Every writer and reader knows that the very essence of successful fiction is conflict. No conflict, no story. The main characters have to be challenged, confronted. We have to see them grow under pressure. They must have something big to lose and equally big to gain.
Many writers are naturals at conflict. Plot-driven, they start their process imagining a story into which they fit characters. Not me. I’m a character writer. And since i love romance, i generally start by creating two characters who will be lovers. (Or sometimes three). What kind of people are they? True, there is usually something about their characters that puts them into natural conflict — one is “in the closet” and the other blatantly gay, one is older the other younger, they want things that are opposite. That part all comes easy. But then what? What HAPPENS in the story that makes it hard for them to get together? What rips their hearts and makes us believe that maybe, just maybe this time they won’t live happily ever after? That is the rub.
You see i WANT them to be together. My natural disposition is optimistic, sunny and romantic. I don’t look for conflict in daily life and so find it hard to search for it in my books. I don’t even love conflict in other writer’s stories. Often if things get too tough, i have to stop reading for awhile because i hate the conflict so much.
The conflict i do like is often something that grows out of the nature of the character rather than an external problem. Because i like to read m/m or m/m/f romances as much as write them, the plot conflict that often attracts me is the man who hasn’t yet come to grips with his attraction for other men, or the man or woman who can’t come out or commit to the romance due to his/her life circumstances. My two current works in progress involve plot conflicts like that.
BUT, i’m always looking for conflict ideas. Got any suggestions? What kind of conflicts do you like to see in books? Is there something you’ve always wanted to see in a story? I promise to give it serious consideration, and if i use it, you’ll get the book dedicated to you, oh plot master. : )
I’m a big fan of Lynn Lorenz. (see a link to her website on my blog roll) She writes mostly m/m and m/m/f and has been a great model for me in my writing. (Ah, Lynn, bet you never knew you were a role model.) Lynn is a master of voice. Each of her characters speak so clearly, with such definition, they leap off the page at you. Who else could set a series of m/m romances in a medieval era and make us believe it! But, as usual, my personal favorites are contemporary — her Common Powers series, set in present day Texas(where Lynn lives). In this trio of m/m romances, the hook is that one of the characters has some unique “power” such as reading minds or healing. In truth, the books stand up perfectly well without this plot device because Lynn‘s characters are so strong and relationships so believable. But the power adds a fun little extra.
Of the three books in the series my absolute favorite is the last, Edward, Unconditionally. This is the story of the unlikely romance between Jack, the ultimate alpha-male and chief of police in a small Texas town, and Edward, “the gayest man alive”. (The third important character is Winston, a bulldog so adorable even dog-haters would love him.) But the heart and soul of the book is Edward–unconditionally. Edward is sensitive, loving, and wears his proverbial heart on his sleeve. The reader loves him so much it’s easy to understand why Jack does, even though he has to risk his carefully-crafted “perfect” life to have him. Readers like me who love pretty boys will find Edward sexy and lovers of alphas will want him for a best friend.
There are a lot of wonderful characters in Edward, Unconditionally such as Edward’s grandmother who he has come to heal, and all of the men who starred in the previous two books (BTW, i read this book first and had no trouble understanding all the characters and their relationships. I went back later to read their stories.) Their responses and reactions to Edward help us see him more clearly. Edward is described as dark-haired, slender and “too pretty to be a man.” In Edward’s character, Lynn captures the power of both a man and a woman. Edward may be a queen, but he’s not a girl.
I tried to find a picture that i thought might begin to capture some of Edward and really couldn’t fit my mental images in a photo. So i just went for broke and chose a picture as outrageous as Edward. The feathers? Edward at the Atlanta Gay Ball! : )
While i’m busy reviewing Lynn Lorenz wonderful, Edward Unconditionally, here are a couple more lovely images to enjoy. A young Irish man, Sebastian Bach, and the ultimate bad-boy picture of Johnathon Rhys-Meyers. Sigh.
