So you have a story and you want to write it. There's just one problem. After you write the first few chapters or maybe even through the middle of the story, you don't know what happens next! How did this happen? You loved the story. You had great conflict and yet...Epic Fail!!!
I'm going to give you a few story building blocks that should help you create enough conflict to carry you from start to finish. Caveat: what you're about to read may not make sense to you (it may blow your mind!). If so, click on a link to another writer advice column. I won't hold it against you.
The key to writing an "I can't stop reading this" romance is to load up the conflict. I once heard a writing guru say you need to give each hero and heroine 6 problems they have to solve. Not one internal conflict and one external conflict - which would equal 2 - but 6 per person!!!
I must admit that I've never been able to find six conflicts for both my hero and heroine. I mean, that would be 12 conflicts! But I do approach conflict with that multiple theory in mind. Here are my must haves before I start writing:
What is the hero's goal? What stands in his way of achieving this on page 1? (ditto for the heroine) These are things like the h/h want to save the ranch, build a business, sail around the world, solve a crime, etc.
What is the biggest obstacle in the hero's work and/or family life? Why can't this be solved with a conversation on page 1? (ditto for the heroine) These are things like employment problems, continuously failing a building inspection, looming foreclosure, unhappy teenage children, parents who need so much care the h/h can't devote time to meet their goal, etc.
What is the biggest obstacle in the way of the romance? That is, why can't they fall in love and live happily ever after on page 1? I've found this works best if you tie this to a belief that keeps them from finding Mr./Ms. Right. What might some of those beliefs be?
- I can barely hold things together in my life, much less devote time to a meaningful relationship.
- I could never fall in love with the man who killed my father.
- I am not father/spouse material because...
One other trick I use is pitting the hero and heroine against each other for their external goals. This could be the classic heroine can't make the mortgage on the ranch versus the hero wants to buy it.
You can also pit the hero and heroine against each other in their work or family struggles. The hero shown here might have an external goal of negotiating a good divorce settlement for his client so he can make partner, but he might fall in love with his client's soon to be ex. And what would happen if his boss or client found out? Now that's conflict!
You can also pit their beliefs against each other. Recently, I wrote a book where the hero was convinced he'd never be a good father and didn't want to give up his career to be one to a child that might be his. The heroine had given up on her dreams to raise her sister - she couldn't imagine putting her own goals over that of a child. Pitted beliefs are fabulous because beliefs don't often come out until you get to know someone better - like after you've had that first love scene. And then - u-oh! We're in trouble.
So don't just give your characters one goal, one internal conflict and one external conflict. Give them many. Pit goals and beliefs against each other. If you spend just a little time up front, you'll have enough meat in the story to write to The End.
Melinda Curtis is an award-winning USA Today bestseller of clean romance, sweet romantic comedy, and steamy contemporary romance. Her next release is a novella in A Heartwarming Christmas: 15 holiday connected romances by 15 Harlequin Heartwarming authors. Buy this set for 99c and receive a coupon good for dollars off a Harlequin Heartwarming purchase! Click below to buy now on Amazon!