your black moment. Especially if you’ve spent the entire story, right from the start, building up just how much the character wants what they sacrifice or fears what they face or abhors what they do

    PS Is the new novel a time travel romance? .... can't wait! :)

    1. Black moment - I hadn't come across that term before, Q. Anna Campbell sounds like an author whose characters quail before her.

      I hope that what I'm working on will be a series, since they sell better; time travel adventure (with romance). I'm more than halfway through the first book, but will probably wait to publish until I've written three books. I wish I was a faster writer...

  2. We all wish you could write faster, Lexi.

    I wish I could too.

    I've just watched BBC's new one-off drama 'Noah's Ark' and in comparison with Noah, I've realized I am not working hard enough.

  3. Never compare yourself with a fictional character, Anna. They have all the advantages - apart from not being real, that is :o)

  4. I've always thought the real Noah had a huge task to build a boat big enough to carry his family and supplies for many weeks - how he ever packed the animals on board too is mind-boggling, so much so that it's never been much in my adult consciousness. But the drama was well performed and I thought it inspiring. So Noah and the writer can take credit for me setting off with a bit more fizz today.

    1. The real Noah? It's a fable or myth, isn't it? Apart from the impossible scale of the enterprise, what about the inbreeding, the tiny gene pool that would have undermined the viability of his animal rescue mission?

  5. I've just entered a long reply to the above before signing in and in signing in, it has wiped it out. I shall take that as my cue to shut up beyond saying that I would never say that any part of the Bible was a myth. Oh no. I went into some detail about the reintroduction of species into Britain with just a breeding pair - all lost, all gone. But as I write this it is directly opposite to your 'Pick of My Blog Posts' and 'I don't believe a word of it. (And you can't make me.)

    So I shan't try!