KISSing Your Conflict

I have been trying all day to write this blog post. Seriously. All day. And that sort of sums up the last month of writing almost everything.

On my last blog, we talked about simplifying your secondary characters so the hero and heroine can take center stage. Now … what do we do with them? We put them in conflict. Internal and external.

In suspense, external conflict is usually danger: running for their lives, protecting each other, solving a mystery, chasing the villain. Whatever it is, the external conflict pushes them together when then don’t want to be, which is the internal conflict.

So, the internal conflict is why the hero and/or heroine don’t want to be together. They don’t think they need a protector, they think the other is in danger, they have a history together. He wants her, but she’s pushing him away. Or vice versa.

It’s as simple, and as difficult, as that. Because believable conflict is hard to do.

Simple rules for KISSing your conflict:

  1. Make the conflict arise from your characters’ jobs, families, or friends – something they cannot control or change.
  2. However, that conflict HAS to affect the main characters’ relationship with each other.
  3. Up that conflict by forcing the hero and heroine together, even if it’s just making them run into each other socially.
  4. Give them a reason to like and respect each other in spite of themselves.
  5. Give them a reason to disagree.

I’ll give you an example from a book I can’t wait to read: Callie Hutton’s The Earl Returns. It’s a Regency romance where the hero jilted a woman at the altar to marry someone else. He returns to London in the middle of the social season, now a widower, and is promptly attracted to … his jilted fiancée’s sister.

Why keep it simple? Because keeping the conflict straightforward lets your characters’ emotions shine through.

Let’s try something different in the comments. Let’s brainstorm the conflicts between new characters.

Our hero is a burn unit doctor and our heroine is an arson investigator. Go!

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10 Comments Add yours

  1. Loved this line: the external conflict pushes them together when they don’t want to be, which is the internal conflict.
    It tells so much about the concept of suspense!
    For your brainstorming session: Let’s brainstorm the conflicts between new characters.

    Our hero is a burn unit doctor and our heroine is an arson investigator.

    How about if the burn unit doctor’s goal is to save the lives he cares for as he wasn’t able to do in a fire that destroyed his home and killed his wife.
    Enter the arson investigator, who just happens to be his S-I-L. She believes he was the cause of her sister’s death.
    When a series of fires cut too close to home, will these two learn to trust, or will they become an arsonist’s next torched victim?
    Hey, this is a good outline for a new book! lol

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Mia Kay says:

      Jacquie this is awesome! I’m so glad you played.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Jeannie Hall says:

    Reblogged this on Jeannie Hall Suspense and commented:

    Believable conflict in romance

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Jeannie Hall says:

    Our hero is a burn unit doctor and our heroine is an arson investigator…

    I would make the doctor become a doctor because his little sister died from burns sustained from a car accident. He’s a bit of a player but with a really good heart.

    The arson investigator, though, fell for a guy she later learned was an arsonist. She’s still angry he pulled the wool over her eyes when fighting arson is her job.

    When she meets the doctor, there are immediate sparks, but she can’t allow herself to play the fool again. Her instincts have been wrong before, and she was burned – figuratively – badly by his lies.

    The doctor keeps pursuing her, which is easy since they’re working together on the same set of victims. Will the investor ever trust the instincts that once led her so far astray.


    Liked by 2 people

    1. Mia Kay says:

      Jeannie – this is great! And it’s a wonderful example of how two authors can take the same characters and come up with TOTALLY different conflict, plots, and tones. I’m so glad you brainstormed with us!

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Wow, Jeannie, great scenario! You and me, 2017, lol

      Liked by 1 person

  4. S.A.Taylor says:

    Great post! I love your scenario as well. What if (drum roll) . . .the burn victim IS the arsonist?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Mia Kay says:

    Ooh, Stephanie! I love that twist!!!!


  6. vicki says:

    Stephanie’s twist blew me away!


  7. Sharon Wray says:

    Great post, Mia. I always struggle with keeping the conflict simple and end up having to cut huge amounts out of my manuscripts!


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