Well, I had a breakthrough on my story yesterday. Finally figured out why it’s so dull and lifeless and plodding and I’m having to force myself to write instead of coming to it with enthusiasm, all bright eyed and bushy tailed and raring to go.
Pretty basic and straightforward really- there’s no conflict between the characters. The heroine has a goal, and the hero is helping her get it. And yes, they are attracted and there are all sorts of reasons they shouldn’t act on that, but it’s not enough. I have NO external conflict.
I read this article by Michael Hauge on writing romance. It’s geared for scriptwriting, but it works for books too. Seems that what he’s giving there is a roadmap to character based plotting for romance. His view of story really works, IMO. It is a kind of synthesis of all the thinking about story I like best. Please do read the article if you haven’t already seen it!
Anyway, these were the words that resonated with me-
The hero(ine) must pursue some additional visible desire.
Pursuing two goals simultaneously adds originality to the story and accelerates the pace. And when the hero(ine)’s two desires inevitably come into opposition (as I will discuss momentarily), the conflict is increased, along with the audience’s emotional involvement.
The romance character must create obstacles to both the hero(ine)’s desires. Without conflict between the hero(ine) and romance, your screenplay will lack the emotion necessary to sustain the story.
So he looks at romances as a two goal story. The outer desire is the external goal the character starts off with. Then the second goal develops in the course of the story- winning the love of the other character. What mine missed was that Tom wasn’t in any way a block to her external goal, creating the garden. He was a helper, when for real conflict he needs to be a hinderance.
I’ve worked out how to do it, I think. It’s obvious when I look at my set up- I looked in the wrong place for the hero. Yes, he’s going to help her recover from the disaster that threatens her fledgling garden design business, but he’s also going to be the cause of the disaster, dealing with his own serious business problems.
It works. The basic situation is pretty much the same, but the difference in the hero’s background adds loads more drama and conflict. It lets my heroine, who feels kind of wishy-washy at the moment, be more proactive instead of reactive. She’s not sitting around asking for help, she’s got to go out and demand it, and find her Ladyballs in the process!
But it means an almost complete rewrite. Actually, it will probably be easier to rewrite than try jigsawing in the pieces that are
kind-of-usuable-with-some-editing, anyway. And I’m almost certain it’s going to need to be a longer story, at least 20 to 30K, maybe 40K. Trying to develop a believable romance that the characters would make sacrifices for, from a first meeting to HEA in under 15K was never going to work, anyway.
So no chance of meeting the Spring Fling deadline of 1 February. But I think as long as I sub it by the end of Feb, mid-March at the latest, it may still be saleable as a story for this Spring/ early Summer. If not, well there’s next year.
*big sigh* Back to the beginning again.
I’m learning something else about my writing process. I write my way in, yes. A lot of my first two chapters is really backstory that won’t need to be in the completed story. But it goes further than that. I also often don’t discover what the real conflict is until I’m at least 10 k into the story, or even 20K. Then I get to a point where I know I need to stop and rethink, even if it means having to throw away what I have so far and start over.
I can see what happens. I manufacture a conflict to get me started, but I don’t know the characters well enough at that stage to really know their conflict. I have to write enough to get to know them. That’s when I find out what the conflict really is.
With this change in the hero’s background and how they meet, her inner relationship issues remain the same but are intensified. And he actually has some, when he didn’t that much to begin with. He’s become a much more rounded and developed character. What I’m seeing now is the deeper emotional blocks that lie underneath the obvious superficial internal conflict I manufactured. The characters are real enough now to tell me what their issues are. I’ve created them well enough that the conflict comes from who they are, not from me imposing it on them. So creating more EXTERNAL conflict actually works to deepen their internal conflicts.
I don’t want to start over. But my story will be better for it.
This rewrite could be fun!