This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Not only do you have to provide plenty of crunchy conflict – to form an interesting story that can sustain a novel-length piece – but you need to demonstrate that your characters are a good match. You need to convince the reader that their attraction is meaningful and right.
So, how do you achieve this? Start with your characters and build everything else from that: Who are they? What do they want? What do they fear?
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Make these things as specific as possible. While your hero might have the subconscious desire not to get emotionally hurt again after a bad break-up, a more concrete and specific goal will make your story-writing easier. Also 'not get hurt' is a passive goal. If nothing at all happens in the story, he will have achieved it. Try switching to something active such as 'make my business a huge success so that my ex realises what a mistake she made in breaking up with me'.Next, you can brainstorm how the different personality traits, fears and desires might throw obstacles onto the path of true love. Think of external events which can force your characters to change, to get to know each other more deeply and to work together. I think there is nothing more powerful in a romance than showing a couple working as a team – it lets you know that these people are capable of going the distance.
Always check that you are giving your characters genuine conflict, not manufactured obstacles. One example of the latter is The Big Misunderstanding. For example: the heroine sees her boyfriend eating dinner with a mystery woman. She decides he’s being unfaithful and spends the next forty pages making bad decisions based on this assumption.
Broadly speaking, any issue which could be resolved with a simple conversation such as:
‘Who were you having dinner with yesterday?’
‘My sister. Would you like to meet her?’
Is not only irritating but makes your protagonist seem kind of stupid.
This is not to say that your characters cannot misunderstand one another, of course. Initial assumptions can be challenged and perceptions alter as they get to know each other. For a great example of this see Pride and Prejudice.
Finally, don't get mislead by the term 'conflict'. While there are brilliant examples of 'big obstacle' romance stories (He's a vampire, she's a human! They belong to rival gangs!), your conflict can be mundane or low-key, as long as it's emotionally resonant and the characters are fascinating.
What novels have you read, which feature great conflict between the hero and heroine?