Some Write It Hot

November 23, 2010

What, no conflict? by Lillian Grant

Filed under: Writing life — dangerouslysexy @ 04:00
Tags: , , , ,

I was working on an idea for NaNo the other day. (NaNo is a special kind of torture where writers go insane and sign up to write fifty thousand words in thirty days.) Anyway, I was working on plot ideas and my eldest wandered into my office and asked what I’m doing.

“Plotting,” says I, “My story needs conflict.”

His response. “Is it a war novel?”

Nooo, it’s romance of course!

So, why do you need conflict? Poor delusion child. I explained how it goes. Girl meets boy, or vise versa, they feel attracted, fall in love, something happens to pull them apart (conflict), they overcome the obstacle and live happily ever after.

He grins at me. “I’ve got a conflict for you. How about your hero is abducted by aliens. They probe him and when he returns to earth he’s gay. Now the heroine has to either get herself changed into a man or find the aliens to reverse the procedure if she wants to save their relationship.”

I do apologize for him. I gave birth to him and after that I have no idea what went wrong.

Funnily enough, around the same time as my son was regaling me with even more ridiculous ideas, a whole discussion opened up on Romance Divas about novels being contracted with no conflict in the plot and didn’t readers want conflict anymore.

I myself have a novella that has been tossed back at me by a publisher because it has no conflict. But I actually don’t mind stories without conflict. Hell, my favorite book of all time doesn’t even have a plot. I defy anyone to read Hunter S. Thompson’s Rum Diary and find the purpose of the book. Just when you think it’s about to get to the reason, the bit that ties it all together, it ends. Despite Hunter’s massive oversight in writing a book that has no real point, other than to meander through the life of journalist Paul Kemp as he lurches from drink to drink and from one apparent disaster to another, it’s a brilliant book.

Let’s be honest, most people don’t have romances with conflict, most relationships are not all Romeo and Juliet with calamity around every corner. Unfortunately my own romantic history has been full of conflict and hand wringing. Maybe that’s why I can accept a story where it’s all love and laughter because it’s not my experience of real life. How about you? Do you want conflict in your romance?

Read more from Lillian Grant at her website


  1. I wait to be lambasted for this. MY first ms, Midnight Sun was/is more in the vein of chicklit. Meant as lighter funnier fare to set the stage and the players for what follows. It has a plot, it has conflict, but not so much between hero and heroine. As a matter of fact, my hero was more of a constant calming influence. Maybe it is the time of life I have reached or the personal hurdles I have overcome, but I can’t deal with too much angst. Maybe it’s just me… I want to enjoy what I read, not have my heart torn out at every turn.

    Comment by Debbie Vaughan — November 23, 2010 @ 05:45 | Reply

  2. Yes, there are those who enjoy stories without plot, books without purpose.
    I’m not one of them.

    Comment by KevaD — November 23, 2010 @ 07:16 | Reply

  3. First and foremost, your son’s idea cracked me up. As far as conflict, the more the better for me. Gotta have it. Gotta write it.

    Comment by Jerri — November 23, 2010 @ 07:57 | Reply

  4. I like conflict but I don’t like constant fighting between the hero and heroine. Discussions and disagreements are okay but I don’t like (especially the heroine) to be childish in their anger. Otherwise, I do like conflict. Mostly internal.

    Comment by Judith Leger — November 23, 2010 @ 09:26 | Reply

  5. I’ve got to admit I like conflict in my stories. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t have to be all tragic but there needs to be something to keep them apart otherwise…. well the story is just a little bit flat.

    Comment by Lauren Fraser — November 23, 2010 @ 11:44 | Reply

  6. I love conflict in stories. Usually though I’m for external conflict, not so much internal. I want to know if the hero/heroine will LIVE through the next moment to get to the relationship stuff, LOL. But yes, if done correctly I like emotional conflict too. If there isn’t any conflict or point to the story, I do feel as though I wasted my time (and money) in making the purchase. Sort of like Anchorman. If this is your favorite movie, I apologize. However, at the end of the movie I looked at my husband and said, “Now how do I get my two hours back?”

    Comment by Elaina Lee — November 23, 2010 @ 12:25 | Reply

  7. Thanks for the comments. I guess Debbie and I are the ones in the we don’t mind if a story has little conflict camp. Anymore votes?

    Comment by Lillian Grant — November 23, 2010 @ 13:39 | Reply

  8. I have thought about it all day and stand by my original comments. HOWEVER…
    I like conflict where the hero and heroine act together to achieve the outcome.
    I do not like constant petty squabbles and arguments between two adults who should be able to sit down and talk it out. Sorry, it’s not just me I asked my 6 co-workers at the library which included two men. They don’t like when the hero and heroine are at each others throats.

    Comment by Debbie Vaughan — November 23, 2010 @ 15:19 | Reply

  9. Time for the neophyte to add his one cent.

    I had a talk with one of my characters one day and here’s what he left me with; “Would you want to live this life that you’ve written for me? Could you live it? Could you possibly withstand the turmoil, devastation, and tribulation that you expect me to withstand page after page?”

    I remember watching “Good Times”. Some of you might not remember the blaxploitation era of television. But I remember when the Evans family were Finally going to get out of the projects. James had finally got that “Good” job he was always searching for, working on an Alaskan pipeline. JJ was an up and coming ad executive. Michael was a straight A Law prospect. Thelma married a pro football star. Things couldn’t have gotten better.

    And then, JJ cost Thelma’s husband his career when he tripped over him and busted his knee. Michael lost his scholarship because he was too militant to know when to control his tongue in class. JJ lost his job. And then Florida got that phone call from Alaska that informed us all that James had died. “Damn! Damn! DAMN!!” (who remembers that?)

    What’s my point? We love to read about conflict. It keeps our interest. But it has to be tempered with compassion for our characters.

    That’s the most I’m going to ever post as a comment.


    Comment by Cornelle — November 24, 2010 @ 17:05 | Reply

  10. Oops…I forgot to mention that you wrote an absolutely thought-provoking post. (I must have edited that out of my original text.)


    Comment by Cornelle — November 24, 2010 @ 17:08 | Reply

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