Goals as Foundation for Conflict

2013 is going to be a landmark year for me. I’ve got two books coming out with Lyrical Press, Wishing for a Highlander and Road Rage. While I’m getting these two books ready for prime time, I’ve got some other wips (works in progress) in process, but I find myself struggling with plotting. Nailing that perfect blend of goals, motivation, and conflict PLUS romance is a big challenge on its own. Add to that all the challenges of being a wife & mommy, a critiquer, and a social media participant, and I find myself with little mental energy to give to plotting. So what’s a determined author to do?

Read. Study. And read some more.

When my creative well runs dry, I read. A lot. And I take notes on what works and doesn’t work for me. Lately, I’ve been paying attention to beginnings, how authors set up the story. Who are the H/h? What’s important to them? Where are they in their lives when they meet each other? What must they accomplish to earn their HEA (happily ever after)? Some authors I’ve read recently who do a fabulous job of setting up beginnings are: Charlotte Stein, Loretta Chase, Ruthie Knox, Cara McKenna, and Eden Connor.

I’m currently reading Tip of the Spear by Marie Harte and loving it because her beginning is so strong. Her hero and heroine both have strong goals and motivation. Not only are their goals and motivations strong, but they are diametrically opposed to them having a HEA together. They each want something that, if they achieve their goals, will result in them returning to separate lives in separate nations. It leaves me wondering, How ever will they find a HEA together? That, my friends, is excellent conflict.

This kind of conflict is masterful. It inspires me to dig deeper for my characters and find ways for them to oppose each other in external conflict (goals separate from the romantic development) even as they help each other overcome internal conflict (baggage or personalities that keep them romantically apart). I’m realizing that the most powerful conflict comes not just from challenging circumstances but from mutually exclusive goals. It’s in overcoming the impossible that the most poignant joy arises.

Thanks, Marie Harte, for the inspiration. And thanks for writing a wonderful novel. I’ll be giving Tip of the Spear a review in a week or two for my Free Publicity Fridays feature, so be sure to check back.

What authors challenge you to be a better writer? What stories inspire you because the characters overcome the impossible?

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About Jessi Gage

Jessi lives with her husband and children in the Seattle area. She’s a passionate reader of all genres of romance, especially anything involving the paranormal. Ghosts, demons, vampires, witches, weres, faeries...you name it, she’ll read it. As for writing, she's sticking to Highlanders and contemporaries with a paranormal twist (for now). A career student (aka indecisive and inquisitive bookworm), Jessi brings her love of research to her worlds and characters. Her guiding tenet in her writing is that good always trumps evil, but not before evil gives good one heck of a run for its money. The last time she imagined a world without romance novels, her husband found her crouched in the corner, rocking.
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8 Responses to Goals as Foundation for Conflict

  1. I am pretty eclectic in my tastes in writers, but my favorites who challenge me to be better are Julie Garwood, Cherise Sinclair, Kaye Chambers (love her opens and her dialogue) and Joey W Hill.

    • Jessi Gage says:

      Ooh, I’ve read Cherise Sinclair and love her. I will check out Julie Garwood (I’ve heard of her but haven’t read her yet) and the others you mentioned. Thanks for stopping by Kitt!

  2. Congratulations on Road Rage coming out. I hadn’t heard about this one. Yay–you must be so excited.

  3. Amy Raby says:

    I love conflicting goals as a source of conflict! Authors that challenge me to be a better writer:

    Jo Bourne, for dialogue, dialect, and historical detail.
    Ruthie Knox, for freshness of voice, flawless structure, and hot sex scenes.
    Cecilia Grant, for historical voice that actually sounds historical, and hot sex scenes.
    Darynda Jones, for being funny on every single page.

    Just a sample–I’m sure I could think of more.

    • Jessi Gage says:

      I agree on Jo Bourne and Ruthie Knox. I haven’t read Cecilia Grant or Darynda Jones, but I have Darynda on my TBR list. I’ll have to add Cecilia, too. Thanks!

  4. Great points, Jessica. Reading books that challenge us to be better is one of the foundational ways we writers grow, at least in my opinion. You have a talent for breaking these things down so clearly. Thanks for sharing it with the rest of us.

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