Couples in Fiction Need Conflict

Why do couples in fiction need conflict?

Because if you don’t have conflict, you don’t have much of a story. Let’s say I write a story about an engaged couple and all the mishaps that occur during the week leading up to their wedding, I’ll have the caterer cancel, the best man bow out because he has a terrible case of poison ivy, and the bride’s mother and mother-in-law locked in a passive-aggressive war over how to plan the wedding.

Now if the couple are never in conflict, then when they learn about the caterer, the bride suggests to the groom that they ask all the guests to bring one dish and the reception will be potluck. The groom loves the idea of friends and family helping them out in an emergency. The bride also suggests the groom ask his father to step into the best man role, and the groom agrees because he’s been quarreling with his father and now is the perfect time to bury the hatchet. The groom mediates between the two mothers, and the bride completely supports how he handles the situation.

Do you sense any story at all in that synopsis?

Couples in fiction need conflict for several reasons. First, to make a story. Stories must have a beginning, middle, and end, and those are usually described in terms of introducing the problem, efforts to solve or overcome the problem, and finally reaching a resolution of some kind with the problem.

Second, conflict is life, and if you want your couple to make any connection with your readers, you must add conflict to make the couple seem real. Third, conflict keeps readers reading. If you set up the conflict correctly, then readers will want to know how the couple deals with the conflict and what their ultimate solution is.

So how do you give a fictitious couple conflict?

Conflict in Goals

Giving the man and woman differing goals will create conflict, especially if the goals are mutually exclusive, such as the woman gets her dream job in Miami but that means the man leaves his dream job in Maine.

Conflict in Personalities

Opposites often attract, and a conflict in personalities is even more effective if the personality trait both attracts and frustrates the other person. For more on creating an attractive couple, click here.

Let’s say you’ve created an artistic, disorganized, laid-back woman character who’s fallen for a Type-A man character. She admires his take-charge personality and how well he accomplishes things. But she’s learning he also doesn’t ask her for advice on anything since he’s so sure he knows all the answers. He could admire her mellow attitude but also be frustrated when she doesn’t exhibit drive or ambition.

Conflict in Values

This one is serious in real life. It’s very hard to remain a couple if the members don’t agree on similar values. In fiction, you can reveal this conflict with children. Couples can gloss over different values until they have to apply them to their kids. Using the couple from above, what if Type-A Dad wants his kids signed up for every advanced class and sports opportunity while Mellow Mom wants to give the kids time to explore their own interests at their own pace? Now you have conflict you can work with.

Since couples in fiction need conflict, what kinds of conflict do you recommend? Or what kinds of conflict have you read about that really made the story effective?

Creating Christian Characters

Along with my new theme for the month, I have a new author to introduce to you, Rocklyn Grace. Rocklyn has recently published her first Christian novel and writes about creating Christian characters. Welcome, Rocklyn!

I am a new author, and I am a Christian. I decided to enter the world of writing Christian Fiction because when I read that literature, I saw beautifully created characters. I also saw characters who did not strike me as “real” in the scheme of life and living in the world.

On the pendulum, some had the proverbial “thorn in the flesh”; some had other issues concerning prayer, understanding the Bible, or church attendance. On the opposing swing of characters, I saw characters so caught up in spiritual matters that the plot of the novel would be consumed by that which is “unseen”–angels, demons, and such interactions. 

Don’t get me wrong here: I loved reading those books. 

I noted, however, an opportunity for myself to create a Christian character that might reach a slightly wider audience — an audience that dips into both arenas of believers and unbelievers.

Thus, I crafted my goal: Create reality in my Christian characters. That is, they have the following characteristics:

  • They are believers who are highly flawed in some way — or many ways. 
  • They do not live easy lives. 
  • They struggle to read the bible sometimes. 
  • They question God even though they are convinced of His existence. 
  • They might struggle to pray or even utter a curse word in between a quick beseech of God for some much-needed grace and mercy.

