Conflict Between Your Characters is a Good Thing by Deborah Bailey

What are some of your favorite romance tropes?

“Enemies to lovers” is certainly a very popular one. There’s so much conflict involved as the “enemies” realize they have more in common than they thought. It’s the basis for countless movies and TV shows as well as books.

There’s something about the conflict that draws us in. We want to see the sparks fly and eventually watch the lovers lower their guard and fall in love.

So, what about other types of romances?

All stories need conflict -that’s what makes a story.

But it can’t just be the main characters fighting with each other. Or breaking up because they failed to have one conversation. After a while that becomes repetitive and not very interesting to read about.

A lot of times authors aren’t sure what the real conflict is. Here’s an example of what I mean. If your hero has been hurt before and is afraid to be vulnerable, is that really a conflict? If can lead to conflict. But that isn’t (and shouldn’t be) the one reason why the characters are in conflict with each other.

Instead of focusing on the hero’s broken heart being the cause, how about looking deeper? Maybe it’s not because the other relationship failed. Perhaps there were other factors that led to that. Maybe he had a loss of confidence due to other disappointments, or experiences that led to him not being able to trust. The real conflict may be within himself. His growth within the story can lead to him being open to a relationship.

Of course, during this journey there will no doubt be conflict between him and his significant other. And the other main character will most likely have their own growth as well. They both will have to do the work to be ready to have the HEA or HFN that comes at the end of the story.

If the conflict is just two people making up to break up over relatively minor issues, it’s not going to be a satisfying read. There has to be more underneath, more conflict within the characters and more opportunities for them to grow.

When your story has romantic elements (but isn’t a romance) you can make the same choices. What is going on in the story that can also be reflected in the emotions of the main characters? Their relationship may not be the main event in a story like that, but it shouldn’t be an afterthought.

The main characters may be in conflict because they’re working together to solve a mystery or find a treasure – and maybe they both have their own ideas about how things should be done. They’ll have conflict and may even go their separate ways (temporarily). That’s to be expected. But you can bring them back together to reach their shared goal while keeping the romantic conflict going.

Here’s an example of what I mean.

If your characters are chasing a criminal because they work together to solve crimes. Maybe they disagree over the next action to take and they split up. Conflict between them – and their methods – breaks them apart. And if they have a romance growing, that could be another level of conflict for them.

They’ll have to deal with it on both the personal level and the professional level. That can make for a very exciting story as emotional sparks fly while they pursue their quarry.

In fact, in this case the conflict might be even better because they have to actively work through it, while reaching their shared goal.

The thing is, in stories where the romance is the main thing, the characters have their inner goals and outer ones. They have to work through the things that stand in their way, so they can be with the person they love. The inner doubts and fears and the outer obstacles force them to grow. All of these conflicts are what make a story worth reading.

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Deborah A Bailey’s Science Fiction & Paranormal Romance stories include suspense, a bit of mystery and a lot of romantic heat. Her speculative f...