I’m sure you know that every romance author’s life is just as full of fluttering eyelashes, words of endearment, and sweet kisses as the the life of the heroines in her books.
Oh, wait. Wrong script.
What our lives are full of is conflict. How enthralled would you be by a story if two characters met, fell instantly and breathlessly in love, vowed their lives to each other, and rode off into the sunset with nary a harsh word or misunderstanding?
It’s conflict, also known as tension, that makes readers turn pages. And frankly, last week, it was conflict, also known as unpleasant circumstances, that made me want to turn the pages… and get through this chapter of life, already!
On Sunday, as I was cooking lunch, the power flickered once and went out. Cloudy outside, yes. Storm? No. I stared across the room at my wall-mounted computer and its blank screen. Would there be a surge when the electricity came back? Best not to chance it. I unplugged the machine, my husband’s laptop, and a few other electronic items. After lunch, I began to wonder what had caused the outage so logged into a local news Facebook page on my phone. A car accident had taken out a power pole, and the estimated time of repair was still many hours away.
I wasn’t worried about the manuscript I had been working on (other than the looming deadline!) as I know the program I use, Scrivener, saves constantly. I have the Scrivener app on my iPad but couldn’t sync it with the computer or Dropbox, so I opened the manuscript with the next deadline and wrote a chapter on that file. Power finally resumed about 10pm. I noted it and went happily to bed.
The next morning, I — first person, as my husband and son were both working out of town for a few days — had no water. We’re on a well out on the farm, and I was pretty sure that the pump had lost prime due to the power outage. “Someone” needed to prime it. That someone wasn’t going to be me but, after a couple of hours, my brother-in-law was able to come by. (Thank you, Dan!) All systems go.
See how mean I could be to a heroine? I’m saving this all up. But a good story has more than one kind of conflict.
On Tuesday, a friend phoned me to tell me her rheumatoid arthritis had flared badly with a rare reaction to a prescription drug. Her skin from head to toe was itchy, painful, and peeling, and she was in need of prayer and support.
I hate to admit I’ve given characters in stories equally terrible physical conditions. Sometimes I’ve even rubbed my hands in glee as I did so. But for a real-life person going through this real-life pain, it is not so amusing. (Please pray for Liz.)
You’d think that would be enough “tension” or “conflict” for one week, but… no. The next morning while I was in the shower, I heard the toilet burp and gurgle. Hmm. It’s not supposed to make that sound. Remember, hubby and son both working out of town this week. I phoned my father-in-law, a retired plumber/gasfitter. Was this nasty burp the result of the item on my to-do list that I kept not doing? The one entitled: get the septic tank pumped? Dad affirmed that it could, indeed, be that… although it could also be something like a bird stuck in the sewer vent, or possibly a clog in the line between the house and the septic tank. Oh, good. (That was sarcasm, if you missed it…)
First things first. Called the septic tank pumper guy. He came and did his thing, which needed doing, but didn’t solve the problem. A few test flushes later, and the toilet was full, thankfully of clean water. I went outside to write a check for the guy and think about my next plan of action (making sure the holiday trailer had water and power, so I could use those facilities), came back in, and discovered several gallons of water on the bathroom floor… and out into the porch. Clean water, thankfully. Turned off the toilet valve as apparently it had sprung a leak. Mopped up the floor.
And I thought about all the ways I could make my characters’ lives way more miserable than I ever had before. Three comparatively little things (power, water in, water out) and one big thing (health) that I have not used to full advantage in my novels yet. Hmm.
Meanwhile, my wondeful husband arrived home from several long days at his physically demanding job and snaked out the sewer line. All systems are go. Again. And I have to tell you that, having been married 36 years (on August 30), I’ll take power, water in, and water out over simpering looks any day of the week. Real-life love tackles real-life problems and finds solutions.
Now I’m ready to start a new story and see what havoc I can wreak! Look out, characters!
Sadly (?), I had a whole different list of conflicts and tensions in mind when I wrote Butterflies on Breezes, the second Urban Farm Fresh Romance, which currently on pre-order. Here’s a bit about that story:
Love rarely lands where it’s expected.
Working for her dad’s landscaping business stifles Linnea Ranta. When she’s invited to design and build a community garden with an intriguing master carpenter, she seizes the chance to unfurl her wings, but at what expense to her heart?
Logan Dermott eases back his flirting when he senses Linnea’s fragility, but she has more backbone than he suspected. As they work together, Logan finds he’s falling for her, but it may be too late to win her love.
Will Linnea break free of her chrysalis and fly away before Logan realizes what he almost had?
Tell me about some real-life problems you’ve had that would make fodder for story conflicts, especially if it’s not a conflict you’ve seen in a romance novel! I’m offering two commenters a digital copy of Butterflies on Breezes. Winner to be announced in the August 28 Sunday Edition.