Sunday, March 29, 2009

My never-ending struggle to understand and use conflict in all it's proper forms OR it's about discomfort.

Let me start this blog by saying - Maureen is very smart. My whole critique group is very smart. Much smarter than me this week. I was going to talk about how writing is bad for my health, but what I realized tonight is that trying to figure out conflict (AGAIN) is bad for my health.

I'm all revved up. My heart rate's accelerated. I can't sleep. I drink too much. And it's because once again conflict - the slippery devil is wiggling out of my grasp. But anyway -- we talked about it tonight and I had a lighting store's worth of lightbulb moments.

Conflict isn't good conflict unless the characters are uncomfortable. They can't sit down and chat and have tea if there's conflict between them. Unless it's the most uncomfortable tea ever. You can keep piling on more and more conflict but unless it actually shows up between them - in those crackly tense moments we all love -- it's not working. That's Maureen's genius.

Now, I keep saying and thinking (quite smugly) that what good romantic fiction needs is drama. And it does, but drama isn't interchangeable with conflict (which is what I'd been thinking.)Drama is how YOU the writer convey your conflict. Drama is how you end your chapters, and all you have your characters say and not say - it's how you layer your conflict and how you weave in your subplots.

So, again your book need conflict (duh)- but your conflict needs drama. And I need a nap.


Amy Ruttan said...

LOL I need a nap after that post too.

Good points, I hear so much about the conflict aspect, but never about adding drama to it.

Eileen said...

I'm so relieved I'm not the only person to struggle with this! Plus the whole internal/external conflict thing. I'm much happier creating external conflict than internal.

Marilyn Brant said...

Oh, did I ever need to read this tonight... My characters are getting too philosophical with each other when, really, they just need to revel in their discomfort for awhile. Thanks to you (and to Maureen :) for the reminder.

Maureen McGowan said...

Molly continues to give me way too much credit.

My recollection is that she said the key to great category romances was drama and I blurted out conflict, she said, no it's drama, and, raising my fists, I said they were the same thing. She sucker punched me and said, no, they aren't.

And as our only slightly red wine aided boxing match (discussion) ensued I conceded she was right. Conflict isn't enough. You need drama. And, okay, I might have suggested that one way to create drama is to make sure the conflict between the characters makes them uncomfortable. That is... it's not enough to make him a land developer and her the president of the historical preservation society. If that's all you've got, then each of them will be perfectly at home, right in their respective comfort zones, fighting the other until one of them has to cave. And that's not drama. That's a business transaction. Worse, a business transaction with an obvious loser. Not such a great way to start the couple's HEA.

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