Wednesday, March 7, 2012


At some point in a story, our hero and heroine will have a quarrel. It’s all part of the conflict(s) we introduce to make life difficult for them.

For me, it’s often the hardest part of the story to write as I dislike confrontation personally and so find it difficult to write.

I’m aware that there are many pitfalls when writing a quarrel. It’s all too easy to give the impression that the heroine is a nagging, screaming harpy, or the hero an arrogant, supercilious b….d! Readers of romance usually want to escape from the kind of quarrels that sometimes (often?) happen in real life!

Petty bickering is one sure way to turn the reader off your characters. Equally, I think we need to avoid name-calling, belittling, and verbal abuse, and neither combatant should bring up old history as part of the quarrel. Any form of physical violence is a no-no too, as is one of characters going into a lengthy sulk afterwards!

Obviously, there may be exceptions to the above, but, generally speaking, a quarrel with any of these elements shouldn’t occur between the hero and heroine unless there is a specific reason.

So where does that leave us? Basically, there should be a genuine reason for a quarrel or confrontation. It should be a valid disagreement which is related directly to either the internal or external conflict(s). Righteous anger is satisfying, but shouldn't degenerate into vindictiveness.

And it should be a fair fight. A heated exchange is good for upping the tension, a slanging match isn’t!

‘Making-up’ afterwards can always be good too!


  1. Actually, I find the quarrels to be cathartic sometimes. Gives me the chance to say all the things I wish I could in real life (if confronted with the same situation) but don't.

  2. Quarrels do add a bit of spice and the making up afterwards can be particularly steamy especially if found in a romance novel. I think it would add to the book and make it more authentic to real life in a way. Great blog Paula!


  3. I like the word sparring. It implies, to me, an exchange between equals that has undertones. The undertones are the 'meat" of the devloping relationship.

  4. I agree with you all that a 'good' quarrel can add to the plot and to the development of the characters, but at the same time it has to be handled carefully, so that it doesn't simply become a lot of petty mudslinging, or indeed 'much ado about nothing'.

  5. When dealing with characters in a story, the confrontations can be the climax in some cases.

  6. Quarrels can definitely add to the tension and conflict in a story.

    And I couldn't agree more about the making up afterwards!

  7. We're all agreed about quarrels being 'necessary' but I sometimes find it difficult to write them so that they come over as fair fights, since quarrels can often descend into pettiness which I think could alienate readers from one or both characters. I have to struggle to find the fine line when I'm writing quarrel/confrontation scenes.

  8. I don't know that that's necessarily a bad thing. It could add realism. And, sometimes, the reader relates better to characters that they have to put effort into. It can also help to show the character's arc, where they progress until the end when the hero and heroine have no choice but to be together.

  9. Depending on just how it goes, I have a harder time writing the "making up" scene than the confrontational one. ;O)