Thursday, August 2, 2012

Romance: Finding the Conflict

By Del Darcy

As we all know, conflict is what drives plot. Whether that conflict results in physical peril for the characters depends on the genre of the story and the sort of plot we're in, but some kind of conflict is essential, or there's no story at all.

In "Fair Catch," because it's at heart a romance, I looked for conflict that would be internal to the relationship, not external.

As I felt my way through the first draft, nearly ten years ago now, what I wrote about first was how the young men fell in love and became intimate. 

But those events alone aren't enough to sustain a story, unless it's very short. Every story needs some reversals, some clashes, some conflict to make it dramatic and  keep a reader turning the page. 

As I'm a seat-of-the pants writer and not an outliner, it was a slow process in that first draft to see what kind of conflict would emerge from the characters and grow organically to affect their relationship. I felt that would be a more natural, less mechanical way to find the tension that would sustain the story at novel length. For example, I didn't really want to write a story that was primarily about a gay character facing homophobia, important as that still is as a social issue, or focus on other kinds of external threats to the young lovers. 

As I wrote my way along, letting the first draft anchor itself in the events of a typical school year and typical football season for a winning team, I found that Alex and Blake's love of the game could provide the conflict the book needed. 

Alex is a star; his talents will lead him to be able to play in college. On the other hand, Blake has to face the fact that he just doesn't have what college coaches are looking for, and this situation makes him jealous of Alex. The stress which rivalry puts on their communication and the uncertainty it creates about their future added the type of conflict I wanted -- conflict that is internal to their relationship. 

Blake has to find a way to handle his jealousy before it drives Alex away. Both of them have to figure out how and if they are going to handle a long-distance relationship, something that can seem insurmountable when you're 18 or 19. 

By finding the internal conflict, I found the shape of the eventual plot of the book, and the correct pacing for its second half. I hope you enjoy it too. 

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