This month we’re talking about love and hate at The Roses of Prose. Love is easy, but I’ve always shied away from writing about hate. It’s a powerful emotion, but poisonous to the soul. I have never afflicted even my antagonists with true, deep hatred. Perhaps if I wrote dark, serious literary fiction, I might plumb those depths. But I don’t. I write romance, and I write it for a reason—I am at heart unquenchingly optimistic about life and about people.
Perhaps that’s why negative story elements give me such fits. I know all good stories require conflict—the more, the merrier. A few years ago, I attended Donald Maas’s wonderful Writing the Breakout Novel seminar. In it and the accompanying workbook, he urges writers to amp up every element to create more compelling characters and stories. Take every situation and make it worse, then make it worse again until there’s no way the characters and their relationship can survive. That’s the path to high drama, high stakes, and big sales. He’s right. I know it. But I have trouble putting his advice into action.
That’s one reason I enjoyed writing Unwritten Rules so much. Because it’s a romantic suspense, the main characters’ relationship did not have to shoulder the entire burden of conflict for the story. Although the hero and heroine struggled with relationship issues, outside forces were also at work, continuously increasing the threat level and raising the stakes. It was almost as though the villains did the heavy lifting for me. I may have finally found the answer to my conflict dilemmas.