Monday, March 30, 2015

-Murder, Mayhem, and Misunderstandings

Ana muses about conflict in stories

Murder is an extreme conflict, but it sets up a predictable story arc in some romantic suspenses. Someone is murdered. More people may be in the villain's cross-hairs. The protagonist needs to figure out who dun it--and stop her-him--before more blood is spilled.

Mayhem is a great word. Havoc. Violent disorder. Wanton distraction or infliction of violent injury.
In paranormal romances and apocalyptic stories, mayhem is the overarching conflict. How will the hero restore order to a troubled or unjust world?

Historical bodice-rippers usually featured a heroine taming a comfortable-with-violence duke or clan chief. In more modern historical romances, the setting provides the conflict-- a time of war or a political struggle. In my historical western, greed is the motivation for kidnapping, as well as the first stepping stone toward love and redemption.

In most contemporary romances, the conflict is much less violent, but no less intense. Assumptions and misunderstandings keep the lovers apart right up through the Black Moment. To this end, we use misdirection in dialogue. We let our characters misunderstand one another.

From Self-Editing for Fiction writers: "Have them answer the unspoken question rather than the one asked out loud. Have them talk at cross purposes. Have them hedge. Disagree. Lie. [These misdirections] go a long way toward making [the characters] sound human." And authentic.


  1. I love misunderstandings. It's what carries the story forward. But even better is resolving the issues. The love and make up.

  2. My romance tends to fall in the category of misunderstanding. I like to read about murder in my cozy long as there's not too much gore! I like the word mayhem...I might need to add a bit more of that to my own writing. :)

  3. I agree with Margaret and Debra that misunderstandings can be an integral part of romance novels, as long as there are genuine reasons for them which make them difficult to resolve.
    As for murder and mayhem, well, I've not (yet) had a murder in any of my stories, and the mayhem is likely to be emotional rather than apocalyptic!

  4. Ooh, I like the sound of emotional mayhem.

    1. I think I put both my hero and heroine through some wringer of emotional mayhem in most of my stories!