I’m a middle child, so it’s no surprise that I dislike conflict. According to Dr. Kevin Levine in The Birth Order Book: Why You Are the Way You Are (Revell, 2009), middle children are mediators. We compromise, negotiate, and try not to rock the boat. In other words: we avoid conflict.
While this trait can be valuable in life, it becomes a major roadblock when I sit down to write romantic suspense. Conflict is one of the cornerstones of writing fiction. Characters must face internal and external problems in every story. Without them, there is no book. When authors shy away from including conflict, the resulting text is boring.
Obstacles make characters struggle to reach their goals and keep the story of Jack and Jill solving a murder while falling in love from putting readers to sleep. Conflict places the outcome of a situation in doubt and makes a book exciting. It keeps readers turning pages to see how the character will solve a horrible problem, get themselves out of a jam, or find the happiness and safety they deserve. The friction, tension, and opposition of conflict is the fuel that powers a well-written novel.
So in my efforts to write an exciting book, I must fight my tendency to avoid conflict. And when I wreck my characters’ lives and deliberately make their problems worse, I cause myself inner conflict by acting in a manner that runs counter to my instincts. Physically and emotionally hurting the characters I love is hard work. That’s probably why I enjoy finishing a book and giving my characters a happy ending.
It feels so good to eliminate all that nasty conflict.