I’ve been working through the revision suggestions a development editor gave me for the third book of My Eternal Trilogy, and I’m stumped on one point. She says that there’s no conflict between my two main characters, and I have to write it in there.
She’s right about the first part. My characters have no interpersonal conflict. Trouble, yes. Conflict, no.
I don’t disagree about the importance of conflict, but I’m not convinced that the enormous amount of work I’d need to do to create a conflict between my hero and heroine and then resolve it is necessary or even desirable. Here’s my thinking.
This trilogy has no cliffhangers, but each book progresses the relationship. Book 1: my heroine takes personal leave from her job to move half-way across the country to test her relationship with the hero. Book 2: when my heroine must choose between the hero or the job she’s worked more than a decade to secure, the hero chooses to work remotely for six months in the city of her employment so they can stay together. Book 3: they marry (and stay in the city the heroine must live in for her job).
So by book 3, there’s not a lot of conflict left in the will-they-stay-together/whose-job-is-more-important scenario. The exterior plot drives the action: my heroine, a CIA officer, stashes a Russian defector in their basement after an assassin shoots out the window of the cab they are sitting in and she runs out of options about where she can take him. She and the hero, plus a gaggle of friends, withstand the onslaughts of the increasingly irritable Russian assassin.
The trouble (but not conflict) between the hero and heroine is about their wedding. They’re engaged, but Phoebe wants a long engagement, maybe years long. My hero has agreed, but the families are pressuring them to marry sooner rather than later, and he’s of that same opinion. So there’s stuff around that. There’s been more interpersonal conflict in Books 1 and 2, as they work out their relationship issues. At this point, though, developing a significant conflict would seem to me to be backtracking on the progress they’ve made in the relationship so far.
I cruised my bookshelves, both digital and physical, looking for books in which the interpersonal conflict is minimized, and I found a bunch, mostly which I’d say could be cross-classified as “cozy” or “light” mysteries. I enjoyed those books, and I think my trilogy could be categorized that way, too. My editor works or has worked for Harlequin, so she brings a strong romance editing background to the table. I generally find her advice very helpful, but maybe this one suggestion is not that important in this particular book.
What do you think? If you saw a book that was shelved in the romance department, would you be disappointed if there wasn’t a significant interpersonal conflict? Can you recall any romances where the primary conflict was against an outside force?