Danger! Excitement! Opposition! This is part of the fun of reading. We get to experience adventure from a safe spot. But not too safe.
Things cannot be too easy for our couple. Undeniable attraction, yes. But there are obstacles to overcome. Coming up with external obstacles is the easy part.
There must be internal conflict as well. The hero is falling in love, and he knows that he shouldn’t. He has reasons to back away from the heroine, from mild (self-doubt, fear) to substantial (past history together). The tricky part is that your roadblock must be believable. That is to say, emotionally plausible.
There must be anguish, and yet there is also joy. Because against all odds, and in spite of his doubts and fears, the heroine loves him. This emotional swing, and the triumph of hope and trust over doubt, is what we love about romance fiction.
Here’s an example of internal conflict. The pre-release readers were torn by this scene. They love Jane Austen’s Mr. Darcy, but as a handsome, wealthy, powerful guy. The same intelligent, clever man as Mr. Collins, the overweight stumblebum? Eh, not so much. It took a while to win them over! Here’s a bit from Chapter 19 of Darcy By Any Other Name from his point of view:
Returning to the house was out of the question, for he could not face Elizabeth. Why had he kissed her? He’d asked this question countless times, and the answer was always the same. Weak, he was weak—and thoroughly stupid as well. If he ever had a hope of winning Elizabeth as himself, that hope was gone. For it was Collins she had kissed.
Collins, the man who would inherit her family’s home. Collins, who would provide an income and stability. It was a prudent move on her part, but there was more to it than that. Elizabeth had loathed Collins and had spurned him without a second thought. But not anymore. Those kisses told Darcy everything.
Meanwhile the rain continued to fall, soaking his coat and cap, running down his face and neck, pooling beneath his collar. Held prisoner by self-accusation, Darcy scarcely noticed.
For who was responsible for Elizabeth’s beguiling change of heart? No one but himself. For some per-verse reason he was unable to resist the delight of her company. Like a fool, he’d abandoned all sense and rushed headlong into love.
For love this was, it could have no other name. To see Elizabeth smile, to join with her in laughing, to spar with her and share confidences—what happiness! And in the end, she preferred him above all men, even George Wickham.
Like a madman, Darcy stood smiling in the rain. Yes, she preferred him to Wickham.
Tomorrow’s post? C is for Chemistry. Thanks so much for stopping by!
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