Tuesday, February 12, 2008

12 Points on the 12th with Kate Walker

First of all, I have some great news about my book - The 12 Point Guide To Writing Romance. (well - it's great news for me! If you've been looking for a copy, it might not be quite so great for you.)

I heard from my publisher last week and this book is now officially SOLD OUT. He shipped the very last copies from the wharehouse and there are none left. There might be some around on or B&N .com - but not many!

But if you want a chance to win a copy of this book, Lee actually has not one but two copies of it to offer as a prize in a contest and she'll be setting that up on My Tote Bag very soon - so look out for that or for the details on my blog too.

So for today's 'point' - I'd like to look at Conflict a bit more. On my blog, I wrote a bit about this in my mini-series of hints about Writing For Presents with reference to the Harlequin Presents Instant Seduction contest, where I wrote:

It's the emotional intensity that makes a Presents novel - and to create that emotional intensity you need to have a strong and emtional conflict.

The Instant Seduction Contest is still going on - just - so I'd like to add a little more to that thought about conflict and what makes a good one - and how you can deepen and intensify it by

Adding layers to a conflict
Very few reasons for conflict, however powerful, can actually last through the whole of a book without changing, adapting, developing, or just varying in tone and emphasis. The best sorts of conflicts are those that have layers and layers of involvement, and as each one is dealt with and peeled away, it reveals another complication, another aspect of the same problem, or a different development of it, going deeper and deeper until finally the central core of the problem is exposed, ready for you characters to tackle it.

This pacing and staging of the revelations that make up the conflict adds to the suspense and the tension that keeps the reader turning the page. It also has the bonus of increasing and building on the sexual tension between the hero and heroine as they want more and more to be together but feel more and more that it will be a mistake/a danger/a disaster.

I tend to start out with a main character - either the hero or the heroine and a situation that they are in - okay - classic secret baby conflict (overused - but it's quick and easy)

So she has a baby - So what happened in the past?

Why didn't she stay with the father/tell him about the child ?

The answers to that will give me some more idea of what the conflict issues will be -

- She left him because she knew he never wanted children and she feared he would force her to choose between the baby and him and she knew she could never have a termination
Next - What is going to bring the two together

He comes back into her life Why? Has he been looking for her - or is it by accident

The answer to that will give me an idea of how he's feeling and so how he's going to react when they meet again.

Then putting the two together creates the initial conflict.

Short term conflict - She doesn't want him to know about the baby He believes she walked out on him for someone else

Long term conflict - the unresolved problem of the fact that he doesn't want children and she does and he thinks she has a new man in her life

So - the first conflict we see is that she hides the child's existence That's stage one

Stage two: - But then he sees her with the child - doesn't realise it's hers - a different conflict - should she tell him or not?
Especially as he is clearly taken with the child

Stage three : Her friend gives away the fact that the baby is hers
He now knows about the baby - but thinks it is younger than it really is - so the conflict shifts again He thinks the baby is with her new man and that's why she left. Same original conflict - but it's changing and reshaping with additional information
Stage Three - He gets to know the child - thinking it's someone else's. Then he finds out the truth

A new slant on this stage - how will he react to the realisation that he's been deceived ? He also has to face the fact that it was his own refusal to have children that made her hide the child in the first place

Stage Four: He comes to love the child - but does he love the heroine?

He explains why he didn't want children Which adds another complication.

They are building peace in order to care for the child but is there any more to it?

Black Moment He has fallen in love with his baby and insists that he wants more than just access - he wants the child in his life The heroine sees this as a demand to take the child from her - that he wants the baby not her

So you see, this all started from the original conflict of him not wanting children but not saying why

Which leads her to react in one way

And he reacts to that - which changes the situation.

And she reacts to the changed situation . . . .

So the way to develop a deep, emotional conflict is to work from the inside - to go with the characters' feelings and the way they react to each stage of the developing conflict. That reaction will spark off an answering reaction in the other person - emotional reactions, not conflicts created by outside forces.

And because the reactions, the emotions and so the conflicts come from deep inside the characters' hearts, the conflict in the book will have the emotional punch that editors are looking for.

If you want to see these changes in action - the book is HIS MIRACLE BABY (Presents Feb 02)

So Lee will set up the 12 Point Guide Contest but today's prize from me is a copy of my best-selling Presents title The Greek Tycoon's Unwilling Wife. This is the book that came out in November and you don;t have to answer a writer question for it. Seeing as Valentine's Day is coming up, tell me your favourite Valentine memory. (Mine is the year that my husband and I both bought each other the same card - because we'd both loved it and wished we could be given it instead of giving it to someone!)
Post your answers and I'll get that cat of mine to pick a winner.
You can find more about Kate Walker on her web site or on her blog


Maureen said...

