As you know I write romances. The central question of the genre is how love conquers all. When a reader picks up a romance, she knows she will end up with the Happily Ever After (HEA) ending. The journey to the hero and heroine being together is what keeps the reader’s interest turning the pages. Any writer will tell you that conflict is what provides that page-turning.
What is conflict in a romance?
It is not an external thing that separates the H/h (Hero and Heroine), but something within them that prevents each from committing to the other. This is why the scenario where the heroine spots the hero with a beautiful woman and immediately assumes he’s been lying to her only to discover the woman is his sister/cousin/etc never works. It’s an outside conflict. The real question in this situation is why the heroine is so quick to judge and condemn. That’s where the true romantic conflict would come from, but writers using this set-up seldom explore those depths. It’s why authors are cautioned away from a conflict using the Big Misunderstanding.
My friend Robin Perini has a story grid she has taught me to fill out when starting a new story. Her grid helps to focus what the basic conflicts and goals are. When it comes to the Romantic Conflict, the question the author must answer is “What’s inside of him that prevents him from loving her?” and vice-versus for the heroine. The answer is the character’s transformation of love which conquers whatever is holding the person back from love. It’s not something external, although the external conflict can be a manifestation or symbol of the internal blockage.
When creating a character, the best place to create this internal blockage or “wound” is in the character’s backstory. What happened in the past that taught the H/h this method of coping with life? This event overshadows everything forward. Once an author has determined this event, she knows how her character will be transformed by love. Because in order to grow, the H/h must make a conscious decision to choose love by putting the lesson from the past behind. That is the moment the character grows, and love conquers all.
If you decide to write a romance, consider what love will teach your H/h, and then you can structure your story’s conflict.