Kwitney Report 2013

Kwitney Report 2013

December 2013
Contrived Conflict vs. Not Enough Conflict in Contemporary Romance

Which is the worse story sin, contrived conflict, or not enough conflict? Stories without enough conflict tend to go limp, usually right around the middle of the story, when all the initial excitement of meeting intriguing characters and learning the story world settles down.

But stories with contrived conflict have a different problem. They have the right shape and hit all the key plot points, but like tofurky, they just donr’t taste like the real thing.

A lot of contemporaries lack the kind of conflict that keeps things jumping in other romance genres. In historicals, heroines face ruin, or a life without physical intimacy or the possibility of children, or both. In suspense, the stakes are life and death. In paranormal, there is usually a Big Bad threatening not just the hero and heroine, but all of humanity.

What contemporaries offer, though, is the resonance of conflicts that are more like the ones readers face in the real world. Some contemporary conflicts I love: Working at a career you love, but which leaves you no time for a personal life; recovering from a long illness and losing a sense of yourself as a sexual being; finding it difficult to trust a new romance after being betrayed by an old love; not recognizing a potential partner because he is younger/older/belongs to a different ethnic or religious group.

When it comes to conflict, perhaps itr’s not the size that matters – itr’s all in how the author uses it. What do you think? Read any great contemporaries lately? Let me know at: