Romance may be the single most complex genre of fiction there is.
A romance author has to juggle five different arcs:
- Story (plot) arc
- Character arc for the heroine
- Character arc for the hero
- Relationship arc
- And within that relationship arc, both the emotional arc and the physical arc of the romance
That’s at least double most other genres, which have a plot arc and character arcs for only one or two characters (and sometimes no character arc at all).
To make things even tougher on the romance writer (though easier for the reader), some of those arcs should line up, sharing common turning points. Let’s do a hypothetical example:
Our Heroine wants to open a bakery in the perfect location in her little town. She has a character flaw, though. She hates confrontations and backs away at the first sign of conflict.
Our Hero wants the same spot to open a mobile phone franchise. He’s a good guy, but he’s very competitive. Continue reading
Image from Wikimedia Commons
I suck at conflict, both in the real world, and trying to foment it in my fictional worlds. What I like is building up a world with all sorts of rules, and finding a character or two to turn loose in it. But the fact of the matter is, if my characters don’t run into conflict pretty darn soon, the whole thing goes ka-flooey. It gets boring for me as a writer.
This coming week, I’m going to be experimenting with some methods to introduce a conflict into my current National Novel Writing Month project, but for now, I’ll explore some more intimate conflicts.
My order from Amazon brought me Young Romance #2, a serial comic from 1947 (you can see the cover of Young Romance #1 over on the right). “Fifty-two pages of real life stories”! And that comes with five comics, one prose story AND the classic Charles Atlas ad about the bully who kicks sand into the face of the skinny weakling, who in seven short frames manages to build his body and become The Hero of the Beach. Let’s take a look at a couple of those conflicts!
“Boy Crazy” pits an orphaned niece against Continue reading
Think, think, think. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)
So, long story short: my friend and I were texting this morning about various womanly complaints, and she said Amazon has now got a sparkly menstrual cup on offer. It’s the kind of idea that hits you in the middle of the forehead with a solid slug of “Why?” and then slaps you on the back of the head with a good, “Why not?” The things are becoming more popular, and I suppose there’s now a market for sparkly menstrual cups. (Note: I can’t actually find such a thing on Amazon now, but now that it’s out there, it seems like it should be an idea.)
But of course, this reminded me of the Glittery Hoo-Ha, and Jennifer Crusie’s post about it. HER friend, Lani Diane Rich (aka Lucy March and other names) had brought up with half-serious literary theory about why the hero loves the heroine and only her – even though she is a diamond in the rough, or in this case, even though he’s a man who enjoys women and enjoys have sex with many, many women.
You’ll have to read it, and the comments (and the second page of comments when there so many that the blog broke), but the gist is that once he has dipped his wick in her glittery hoo-ha, no other hoo-ha will do for him. He’s in love, and ready to be faithful.
This random summer surfing came at a great time: I’ve got some empty hours coming up this week, and I’ve been thinking about the multiple problems of my work in progress (WIP). Right now, the conflict box is pretty weak. (Conflict box a mystery? Let’s raid Jenny’s blog again, with a fabulous explanation of Michael Hauge’s conflict box here.) My heroine’s goal is Continue reading
Now that I finished the book I’ve been working on (yay!), I’ve been casting around for my next project (eek!). I have a few ideas lined up—mostly centered in worlds I’ve already written—but I’ve been thinking about who my characters are and how I should develop their relationships.
I’m lousy at writing conflict, and conflict is crucial to any good story. Where should my hero and heroine converge? Where should they struggle? Over what, and how?
Betelgeuse in Orion: It takes a lot of stars to make a brilliant constellation. (Image via Wikimedia Commons, NASA Hubble photograph)
I love October! There’s a phrase in Japanese that goes “Reading Autumn” and I grew up reading all sorts of really great stories during the Halloween season. I haven’t had time for reading much lately, but made time to re-watch the 1988 film, Beetlejuice. (IMDb)
I think my Girls in the Basement were prompting me to do it, because afterward, I realized it had a very similar conflict structure to the story I’m working on.
From the beginning, Barbara and Adam Maitland show a lot of spunk, determination and love. There’s a hint of tragedy in the beginning, but all of their life is quickly overtaken by the fact that they wake up in their house after a car accident, and realize they didn’t survive the crash.
These are our main protagonists. In the first few minutes of the film, they fight a little with Barbara’s sister (who wants to sell their beloved house). They win the immediate battle by shutting her out, but lose the war when they die. The sister sells the house to Antagonists #2.
Antagonists #2 have a lot more going on than Barbara and Adam. Team Maitland basically speak and act with one heart and mind, often led by Barbara. But Charles and Delia Deetz? They have different goals entirely. Delia wants to be an important and influential artist. Charles initially just wants to recover his health from a nervous breakdown, but as he begins to feel better, his ambition to connect people to real estate returns. All that Team Deetz has in common is love, and even that is called into question. They support each others goals in the abstract, but are too busy with their own goals to actively help each other out. Delia wants to gut the house and turn it into a showcase, while Charles compromises by staking out one calm and peaceful room, and letting Delia turn the rest of the home into Continue reading
Today we’re going to have a quiz.
Let’s pretend you’re reading a book by a very popular author of contemporary romance.
It features a young woman who discovers the guy she’s been engaged to for many years in bed with another woman. She flees the scene without confronting him, but just down the road, her car breaks down. She calls an old friend who, it turns out, has been in love with her lo these many years.
Despite all the salt water and snot she’s producing, they hook up that night. This upsets everyone within shouting distance–her brother, who thinks Lover Boy took advantage of her, her former fiancee, who hasn’t gotten the word that they broke up, and his mom, who still thinks Mucus-Girl would make a peachy daughter-in-law.
I made it to my mostly annual homage to RWA for a hefty shot of fiction-writing craft. I, however, made it late as my flight was delayed for three hours. (Note to self – come a day early next year.) I missed the session I really wanted to hit today (Writing Emotion: Opening a Vein with Virginia Kantra) which was a double whammy because it isn’t a recorded session. But my first and only session for today was worth the price of admission. Michael Hauge’s Seducing Your Readers in Chapter 1 was exactly what I needed in the here and now for two reasons. The big reason is that I’m rewriting my first manuscript, which sucks because I wrote it before I had taken any craft classes. The bones are good, but it needs work and I’ve been working on the opening with some success. Today’s session gave me fabulous ideas and motivation and confirmation that I’m on the right track. Woot! The second smaller reason is that I’m reading an old Christina Dodd, and when I came back to the room tonight for some much needed down time (this conference is extremely intense), I picked it up and found a passage that is a good example of one of the things Hauge talked about. Continue reading