Today's guest is Marian Perera, author of Before the Storm, a romantic fantasy and her debut novel. She has some great insights into writing with heart and revealing a story's inner conflicts. Welcome, Marian. ~Cheryl Kaye Tardif
I love writing romance. Even in my fantasy manuscripts there’s always a main couple who usually don’t get along at first, but find they have to work together to survive or to deal with a problem. And of course, in romances that’s the heart of the issue.
That’s how I start to write each romance, how I develop the idea and work it out. It always begins with a simple but strong conflict between two characters. For the sake of brevity I’ll refer to heroes and heroines, but this system can be adapted to same-sex romances just as well.
Every love story, from the most famous to the most obscure, can be boiled down to a simple but strong conflict. Gone with the Wind began with, “She loves him. But he’s going to marry another woman” though it slowly changed to “He loves her. But she’s infatuated with another man”. In The Thorn Birds, it was, “She loves him. But he’s a priest.”
That’s the heart of the matter, in other words, and the rest of the story grows from it. Nearly everything else can be changed – the characters’ descriptions, the style and the setting. Romeo and Juliet worked just as well when it took place in Verona Beach (William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet) and in New York City (West Side Story). But the core conflict between two people is the foundation stone.
Stripping the story down its bare bones shows the connection between the characters : “She’s a district attorney. He’s the innocent man she once prosecuted.” It can also show the conflict which propels the plot – or better yet, do both. And this can also warn the writer if there’s not enough of a clash to keep the story going.
“She’s the owner of a fancy restaurant. He eats there all the time” probably won’t work, but “She’s the owner of a fancy restaurant. He’s the fancier competition” has inherent tension. And ideally, readers should be able to see both sides. “She’s in love with him. But he stole all her savings and burned down her home” raises the question of what exactly she’s in love with.
Summarizing the romance to a crisp soundbite will also help when the manuscript goes out into the world, either to an agent/publisher or to readers. These days, writers don’t have the luxury of explaining plots at length. Make it short and sweet, though, and it’s more likely to be memorable.
Now I have a question for you. If you write romance – in any way, shape or form – what’s the central conflict of your story?
Bio : Marian Perera studies medical laboratory technology (final year of college!) when she isn’t writing. Her first novel, a romantic fantasy called Before the Storm, was just released in paperback, and she blogs about writing, publication and every step between the two at Flights of Fantasy.
You can read the first chapter of Before the Storm HERE.
Blurb : In Dagran society Alex is a "mare", a woman used by the nobility, until her owner gifts her to his greatest enemy, Robert Demeresna. Robert wins her trust, but this mare is a Trojan horse, her owner's weapon in the battle to come. A battle fought with steam engines on the fields of Dagre, and psychic magic in the arena of her mind.
Before the Storm is available at Amazon.com.