In fact, one of my characters may outright sin and suffer consequences thereof, but the same character will also experience strength in weakness and the redemption, the table set before him/her found because of walking through death’s shadow.

How much greater the reconciliation when the reality of life is actively engaged by a character, and thereby, a reader. 

Here is my crafting process, or the questions I answer for him/her: 

  • What “flaw” will my character struggle with? 
  • How does that affect their actions? Their words?
  • Their laughter and joy? 
  • How does that affect their interactions with an antagonist? Another protagonist? A parent? A sibling? A husband/wife or fiancé?
  • How does it affect their reactions to types of trauma to themselves? Toward others? 
  • Ultimately: How does the flaw manifest in everyday situations? 

And finally, how does the redemptive power of Jesus rescue, heal, and help the character? How does that affect others around the character?

Once I have my character created — with those questions answered, it’s then a fantastic journey to write their story, let them face challenges, and always find Jesus.


Soaring Eagle dreams of reuniting his family and his western rural tribe despite the dystopian government restrictions that have forced them apart. In his efforts to pursue his goals, his plans are thwarted by his capture and a young woman who saves him from certain execution in the only way the laws of her sector allow: marriage. His entire life is upended, his secrets exposed, and now Soaring Eagle must seek a new pathway to his dream. How can he unite his family without losing the woman he also desires?


Rocklyn Grace lives in the beautiful mountains of Colorado where life is wildly free and beautifully peaceful. She raised two sons with her husband. Together, they fill the empty nest with rock music and loud praise. Rocklyn loves morning coffee, sunsets in the cool evenings, and the interruption of a moonbeam across the living room late at night. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

Setting Fuels Character, Character Fuels Setting

Writers often offer advice on plot, setting, and character as if they were distinct story devices that barely had any association with each other until a writer pulls them into a story. But those three components are all interwoven. Since my theme this month is setting, this post will focus on how setting fuels characters and character fuels setting. If some plot creeps into the article, I can’t help it. Plot, setting, and character are a tight knit family, and I never know when one will come barging in to hang out with the other two.

In real life, environments shape the people who live in them. I’ve lived in a rural county in Ohio for the past fourteen years. I see the world differently from my sisters, although we all grew up in the same small town. They have spent the past several years living in suburbs that are less than an hour’s drive from me. Our homes, and the events that have occurred in them, influence who we are

Pick a setting, any setting

Let’s say I want to write a mystery set on the coast of North Carolina, near Emerald Isle. If my characters have lived by the sea all their lives, that environment will fuel their development. If a man is a fisherman, he can realistically be hard-working and stoic because he learned he must work with the sea when it turns nasty on him. Or he could be hard-working and laid back, having learned he can’t control the ocean but must roll with the punches it metes out.

Emerald Isle is a huge vacation destination. I can believably add characters who are not from that area. Fish-out-of-water stories are a lot of fun as characters clash in a setting familiar to some and alien to others.

In my North Carolina mystery, the fisherman takes several city dudes on a chartered fishing trip. One of the dudes is very snobbish. Another is very competitive. Maybe a powerful entrepreneur or rising politician. A third is new to fishing and very excited about his first ocean fishing trip. One of the vacationers dies on the boat under mysterious circumstances.

When the police suspect the fisherman, he and several other charter boat captains play amateur detectives because they don’t want an unsolved murder to adversely affect their businesses. So careful thought about my setting has let the setting fuel character and characters fuel setting.

In my Work-In-Progress (WIP), my main character Rae is trying to fit into a rural county in Ohio as she gets to know her father and his family for the first time. She grew up in the South, moving many times with her mother before she died. Rae is used to small town living but has never had a chance to put down roots.

Rae is an introvert and shy. She would like to make friends but feels she isn’t good at it because she could never make lasting friends anywhere she and her mother lived. The frequent changes in her environment fuel her personality.

What stories do you know in which setting fuels character and character fuels setting?

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