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Using Conflict to Enhance a Story

Updated on January 31, 2019
Jacqueline4390 profile image

Ms. Williamson is a published author and educator with a Bachelor of Business, Master of Public Administration, and Master of Science!

The road to romance has never run smoothly.  Some of the best stories are filled with competition and conflict.
The road to romance has never run smoothly. Some of the best stories are filled with competition and conflict.

How it all begins ...

Watching those old movies from the 30's and 40's gave can give you your first glimpse of what romantic writing involved. The men all seemed to be larger than life and the women were so graceful and elegant.

After being exposed to real life situations, you may realize that some people prefer watching those movies or read those Harlequin and Silhouette Romantic Novels to escape from the reality of life and to be surrounded by the concept of "happy ever after" in spite of the turmoil.

So, if you really want to be a romantic writer you have to decide on your audience and whether you want to engage them in a "fairy-tale" ending or embrace a more realistic situation.

An outline is therefore necessary to keep your focus on the action of your hero or heroine. It's a good idea to research your setting. If you are going to use an actual location for your story, make sure that it doesn't conflict with the area.

When deciding on a location for your story, try using a town with a fairly familiar name such as Lambert, but not actually giving the name of the state. This will allow you to be able to lead the reader on a journey of discovery with descriptive scenery that is entirely believable without doing much research.

If you decide to write about romance in your own backyard, so to speak, be sure to use landmarks that are familiar to those who actual reside in the vicinity. You will find that the more descriptive the scene; the easier it is for readers to visualize it.

Whether your town is mythical or actual there will always be characters facing crisis.

Two Types of Conflicts ...

There are conflicts that can involve just the Main Character or conflicts that involve a Couple of Characters.

Always decide early what conflicts or adversities your main character or couple will encounter and how they will overcome these obstacles. A good villain is equally as important as a good hero. Even in a romantic novel there is always something or someone that stands in the way of the main character obtaining whatever goal you have determined he/she should attain.

As in the first example, the heroine has the problem of confronting mid-life crisis. Another more common obstacle deals with the conflict between what the woman sees and further development of her life-cycle and what her husband determines is for the good of their relationship.

This next examples demonstrates both types of situations.

Personal conflict in a story will always draw in your audience.
Personal conflict in a story will always draw in your audience.

Conflict Focus: Main Character

This is an example of conflict that is focused on the main character.

Two days before the wedding, Joseph II asks to speak to Brijèt alone.

“I want to talk to you about our family and give you a little background about Joey.” Joseph II begins. “Not that I don’t expect you to be the perfect bride for my son, you are definitely pretty enough, I just want you to understand what is expected of you, that’s all.”

“What do you mean what is expected of me, Mr. Harrington?” Brijèt asks feeling very nervous.

“My mother was a ruthless and domineering woman. She ruled both her household and my father with an iron hand. Fortunately, she died of a massive heart attack at age 41.” Mr. Harrington pauses to look at Brijèt to measure her reaction to this bit of information. Then he continues.

“The good news is that my father remarried a loving and considerate woman the 2nd time around. Piper Conley-Harrington is like the mother I never really had. The change in the Harrington household is miraculous! There is love everywhere. It took me a long time to find someone like Piper, but I did. If it’s possible, Marian is even more loving!” Mr. Harrington pauses again to light his pipe. Brijèt is thankful that Joe doesn’t have that smelly habit. However, she is wondering where the conversation is heading.

“Ok, so what does this have to do with Joe and me, Mr. Harrington?” Brijèt asks starting to feel annoyed.

“What I am saying is that Joey is used to an environment of complete love and devotion. His mother makes sure that I want for nothing and in turn I provide her with a hefty allowance, a lovely home, occasional outings, expensive cars, a breathtaking wardrobe and lots of love. Since we have been married; she has never had to work or want for anything. Marian, on the other hand, has always been there for me. She gave up an extremely promising career as an Interior Designer. A woman’s place is in the home taking care of her husband and children. Not having an ambitious career and globe-trotting around the country.” Joseph II finishes.

Brijèt becomes offended by his blatant remarks regarding her book signing and her career with the station.

A bad relationship can tear into your soul … especially when you have to fake it!
A bad relationship can tear into your soul … especially when you have to fake it!

Conflicts Focus: Couples

This is an example of couple focused conflict.

Joe can smell the aroma of bacon and sausage and hear Brijèt humming in the background. The music is romantic guitar with the ocean waves breaking on the shore. The solitude is soon to be broken.

“Well—I guess this means an end to the globe-trotting.” Joe says with a satisfied look on his face.

“What are you talking about, dear?” Brijèt questions cautiously.

“Now that we’re going to have a family, surely you’ll be staying at home and preparing scrumptious meals like the one we had yesterday.” Joe says still not noticing the change in Brijèt.

“I just took a couple of days off to celebrate, but I plan to be working full steam ahead on my book promoting. I am planning to take an extended leave of absence from the station; I may even resign, but I am NOT giving up my career.” Brijèt turns back to the electric grill where the bacon is turning a golden brown.

“You can’t be serious.” Joe says with a frown.

“Yes, I can be.” Brijèt counters.

“I don’t believe you. This is what I’ve had plan for us all along. We’d get married. You’d wrap up your job at the station and then spend the rest of your life taking care of my needs and that of our children.” Joe says aspirated.

“But what about my needs, Joe?” Brijèt says softly. It is so soft that Joe almost doesn’t hear her.

“What about your needs?” Joe repeats as if he couldn’t believe she could have any other than his.

“Yes, Joe what about my needs? I do have them.” Brijèt says starting to slam pots down on the counter top.

“You’ve had fun playing writer and production manager. Now that the baby is coming it’s time to be serious and settle down to the responsible career of wife and mother.” Joe insists.

“Joe, I can’t believe you. You should like someone out of the 1950s.” Brijèt’s voice shakes.

“My mother and father seem to be pretty happy.” Joe states flatly.

“Yes, I’m sure they are very happy, but was a decision that your mother made.”

“Yes and my mother gave up everything to be the best wife ever. My dad always takes precedence in my mother’s life.” Joe continues to drive his point home.

“My mom, on the other hand, found the love of her life, went to college to get a great education, married my dad, had me, and then started teaching. My mother was able to teach school and provide love for my dad and me for years without sacrificing anything. And now, she has her own art gallery!” Brijèt says.

“Maybe so Brijèt, but my mother believes that a good wife should sacrifice everything for her husband—everything!” Joe insists.

“I understand Joe, darling but I am not your mother. I love writing. And besides I can write and be with our child.” Brijèt insists rubbing her temples.

“Are you going to drag our baby all across the United States while you attend one book signing after another?” Joe asks angrily.

“I can get a nanny to come in and assist. Lots of celebrities have them.” Brijèt is starting to get a headache. What has started out as a wonderful day is getting out of hand.

Yep … just one more thing!
Yep … just one more thing!

A Final Note ...

Remember, never get bogged down with a lot of intimacy. Always leave a little for the imagination. Unless you are writing to an audience who truly enjoys every graphic detail; most people enjoy using their minds to fill in the blanks for what happens next. Let your goal be romantic--but tastefully applied. Remember those old movies of the 30's and 40's?

When writing the romantic novel; you should reread and rewrite often. Choose names for your characters that gives the reader an indication of the type of person portrayed. Victoria gives the impression of a prim or proper girl while Sissy seems to be more fun-loving.

There is a lot that goes into writing a romance than just sitting at the computer and pecking away. Thought and purpose should go into every story you write. Who knows ... you may have the ingredients for a best-seller!

© 2013 Jacqueline Williamson BBA MPA MS


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