How To Create Conflict In A Love Story, According To 4 Bestselling Romance Novelists

It's the most wonderful (read: anguished) time of the year for writers: NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. For the non-initiated, NaNoWriMo is a 30-day challenge that encourages writers to complete a 50,000-word novel during the month of November. It's harder than it sounds. Luckily, Bustle will be providing NaNoWriMo tips and tricks all month long, and today, I have some knowledge for the romance writers among you. Five romance novelists sound off on a tricky writing question: how do you create conflict between characters in a love story?

Last week, New York Times bestsellers Christina Lauren, Laura Griffin, Jennifer Probst, Alice Clayton, and JT Ellison gave us their best advice for writing sex scenes. This week, these ladies (with the exception of Alice Clayton, who struggles to write conflict) give us their best advice for creating tension, heat, and discord between two characters — you know, the kind of conflict that usually leads to passionate declarations of love. These authors all agree on one tip: you have to stay true to your characters if the tension is going to be believable.

Read below for their #1 piece of advice for creating tension between love interests. If you're looking for more stories on romance novels, urban fantasy, and women's fiction, visit XOXO After Dark

Christina Lauren

Christina Lauren is the combined pen name of long-time writing partners/besties/soulmates and brain-twins Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings, the New York Times, USA Today, and #1 international bestselling authors of the Beautiful Bastard and Wild Seasons series, Sublime, and The House. 


"The trick here is always, always, always be true to your characters. In fact, many authors start with their protagonist(s) and let the plot and conflict build around them. Know them inside and out. Their conflicts will come about through a combination of their backgrounds, their present circumstances, and their blind spots.  You are the puppeteer. Figure out who they are, what makes their lives easy, and throw a wrench right into the middle of that. In romance, it’s fun if the hero is the wrench."

Click here to buy Beautiful by Christina Lauren.

JT Ellison:

New York Times bestselling author J.T. Ellison writes dark psychological thrillers starring Nashville Homicide Lt. Taylor Jackson and medical examiner Dr. Samantha Owens, and pens the Nicholas Drummond series with #1 New York Times bestselling author Catherine Coulter. 


"Drilling down into your characters’ psyche is vital. If you know their biggest shame, you know what they’re trying to hide from their lover. When you expose their secrets, it creates immediate and realistic conflict—either they will do anything, even break up a relationship, to keep the secret hidden, or the relationship grows through acceptance and forgiveness.'

Click here to buy No One Knows by J.T. Ellison.

Laura Griffin: 

New York Times bestselling author Laura Griffin is the author of the Tracers series, the Alpha Crew series, the Moreno & Hart series and several other novels. 

"Sometimes it’s tricky to create a conflict that you can sustain for 400-plus manuscript pages. It shouldn’t be a misunderstanding that could be cleared up with a simple conversation. I’ve found the best conflicts arise when characters have conflicting goals. Put the goals of your hero and heroine on a collision course and sparks will fly."

Jennifer Probst: 

Jennifer Probst’s novels, novellas, and ebooks range from sexy contemporary romance to erotica. She is a New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author. 

"One of my favorite ways to create believable conflicts between love interests revolve around pitting two completely different personality types against each other. This is a natural way to bring humor and depth to the characters, along with an innate conflict that comes from being forced to deal with someone who has different beliefs than you. For instance, in Searching for Always, my hero is an alpha, cynical, junk eating, smart-ass cop who was mandated to anger management class. My heroine is a yoga teacher, vegetarian, positive, and teaches the anger class. This was a perfect foil for disaster, conflict, and humor. Take your hero and create a heroine that is his complete opposite, force them together, and watch the sparks fly!"

Images: Redd Angelo/Unsplash

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