Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Making Trouble

by Stephanie Black

I just finished reading Shadow of the Crown, a romantic suspense novel by Jeri Gilchrist. The protagonist, Teira Palmer, goes to her ancestral homeland of Denmark to work for a telecommunications company. While there, she spends time with her beloved grandmother, and seeks the truth about the accusations of treason that were leveled at her grandfather during World War II--stirring the ire of some very dangerous people.

One thing I particularly liked was how Jeri creates difficulties for Teira from a number of angles. We have:

*The mysterious, angry, bitter, creepy opponent who is determined to keep Teira from exposing the evil secrets he’s been keeping for decades, even if that means killing her.

*The guy at work who wants a relationship with Teira, and who is aggressive and manipulative and not above causing trouble when she spurns him.

*The gorgeous woman who is chasing the guy Teira really likes.

*The creepy security guard—what’s up with him? Is he working for the mysterious bad guy, or is he just a weirdo?

*The angry man who doesn’t want Teira talking to his father about his old friend--her supposedly traitorous grandfather.

And there’s the love interest:

*Teira’s handsome boss, Christian. Is he the ladies’ man he appears to be? Does Teira have a future with him?

Conflict is the lifeblood of fiction, and to create a rich story, you need conflict from multiple angles. When you’re plotting out your novel, seek for different angles, different layers, different ways to put pressure on your protagonist. Who, besides the main antagonist, might make trouble for the heroine?

Take the example of Sophie, the woman pursuing the guy Teira likes. She’s beautiful. She’s ruthless. She’s dismissive of Teira. She’s the daughter of the big boss. And from the possessive way she acts around Christian—even putting word out that they’re engaged—Teira isn’t sure what’s going on between Sophie and Christian. Yes, Jeri Gilchrist could still have told the story of Teira Palmer going to Denmark, falling in love with Christian, and finding out the truth about her grandfather without the presence of Sophie, but by including her, Jeri adds another layer to the story, creating delicious tension and difficulty. Readers love conflict! And in addition to raising the reader's interest level, multiple sources of tension make your characters appear more rounded and real.

Don’t be nice to your characters. Make trouble for them.


At 12/17/2008 5:49 PM, Blogger Jon Spell said...

Sophie sounds a little bit like your own Monica. Guess the competition is a good foil, probably see a lot of them in romances.

At 12/18/2008 12:51 AM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

Yep, romantic competition can be a great source of conflict.


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