Having recently seen the film The Girl Who Played With Fire, i was struck by the mesmerizing power of the actress, Noomi Rapace in the role of Lisbeth Salander. She is half woman/half man. It got me thinking about how captivated we are by androgynous people, how compelling and powerful they can be. I thought back to pictures of David Bowie in the ’70s. Despite being married to one of the most beautiful woman in the world, he never loses that incredibly sexy androgynous quality. Maybe we’re fascinated because such people contain the energy of both sexes, enticing us no matter what our sexual identity. As the yin/yang image shows, each half of the duality encompasses the heart of the opposite.
But not wanting to get too philosophical, here is some serious androgynous eye candy — including the amazing Tilda Swinton who played Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, the man who becomes a woman, the fantastic singer/performer, Kame, and the beautiful model Florian Pessenteiner.
When i was in high school oral sex wasn’t so much in fashion, plus i was pretty young (14-16) — so we kissed. Really well. My first serious boyfriend was such a good kisser i remember him to this day. And later i had a kissing experience that taught me that “her knees got weak” isn’t just a metaphor. So i thought i should do a little memorial to kissing.
A serious candidate for the best movie kisser is Jude Law. (see above from Cold Mountain) He’s not one of those peck and retreat guys. He stays connected in the very best way. But i recently found this picture of Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz in The Fountain (above) and thought this should be a candidate for yummiest screen kiss.
I am also a Team Edward woman, not only because i love vamps, but also because RoPat is a MUCH better kisser than Taylor Lautner.
And, of course, no memorial to kissing would be complete without a little boy/boy action featuring our own Adam. Enjoy!
Once a long time ago (before i met my honey who turns me on every day) i received a kiss that taught me the meaning of “her knees got weak”. I was recently divorced from my first husband and in that “am i no longer attractive” stage. The guy was a new crush. Very tall, movie star handsome. We were at an out-of-town semi-business dinner with some other folks and had been teasing each other all night with looks and little touches. He walked me to my hotel room door and as i was about to go in, he grabbed me, turned me around and kissed me. Realize he was 6’6″ so i was virtually airborne. All my energy rushed to my nether regions, i got lightheaded and my knees literally felt they couldn’t support me. It was just like in the novels we write. It was great.
In honor of that guy and all the people who sweep us off our feet, here’s a little commemoration of kissing.
I’m a big fan of Z. A. Maxfield and have read a number of her books including St. Nachos, Drawn Together, The Long Way Home and others. Her books generally fall right into my favorite genre, m/m contemporary, and she’s a wonderful writer with what i’ve heard appropriately described as a “lyrical” style. (Plus, we share a locale, both being from behind the Orange curtain.) A few months ago, i bought an unusual book from Maxfield called Notturno, a paranormal, m/m erotic romance. I was kind of swamped with vampires at the time (see Charlaine Harris and J. R. Ward), so i didn’t read the book until last week. I was floored. What a wonderful book.
Notturno, published in 2009 (I told you my recommendations wouldn’t be up to date) tells the story of the relationship between an ancient Italian vampire and a contemporary collector and expert in antique erotica. The plot revolves around an erotic journal that the modern man, Adin, wants to collect and the vampire, Donte, who actually wrote the journal, wants to get back. The journal is important in the story since the reader gets to see pages of it describing the love of Donte and his beloved, Auselmo, during the Renaissance era. While these extractions from the journal slow down the story the reader really doesn’t care because Maxfield’s very lyrical style is so perfectly suited to the period.
The real success of the book is that the author brings to life two great loves — that of the Renaissance lovers and that of Donte and Adin. While Donte is a terrific character, the most perfectly drawn creation of the book is, unexpectedly, the human, Adin. He has such a clear voice — irreverant, courageous, deep-thinking and a plain old wise-ass. You love Adin and consequently understand why Donte does too (unlike so many vampire stories where it’s hard to figure what the hell the vampire ever sees in the human.)
Even in a body of very enjoyable work, Notturno stands out as one of Maxfield’s very best efforts. Give it a try if you haven’t already.