New York Times, Washington Post & USA Today bestseller Sarah MacLean is the author of historical romance novels that have been translated into more than twenty languages.

Sarah is a leading advocate for the romance genre, speaking widely on its place at the nexus of gender and cultural studies. A romance columnist and co-host of the weekly romance novel podcast, Fated Mates, her work in support of romance and the women who read it earned her a place on’s Sheroes list and led Entertainment Weekly to call her “the elegantly fuming, utterly intoxicating queen of historical romance.”

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Transcript of Mastering Conflict
Two people falling in love against insurmountable odds.
The Romance Novel
Mastering the Art of Great Conflict
Insurmountable Odds
The Goal:
“If your hero is a firefighter, your heroine better be an arsonist.”
–Linda Howard
Why Can’t They Be Together?
Internal Conflict
Sarah MacLean | RWA 2015
` | @sarahmaclean |
How do we do it?
Don’t write from
a place of fear
Or, stuff happens while two idiots fall in love.
Every resolution of conflict is actually further complication
These are the bits that make the book breathless.
We want readers to say “How is she ever going to pull this off?”
Readers know great conflict instinctively.
We think: “Oh, this is going to be
Tropes work
the conflict is innate
Every bit
of conflict in a romance must work to bring the hero & heroine together!
Conflict drives the romance by keeping the hero & heroine together, but
also apart.
If there’s no conflict, readers ask themselves, what’s the point of it?
External Conflict
Layering of Conflict
If your hero & heroine can just talk it out, it’s not big enough conflict
Don’t pull your punches.

Put it all in!
Comes from either hero’s or heroine’s goals.

What they *think* they want vs. What they should want.
Ask yourself:
What about this external conflict keeps the hero and heroine on
the same page?
External conflict
also ups the stakes
(Two idiots fall in love)
What are our hero & heroine’s deepest wounds/fears?
The things that force them to hide their true selves?
The best books deftly layer internal and external conflict to keep the pages turning.
Forces outside the hero & heroine that drive the story
by throwing them together and keeping them from
being in love.
(Stuff happens)
The external conflict in your book should be clear in the first chapter.
At least some of your internal conflict should be clear in the first two chapters.
This is not easy!
What does the hero
THINK he wants most
in the world?
In order to get what he wants, he must involve the heroine.
The heroine should be blocking the hero’s desire.
Too Stupid to Live
Not enough external/internal conflict
Tips & Tricks for
Upping the Conflict
Eventually showing the hero what he ACTUALLY NEEDS–
In a romance, this wound must be healed by love of the other character.
This wound leads ultimately
to the emotional “black moment,” when the character’s baggage is revisited.
Especially Sex!
The hero’s willingness to sacrifice his initial desires for love, is the key to the breathless resolution of all conflict.
Torture your characters.
“Think of the worst thing that can happen. Do that.”
– Carrie Ryan
Use your characters’ fears against them.
Scare them into action.
Any time your characters are close to getting together, throw them an obstacle
Conflict lives in the but.
(even if he gets what he thinks he wants)