Sunday, July 22, 2007

Is Too Much of a Good Thing is Still Too Much ?

Since I missed my day this week, I decided to wait until the freebie days to post. Sorry, but I'm recovering from surgery and at the beginning of the week I still had trouble sitting at the computer for long periods of time, as my liver felt in danger of exploding. Not a good visual, and not a great feeling either. But now, I'm back to my old sparkely self and ready to put in my two cents on conflict. (I didn't see that it was a theme week, but since it seems a good one, thought I'd follow suit.)

We all know as writers that conflict is a good thing. It's what drives our plots and keeps our characters from getting together too quickly. It's the journey and strife they must overcome in order to gain the reward. Given that...can we ever have too much conflict? My opinion is yes.

There seems to be a push lately that says that something exciting and action-packed must happen on every page. Sorry, Homey don't play that. I like action-centered stories just as much as the next rabid reader, but I like a little character development and backstory chucked in there for reference. Please. When your characters must try to evolve and resolve their romantic complication amid bombs bursting and cars flipping and shoot outs and kidnappings and running for their lives...ummmm...it's kind of hard to build a relationship or grab a little nookie. I'm told I write action-filled stories, so does this make me a hypocrit? God, I hope not. But I do think that entwined in the action scenes I have good solid relationship and character building. I've also been told that action and conflict aren't the same thing. I think it all depends on the scenario. I'm thinking right now of a contracted novella I have with Red Sage, titled Mind Games.

Mind Games is a futuristic that involves two characters who are on the run from a government agency ran by the heroine's father. What I tried to do in that story is in between the glider chases (I did say futuristic) and shoot outs with the cops, I put the relationship parts, so I went from hard action to emotional action. From external conflict to internal conflict. Most of the conflict in this story is external when it comes to the hero and heroine. But then it's a novella, so I really didn't have the space for a long lengthy drawn out conflict between the two of them. Which brings me to another point: picking your battles.

At a recent meeting of NJRW, Madeline Hunter gave an excellent all day workshop on conflict and putting conflict into your synopses. She mentioned the fact that relationship conflicts should be the last one's resolved in romances...and I agree...to a point. While I don't like my characters to be lovey-dovey and ready to run to the altar from page one (because, let's face it, how much fun is that?) I get very frustrated with books where the hero and heroine are hold outs all the way through the book. As in fighting and bickering on every page. I can't stand that. It drives me up a tree. In that instance, too much conflict is definately a book killer for me as a reader. That being said, I do love it when an author strikes a balance between antagonism and fun. Jenny Crusie is a master of that.

My favorite books seem to be where the hero and heroine are together working toward a common goal. Maybe the things keeping them apart are internal rather than external. One of them needs a perspective change or to grow a little to realize they need stay together after the external conflict is resolved and the bad guys/or gals are caught.

In my novel By A Silken Thread (which should have been out this month...if Trisk hadn't gone tits up) the black moment in the book happens about a third of the way through. So, very early on. But I think it works, because Marcus and Tara spend the time from that point rebuilding what they almost lost and gaining new insights and trust. At the end of the book, she must decide if she wants to stay with him in Florida or return to her family home in New Jersey. I won't tell you which she decides in case by some miracle it gets picked up by another publisher in the future. But that way I felt as if they were working toward a common goal throughout the book, but the end left room for the heroine to re-evaluate what she wanted in life.

Sometimes I think internal conflict can be more interesting than the over-the-top external types. When you get down to the nuts and bolts of character development, the internal struggles they go through are what motivates and spurs them on. It's what gets them into trouble in the first place, or keeps them trudging on when all seems lost. It's that part of them that tells them to give up, or thumb their nose at the world. I really don't think that psychologically speaking internal conflict and motivation can be separated. They are that closely linked.

Think about it next time you sit down to write out an outline or do a character sketch for a story idea. Do you have too much of a good thing, not enough or is it just right for the length of the project.

-Kat

2 comments:

Antonia Pearce said...

Excellent post, Kat. I agree. I have to admit I'm one who likes a very busy book, but I do like to have my character development as well.

Very interesting point about motivation and internal conflict being so close together. I'd never thought about it, but I suppose that's often true.

A lot of great food for thought! Thanks!

Skylar Masey said...

Kat~

Sorry to hear about the surgery, but I hope you mend fast!

I'm all for action oriented books, but I do have to save I like a good balance. I think alot of authors are trying to write like the blockbuster movies, and while it's good for an action fix, the characters don't really have the deapth to stick with a reader.

Some of the best movies and books are those that do both. (Just look at Ever After as an example of romance with action elements! :0))