My favorite memory is the Valentine's Day when we went shopping for my engagement and wedding rings.

rebekah said...

That is so funny that you bought each other the same card. My husband and I did that last year for our anniversary. After ten years of marriage I guess we think alike. My best valentines day memory happened two years ago. My husband took me into a jewerly store and said pick out the ring you want. We got married young and had kids right away, one a year for three years to be exact. We just didn't have the money for something like that back then. I tried to tell him no I didn't need a ring and that the money would be best spent else where. But he insisted telling me, "It is as much of a gift to me as it is for you, so please let me do this." So of course I got my ring and love it. But I never needed the ring to know how much I love him. He is the best husband I could have ever asked for.

Jane said...

Some of my favorite Valentine memories are from childhood. Remember when everybody in class got a Valentine, nobody was left out. Making our own Valentine's card was half the fun.

Estella said...

My favorite Valentine memory is of making valentines with my children out of paper doilies and construction paper.

Cryna said...

My favourite Valentine memory is when my late husband got my parents to look after the two children, and he took me out for a wonderful dinner at the top of one of the restaurants that looked out over the City and presented me with a watch as a gift. It was nice treat and so unexpected.

Michelle said...

January ten years ago, my husband and I eloped to London to get married (we live in Australia). We spent our honeymoon night in the Dorchestor - utterly divine. We arrived home early February, and on Feb 14 I woke to find a Dorchestor robe at the foot of our bed. That was nice.

Love your discussion about conflict, Kate. A good conflict makes for a seriously entertaining romance.

Michelle Douglas

robynl said...

My best memory is of my late Mom making beautiful Valentines Day boxes and making homemade Maple fudge to put in them and we kids would give them to our teacher.
The boxes were heart shaped and the top was covered with material, silk flowers, rick rack, pearls, beads or whatever.

deseng said...

Wow, I would have to say great minds think alike about you and your husband! That is wild! My husband buys me the sappy love ones and I buy him the cute funny ones.

My favorite Valentine memory has to be when I worked at an architectural firm for 18 years. One year, probably in 1992 or 93, Al bought me a valentine present and paid a boy to deliver it to me during the work day. Now remember I worked with a bunch of guys. Well,anyway the present was delivered mid-morning to me so the guys at the office said to open it up because they wanted to see what I got.

Well, Al bought me a single red rose and it was on top of a rectangular box. When I opened the box up inside was a new pair of strappy black shoes! The guys all roared! They thought that was so funny! I thought it was actually so thoughtful because I love shoes!

Well, anyway, lunch came and I went out to lunch with one of my friends. When I came back from lunch my new shoes were missing. Just great! Who took my shoes!? So I asked the guys if they knew where my shoes went to. Nobody knew anything. I looked and looked. I finally found them and you will never guess where they were hidden. A guy from the marketing dept. had put them in the refrigerator! I never suspected anyone doing such a thing but that is one memory that has stayed with me all these years!

Michele L.

Cherie J said...

My favorite was our first year as a couple. Hubby really spoiled me and made me feel loved.

Kate Walker said...

What lovely memories - I've so enjoyed reading them all. From the smallest childhood memory to a major life change - Michelle, your elopement story should be in a book! ;-)

It just goes to show that as I've always thought, love can show itself in so many ways and romance is the fact that someone else shows that love for you in the way that best suits you.

Thank you all for sharing.

At the end of today I'll get Sid the Cat on to the job of picking out a winner and I'll annouce it here then


Kate Walker said...

And the winner is Rebekah!

Rebekah - I'll email you personally but if you spot this first then please email me kate AT

Thank you again to everyone for sharing your memories

Kate Walker said...

Ooops - sorry - Rebekah I can't find an email to contact you so please email me kate @ (close up the spaces) with your postal address

mulberry said...

Hi Kate, I just wanted to say, thank you so much for this post! You have literally saved my sanity and kick started my progress on my Instant Seduction story, which I had got seriously stuck on. I read the post yesterday, and it must have slowly simmered away on some back-burner in my brain overnight. Because this morning (in the bath, where all my best writing ideas seem to strike- if only I could use my laptop in the bath!) I suddenly realised what the problem was, and why my characters felt so flat and cardboardy and just "not themselves", since halfway through chapter three. I'd treated the conflicts as if they were all separate issues, to be cleared up one at a time, when they are much more complex and layered, as you say. Plus I'd got the layers out of order and had the hero dealing with y, when he couldn't possibly do that until x had been dealt with. And I had to realise that the Cinderella story is more complicated than the fairy tale version- its not enough to transform my heroine externally, she still has to sort out the reasons she allowed herself to stay plain in the first place.
So again Kate, thank you, your post was just what I needed to read at just the right time!

*scurries over to amazon to place a pre-order for the new edition of the 12 Points book, then back to the laptop to get going on the story again*