Category Archives: conflict

Heroes We Love To Love

Thea Devine here, ruminating this week about heroes we love to love, the ones who drive us nuts, but we know we can’t have a fabulous story without them.   This is my list, in no particular order:

 The Good Guy: 

Everyone loves the good guy. He’s the renaissance man who’s just been waiting for the woman of his dreams.  Healthy childhood, no wounds, handsome, successful, willing to cook, change diapers, the best best friend when you need someone to listen.  He’s the one you lean on when your life is turned upside down;  he’s steady, gives fantastic advice, is decisive, funny, and loves his mother (always a prime point for a mother of sons).   And he’ll always fall for the woman who is in critical chaos because he’s the problem solver, the rock, the calm center, and he’ll always be the thing a woman wants most:  an anchor.

 The Bad Boy

He’s experienced, and knowing.  He’s that guy in high school that had that gleam in his eye.  He’d take one look at you, and he knew everything:  who you were, how far you’d go,  and where he’d like to take you.  He’s magnetic, a little rough, a little rakish, a leader without really wanting to lead;  strong, decisive, probably doesn’t like to talk much, especially about his feelings — but oh, man, does he ever have them.    He loves women, but no woman is ever going to tame him.  And when he falls, he takes a nosedive to eternity.

 The Wounded Hero

He’s the guy who suffers  There’s some great trauma in his past, or something in his present, something with his parents, another woman, his best friend, the war:  he is psychically damaged and  he’s not going to let any woman into his life because he can’t give her what she needs.  He’s too busy tending that crippled inner self to give anything of himself to anyone.   He doesn’t want to feel,  and he habitually picks fights, so he can chase everyone away.  He can’t share his life, can’t allow the heroine to assume his stain, his burden, his guilt.  She, of course, won’t rest till she does, so while he just wants to be off on some island, alone, nursing that part of himself that needs to be made whole, guess who’s right in the rowboat behind him?

 The Unobtainable Man

This guy seems not to like women at all.  No one gets to him.  It’s like battering at a wall.   He’s cool, logical, seemingly without emotions.  He never lets you see him sweat. He’s an island unto himself.  He’s got all the answers.  And he always reveals them first so he can cover his behind.   He doesn’t need anyone, which he won’t hesitate to tell you..  But of course, he’s the one who needs someone most of all. The heroine must storm the fortress, and if she can find his tender spot, he is hers forever.

Mr. Unflappable

Nothing rattles this guy.  He can be in the  middle of a war and crack a joke.  Nothing scares him; there’s no problem he can’t solve, no situation he can’t get out of.  He’s walking the line, but he’s got such a sense of humor and irony, nothing jolts him. He doesn’t take anything seriously, and he takes love too lightly. Forget about prising up his past. Some days the heroine can’t even get him to commit to saying hello.   He’s a pretty happy guy, probably real successful, and not in a button down kind of job;   but somewhere along the line, someone probably hurt him, so his deal is, don’t get too close too soon.  And of course, the heroine can’t get too close soon enough.

The Scoundrel

He was badly hurt by a woman sometime in his murky past.  So he loves ’em and leaves ’em, uses ’em and loses ’em.  Takes out his anger on all womenkind, especially the heroine, and particularly because she gets to him and he doesn’t want to be gotten to.  But she’s under his skin and before you know it, he’s protecting, defending and loving her, protesting his misogynist nature to the very end.

 The Outlaw

He’s been convicted of murder or some other heinous crime that he didn’t really commit.  But they’re after him.  He’s a loner.  He may be on the run. but he’s always got a reason, and it’s always plausible as hell.   He’s going to protect the woman he loves by NOT letting her into his life, and by reappearing in hers often enough to drive them both crazy.  And she can’t stay away.  Truth to tell, he doesn’t want her to, but he’ll never tell her that either.  It’s always her choice, and she believes in him in spite of all evidence to the contrary.  She’s so loyal, she’ll go on run with him, or be the first one to ferret out the clues that will vindicate him.   She knows what she’s letting herself in for — and she always believes he is worth the effort, because in the end, she will make him vulnerable — and hers.

And, isn’t that the ending we strive for, in fiction, and in life?

 

So who’s the hero you love to love? Any of these guys sound like your husband/boyfriend/significant other?  (My theory is all romance authors are married to the same man — and he’s usually an engineer or should be one.)  Any of them sound like anyone you know?

Thea Devine’s latest book, The Darkest Heart, was a June 2011 release from Gallery Books.  She’s currently at work on a sequel.

Conflict is King

Leave a comment below and enter to win a free e-copy of ON THIN ICE. Contest ends Thursday at midnight and is open to US and Canadian entrants.

While preparing for a writing class that I teach for teens at the public library, I realized that the essence of good story telling is conflict. Without conflict, there is no story. My fabulous and brilliant teens wanted a class specifically on “How to start a story.” We’ll be discussing where to begin and in my opinion, every story starts with a conflict. A vivid and compelling character might come to mind, but if they don’t come to you with some problem to solve, the story ends before it begins.

So what constitutes a suitable conflict to create an engaging story? In my mind, internal conflict rules the roost.
There has to be some major dilemma happening in the mind and heart of my main characters and it has to be related to their fatal flaw or greatest weakness. In On Thin Ice, Penny’s fatal flaw is her perfectionism. She so wants to be loved and accepted, that she tries to be perfect (or at least appear perfect), so she forms a habit of lying which leads her into lots of trouble. Of course I had to give Carter, her big crush, a fatal flaw that fed into Penny’s big weakness, so I set up a backstory for him in which he hates liars. His father was an alcoholic and a liar and abandoned him and his mother and sister when he was little. This sets the scene for lots of potential conflict between my main characters, both internal and external.

Which leads me to external conflict—generally provided by villains and horrible circumstances. What story would be complete without the main characters having to overcome some huge hurdle or win out over the bad guys? I’m afraid I threw the kitchen sink at Penny in terms of external conflicts, but they were all integral to bringing about the changes in her character and forcing her to grow into the person she was meant to be by the end of the story. Knowing what I know now about storytelling and writing, I would not create this dynamic again, but Penny’s story needed to be told as is. One of the reasons I chose to indie publish this book. We’ll see if it stacks up in the world of contemporary YA romance.

And since we’re talking about romance, I’ll mention the importance of romantic conflict. The romantic conflict is basically the thing that keeps your main characters apart until the end of the story. In Penny and Carter’s case, the fact that she is only seventeen and that he is twenty-one creates an insurmountable obstacle, especially when he finds out the truth about her age and her father threatens to have him arrested. Not only did she lie (a Cardinal sin in his book), but her lie has threatened his security and his goal of working and saving money to go to college and help support his mother and sister. From Penny’s view, she has failed in her attempt to gain Carter’s love and approval and must deal with her father’s rejection as well.

All of this conflict is what keeps readers turning the page to see what happens next. Will Penny find her way back into Carter’s heart? Or will her quest for perfection lead her down a dangerous road that has no happy ending?

 You’ll just have to read the book to find out.

What’s your character’s problem? Is there enough internal, external, and romantic conflict to keep readers turning the page?