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Throwing Rocks

Laugh and the world laughs with you.
Cry and you cry alone.

That's true, right? It should be. After all none of us like listing to someone who whines all the time. We all just talked about needing a happy ending.

But isn't bad news that sells newspapers?

It's the same for novels. Bad news, or conflict on every page according to Donald Maas, is a must. It is what keeps a reader turning the pages. It is boring if everyone is happy, sad to say. I learned very early as a writer, as soon as everyone is happy, the story is over, epilogues excepted of course.

Is it perhaps that other old truism. Misery loves company? That we are happy to see that other people have troubles worse than ours?

I think it is that only more. We want to know that our hero and heroine deserve their happy ending, that it didn't just fall into their laps, but that they, like most of us, had to work for their success, whether defeating a villain or an earthquake or a bad decision. We want to know that what they defeated was worthy of them, that the villain was clever, and perhaps justified in his goals on some level, that the people saved in the fire or flood were valued, or we aren't going to care if the ending is happy or not.

Every time our hero and heroine get comfortable, we have to kick them out of their comfort zone, you know get them up a tree then throw rocks at them until they figure a way down for themselves. Isn't this what happens to us all the time and we have to pick ourselves up and try again?

When a reader truly believes in each new problem and lives them right along with your characters it is humbling and rewarding. It is also the biggest challenge for me as a writer. Now where did I put that rock?


  1. I agree...there has to be lots of ongoing conflict and angst, even if sometimes even we as the writers want to give the poor things a break! But we also want people to keep reading for the big payoff at the end.

    LOL about the throwing rocks. I don't usually tree my characters so much as I send legions of evil creatures intent on their destruction after them. Seems to keep them busy:-)

    Great post!

  2. Great post, Michele. I agree! My favorite moments as a writer are when I realize I've written myself--and my characters--into a corner and now I have to get us out of there. FUN TIMES!

  3. So true, Michele. But I find the part of getting them out of disaster a challenge and fun.


  4. Super post, Michele!
    I teach this in my classes: Conflict hooks. :) If the writing is too slow paced, too dull, add conflict. Conflict on every page. Yep. Internal/external, doesn't matter. Perfectly happy characters do not a story make. :)

    At the end, yes. But in the beginning and all the way through to the end--the bumpier the better.

    I think of it this way--perfect characters doing perfectly mundane things or even exciting things, but without conflict are perfectly boring. :)

    Who wants to hear how your best friend had a 5-Star barbecue with the richest folks in town, saw fireworks that matched Disney World's productions, and thoroughly enjoyed everything?

    Isn't it much more fun to hear how my Thanksgiving went when first we tried to light a fire in the fireplace on the coldest, iciest day of the year, yellow jackets swarmed down the chimney, then smoke began to fill the house. Now, isn't that more interesting? Wouldn't you want to hear how much worse it got? Sure! That's telling a true as it gets too! LOL Conflict reigns supreme!

  5. I think conflict plays a very important part in all books, but especially romance (reallty adds to the sexual tension, no?). As a reader, it's a lot of fun to see where characters go wrong and what they do to fix things!

  6. This is an excellent point. I am trying to think of any books I've read where there was no conflict and the only thing I could come up with were the baby books I used to read to my son. (Though my favorite, "Ten Apples Up On Top" did have a tremendous dramatic arc and a lot of suspense. Will the bear make the apples fall? Can the different animals exist peacefully through their mutual goals?) In a strange coincidence, I just finished reading a book in which conflict between both the romantic characters and their setting was practically nonexistent so the author had to invent conflict by having the "heroine" suddenly drop 50 IQ points and act like a bipolar shrew, and have the hero do all the apologizing when he should have had her committed, and this was not a comedy, and I was quite disappointed in the whole thing. So: Conflict, good. Illogical conflict, bad.

  7. Great post, Michelle. I tried to comment on this yesterday, but I was writing on my laptop at a coffee shop and, for some reason, blogger had a real problem with that. So I'm sorry for the late comment.

    I love conflict. It's one of my favorite parts of writing. I make my H/H earn their HEA. I've been known to throw in mobsters, really pushy family members, and sometimes even the dog.

    Robin :)


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