Thursday, September 23, 2010


For the next few days we'll be blessed with a great thought or two from another of our contributors here at A Pen for Your Thoughts, Author Linore Rose Burkard, who stays busy at her computer creating inspirational romance for the Jane Austen soul. (I wonder if there's anyone who loves Jane Austen as much as I do!). Linore's characters take readers back in time to experience life and love during the Regency England era (circa 1800 - 1830).

Fans of Classic Romance, such as Pride & Prejudice, Emma, Sense & Sensibility, will find a kindred spirit in Linore's feisty heroine, Ariana Forsythe, who finds her heart and beliefs tested by high-society London.

If you haven't yet met Linore, I'm happy to share her with you now. She was raised in New York, where she graduated magna cum laude from the City University of New York with a Bachelor of Arts in English literature. She lives with her husband and five children in a town full of antique stores and gift shops in southwestern Ohio. Linore's hobbies include writing four new Regency novels, family movie nights, swimming, and gardening.

Linore will be with us on a regular basis here at A Pen for Your Thoughts, as she, too, offers her excellent writing tips for all of us who write and read.

Conflicting Advice 
(Writing Tip #3)
by Linore Rose Burkard

Everyone knows that a good novel has to have good conflict, right? But should it be internal conflict or external? Or should it be both? And, is there such a thing as good conflict?

Have no fear--my post today will give you all the "conflicting" advice you could want.

In all seriousness, yes, every good novel (or movie, or play) needs to have some juicy conflicts going. In a literary sense, all conflict is good, and the more layers of it you can keep juggling throughout your story, the better and more compelling the book will be.

But should it be external or internal, you ask? I try to use both in every book.

Heating Things Up ...

Internal conflict can be excruciating and is strong enough to carry a well-told story; however, it never hurts to add to the internal drama by heating things up outside your protagonist, too. In other words, layer on the external problems that amount to more conflict for your character(s).

Every conflict raises a question or two that your reader desperately wants answered. Such as:
  • How will this problem be solved?
  • What will happen to end this conflict?
  • Which will keep them reading
Before the end of the story, your job is to go back and make sure you have answered the questions, and you do this by solving the conflicts. If a conflict ends by chapter ten, create a new one.

Embedding Conflict

My published books are historicals, but I have written contemporaries, too, and embedding conflict is really part of plotting--no matter what genre you write in.If your novel is more action-driven, you are likely to use
more external conflict; if you write character-driven stories (as I do) you will have a great deal of internal conflict mixed with the external. When you can use both, you will have a powerful set-up that the reader will find compelling.

Just in case you're about to gnash your teeth because you still don't know the difference between internal and external conflict, I'll address that now. (I aim to please!)

Those Inner Churnings

Internal conflict is exactly what it sounds like: The inner churnings and workings of a mind that is torn; it is when a hero is attracted to a woman he thinks is all wrong for him; or when a heroine knows she ought to report the advances of a boss but fears retribution.

In my book, The Country House Courtship, the heroine is conflicted because she wants to marry a wealthy gentleman, but the man she is falling in love with is poor; he is of a much better character than the one who is rich, and she knows she ought to follow her heart, but her head is stubbornly holding out for the guy with the big fortune.

And this is what inner conflict is all about:
  • the head vs. the heart.
  • Reason vs. emotion.
  • Head-knowledge vs. heart-knowledge.
Whenever there is a disparity between what someone thinks they believe and what they really want, voila! You've got inner conflict.

What Happens on the Outside ...

External conflict is anything that happens outside of the character's head; for example, it could be anything from an earthquake to a chance meeting with an old enemy. It could be expectations from other people; deadlines; anything that happens TO or AROUND your character and causes trouble of some kind. In some novels, it's appropriate to have God be a source of conflict; If your character wants to do what's right but gives in to temptation, for example.

So there you have it.

Every good book must have good conflict, whether it be
  • the character vs. him or herself;
  • the character vs. the world (or some aspect of it);
  • the character vs. God.
Bring on the Layers!

How many layers of conflict can you include in your story? When it comes to fiction, bring it on! Keep a running tally sheet of how often you address each issue so that you don't inadvertently drop any of the balls you've thrown into the air, and finish smoothly by solving each and every problem!

You'll have a satisfied reader who can't wait to read your next book.

© 2010  Linore Rose Burkard The House in Grosvenor Square
Before the Seasons Ends
The Country House Courtship

(artwork borrowed from Photobucket)


  1. Great post!

    I've been toying around with a blogpost on a topic you touched on, and the insight here has helped me clarify a couple things. I may actually be able to finish it rather than let it sit in the abyss of my computer!


  2. This is wonderful hearing about how inner conflicts go. Thank you so much. Janice Ian.

  3. Excellent advice, Linore! Conflict is probably one of the hardest things for an author to master. It makes things hard on our hero and/or heroine. It makes us feel mean to dish out the hard stuff, and we so badly want to make things easy on them. But then we have no story! lol I very much enjoyed this post, and look forward to more.

  4. Thank you so much. I really needed this advice right now. Im at that point in my WIP where I need to enrich the conflict.

  5. I just responded to everyone individually and then LOST the comment, ARGH. OK, here goes again:

    Liberty, I'm glad I helped. Come by and leave us the link to see your blog post when it's done, if you like. Janice, I'm glad you found the post helpful, too.
    Delia--you are so right.It's easy for us to solve problems for our characters but harder to make them suffer. I have to constantly ask myself, 'How can I make things harder for this person?' And then DO it. As you say, without conflict there's no story. And why is that? Because story IS conflict. Thanks for commenting.

    Jan--that's a good way to put it: enriching the conflict. Another way is 'raising the stakes.' Getting the water hotter, make it boiling! (I'm getting into this.)
    Keep them squirming. You get the idea. : ) Thanks for coming by and I hope your WIP gets really painful. You know what I mean. : )

    And Shirley--thanks for having me here to post today. It's a pleasure to be here.

  6. I am a new writer. And this about conflict is so helpful. You make it sound so logical. I really appreciate it.
    Betty Fimple
    Windsor, California

  7. Wonderful subject matter. Thanks for this. I hope to print a copy for my files just so I can refer back to it. Your information helps in more than just writing stories!
    Janice Ian