1. What are some pitfalls authors fall into when creating conflict between hero and heroine?
During the past two weeks, we’ve learned a few pitfalls that authors fall into when creating conflict. The biggest one, I think, is when the characters’ goals do not conflict. The more I think about it, the more I realize that most “bad” romances are ones that do not involve conflicting goals. I am reading a book like this right now. The heroine has a clear goal, the hero has a clear goal, but they have nothing to do with each other. All of the conflicts between them are coming from outside sources. It makes it hard to feel the characters’ connection and to invest in their relationship. Another one is conflicts that would not exist if the characters would communicate for just five seconds. It’s irritating and unrealistic to read.
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?)
Unlikeable characters are okay sometimes. Sometimes. I think what it comes down to is whether or not the character has qualities that redeem them in the eyes of readers. If a man is trying to make a single mom lose her only job, it would be bad. But then we find out he was doing it because someone at work was threatening her life, suddenly he’s not so bad. Even if a character has bad characteristics, they can be likable. I know this is an extreme example, but we all know Christian Grey. He’s messed up. He hurts Ana. He lies. He tries to control her. But then we find out how horrible of a life he had. We find out about his mother. His abuse. Mrs. Robinson. Suddenly, even with his bad characteristics, he is likable, loveable even. People have a serious love for his character. It’s about balancing the negative characteristics with positive ones and making sure the negative characteristics are not unredeemable (like being physically/emotionally/sexually abusive).
3. How can you authors use motivation-action-reaction and inner goals versus outer goals to drive the plot?
Motivation and inner goals are what gives each story its uniqueness. Inner goals, and the motivations behind each inner goal, is what keeps the plot (hopefully) moving forward. It’s what allows readers to connect and empathize with the characters. That is the most important part of romance for me. The characters’ uniqueness, goals, and the conflict that arises because of those goals are what keeps me invested. The inner goals that the hero and heroine conflict over are the bones of the story. Focusing on them instead of outside forces will give a more emotionally impactful story. That’s what romance readers like. The feelings we get while reading.
4. What are ways we can help authors turn favorite types (the alpha male, the soldier, the friend-turned-lover) into real people?
Make them human. An alpha male is only one part of what makes up the character. Maybe a man is an alpha male who does killer braids in his niece’s hair and still buys flowers for his lady every week. Being an alpha male doesn’t have to be all he is. A multi-dimensional character is one that has many characteristics both positive and negative. They aren’t perfect, but they are more real.