I see a lot of books where the hero or heroine have some major trauma but can a more subtle one do just as well. e.g. making the wrong career choice, always being picked last.
We’re really glad you asked this question. Creating and developing sustainable emotional conflict is always challenging, but it’s important to note that thinking outside the box, and adding some variety is essential. And this does mean that using a more subtle conflict can be just as effective as the more hard hitting ones. They may not sound as dramatic on paper, but exploring the emotional implications such as a breakdown in a marriage can be just as, if not more effective than a heroine whose entire family died in a plane crash!.
So, it is our job to expel the myth that the higher the body count, the more emotionally satisfying the read! Of course, these books have their place and create in most cases an instant access point into your hero or heroine’s mind-set, and obvious barriers which need to be broken down. But so can the subtle ones too! Absolutely, as you’ve suggested, making the wrong career choice can have huge effects on your characters path to happiness. It’s all about creating the layers to go with it – and using this as the top layer which you will need to drill down beneath. For example, let’s take a closer look at your two suggestions, and how you could create a compelling conflict from them…
- Has your hero been working in the same job for the past 10 years (father’s company perhaps?), and in that time passed on opportunities to follow his heart? Maybe he moved away from his first love because that is where his career took him, but in the process left everyone behind he loved, and has never been able to shake off the regret or loneliness? Are you about to give him a second chance to go back and do it all differently?
- The same can be said for being the girl that was always picked last – whether it was in class, from the boys at school and even in the family setting. How deep therefore do the insecurities run and how have these effected your heroine? It will take someone special to bring her out of her shell and explore her new found confidence. But both, as with the limitless amounts of conflicts which could be termed ‘everyday’ have endless amounts of potential – it’s just about how you use them.
Editors and readers do not judge a manuscript based on the severity of the conflict – it’s all in the execution and the sustainability of the conflict you choose. And remember, whatever you decide to throw at your characters, it needs to be appropriate for the series you are targeting and the tone you are aiming for. And more importantly, using dark, or major trauma conflicts should also be handled with great care and sensitivity. The ultimate aim of a romance is to create escapism for your reader and whilst the path to happy-ever-after is rocky, there should always be hope. But if you have traumatised your characters too far before you’ve started, you are creating a lot of work for yourself to convince the reader your characters will achieve a happy ending. So don’t be tempted to throw everything and the kitchen sink at your story! It is perfectly possible to create wonderfully rich conflicts and emotion from more subtle experiences – so we challenge you to experiment!
The SOLD Editors x