Tuesday, January 22, 2013

What Scares You as Conflict

Terri Reed here.  I'm going to piggy back on Margaret's post from yesterday and tackle it from the writing aspect.  The question Margaret posed, What Scares You, is one I ask my characters when I'm first developing them.  A dear friend taught me the onion method.  Sounds stinky right, but its great.  You ask this question of the character.  The first answer is very superficial and benign.  Guys might say, nothing or something that relates to their job, like a cop saying shooting an innocent bystander.  Women might say something like, snakes! (my answer!) or the answer will be more relational such as someone hurting someone they love.  This outer layer of the onion, if you will.   You ask again.  Okay the next answer might have a bit more substance, be a bit more personal, but still only the second layer.  You keep asking the question, peeling away the layers until you find the heart of what scares the character, which is usually a deep seated psychological fear.   This fear is not rational, even though it might be easily understood, i.e.: abandonment, betrayal, unlovable, unworthy.   This fear usually stems from some wound the character has experienced in their past, most often in childhood or in a previous relationship.  In a romance, that fear is the crux of the conflict between the hero and heroine.
In my upcoming March Love Inspired Suspense, The Cowboy Target, the hero, Wyatt Monroe is a widower who's trust and heart were hurt by not only his deceased wife, but by his mother, as well.  He fears trusting his heart to any woman again.  So every interaction with the heroine, Jackie Blain is tainted by this distrust to the point where he is willing to let her walk away rather than let God heal his heart and risking trusting again.
To see how they worked out their conflict, you'll have to read the book!  (Jackie has her fair share as well--it wouldn't be a good romance without lots of conflict :-)

"Reed's fast paced action will keep readers wondering who and why in this quick enjoyable read." Romantic Times Magazine 4 stars  


  1. makes a lot of sense. While I have a major fear of dogs. I know due to issues growing up I have a low self esteem and have always felt I was being compared to my brother, mother etc. I know in some ways I was as I would get the comments your brother did that etc. So I can see how characters deal with issues from childhood and its great seeing this in books.

  2. I love peeling onions...but only in a story! :)

    I agree! The deep-rooted internal conflict is often hard for the hero or heroine to recognize. He/she has buried the wound and often can't see how that past pain affects their current relationship. Of course, healing comes along with the HEA!

    Great post, Terri!

  3. Interesting and so true for characters. And real people.

  4. Jenny, I hope that you know you are a beautiful child of God and in His eyes you're incomparable.

    Debby, yes, that every allusive HEA is what its all about.

    Lenora, definitely true for real people. But God is greater than our wounds. Thankfully.

  5. I meant very allusive not every allusive. I'm tired. Ive been traveling today and visiting with my mother who has a brain tumor and dementia. She fell recently and broke her wrist. It didn't set well and is now a bit deformed. She's in some pain and cranky.