Generating External Conflict -- Esri Rose
Sometimes we focus so closely on our two main characters and their personal demons that our eyes cross. She finds out that her father lied to her ten years ago and her true love wasn’t cheating on her. He realizes that his fear of intimacy comes from his overbearing mother. But it’s handy to know how to generate external conflict, and it’s crucial if you write any kind of romantic suspense. Here’s an easy way to come up with hard problems:
Don’t stop with your hero and heroine.
In fiction as in life, each character has conflict going on. The hero is the villain’s obstacle, the humorous sidekick is secretly jealous of the heroine, and Dad is having trouble with his new girlfriend and isn’t there when his daughter needs him. Examine the lives of the characters around your two protagonists, and your conflict will proliferate until you need an arms treaty.
Here’s a basic historical plot we'll use as an example.
Heroine Annabelle has an infatuation for Young Tommy, an attractive boy with chivalric ideas and no common sense. Her father refuses to let them marry.
Hero Charles wants a diplomatic/spying mission that Annabelle’s father is in a position to give. He hasn’t been able to get it because Annabelle’s Dad doesn’t think he’s daring enough.
Young Tommy, who is gathering stones to toss at Annabelle’s window, overhears the plan from a maid
Those are the basics, and they get us started. Now we need a whole bunch of stuff to happen to keep the momentum going.
Obviously, Annabelle has some plot points of her own.
- She discovers
- She escapes and spends time with Charles, while they run from
But let’s face it; she has to spend most of her time falling in love with the right guy. Now is when we leave our two protagonists entirely and start looking at the secondary characters.
Rutherfordreceives word that his father is ill – forcing him to travel faster with Annabelle so he can get the paperwork tied up before the old man dies. Rutherfordhas borrowed on his inheritance. At one point, when it looks like Charles and Annabelle will finally get away, Rutherford’s creditor decides to help Rutherfordget his inheritance by loaning him some thugs.
What about Young Tommy? The poor lad is chivalrous to a degree that resembles imbecility.
- He believes the sob story of a sad-eyed gypsy who steals all his and Charles’ money.
- Tommy is injured while defending a saucy French camp follower, thus failing to show up when Charles really needs him.
It looks black when
Your secondary characters will generate external conflict and plot points galore if you give them a chance. You may even feel you have too much conflict and have to cut some to avoid melodrama or keep the length reasonable. And isn’t that a great position to be in?
Esri Rose’s first book, Bound to Love Her, is coming out May 6! Bound to Love Her is an urban-fantasy, romantic-suspense comedy featuring elves. Win a copy by entering her contest at ElvesAmongUs.com or by visiting Marta Acosta’s blog. There’s another book giveaway this Friday at Romance Bandits, and I think I visit Jill Monroe’s blog after that.