1. What are some pitfalls authors fall into when creating conflict between hero and heroine?
As we saw in the readings this week and last week, a frequent pitfall is making the romance secondary to other, more interesting plot lines. The reading for this week’s assignment featured a hero who was almost entirely irrelevant to the story, and whose whole conflict with the heroine was “I’m not really feeling like I’m in the right place for a relationship right now.” That is not a conflict. For a conflict to be interesting and believable, it has to a) include both characters, and b) actually keep them apart. A story like this one does neither.
2. What are some steps authors can take to create conflict without making the hero or heroine unlikable? (Is it okay for a main character to be unlikable occasionally?)
For me, this again comes down to making the goals and conflict genuine. “Making money” cannot be a person’s only goal. “Making money to have a different life from the impoverished childhood I grew up in” is slightly better and leaves room for a story, but it’s still not that emotional. As long as the character is not a one-dimensional villain, they should have a stake in the conflict that stems from something emotional and genuine.
I think that a character can be unlikeable as long as part of the resolution includes them modifying the negative parts of themselves. One MC could, as a result of past betrayal, have a negative view of something about the other character (culture, gender, etc.) that the other MC helps them to overcome.
3. How can authors use motivation-action-reaction and inner goals versus outer goals to drive the plot?
Outer goals evolve and change over the course of the story based on the other characters and the things that happen, while internal goals stay the same. Internal goals dictate how a character responds to things that happen to them, so showing how the different MCs react to obstacles while staying true to their internal goals both motivates them and helps to drive the plot in ways that bring the conflict/characters’ goals to the forefront.
4. What are ways we can help authors turn favorite types (the alpha male, the soldier, the friend-turned-lover) into real people?
I think that this again comes down to having believable motivations and internal goals and conflicts. An alpha male character has more goals than just being the tough guy in charge. Who does he care for or feel the need to protect? What happened in his life to make him into the alpha male that he is? Building up the background for characters allows them to develop into real people with motivations, fears, flaws, and everything else.