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April 30, 2012

Conflict and Chemistry

Yesterday, as I sat in the jurors waiting room doing my civic duty and reading most of the day, I read the second book in the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy by E.L. James.  I'm not a big erotica fan, but this author's quick rise to stardom has been fascinating to watch. Almost like the "Twilight Series." I read the first book, and I have to admit I enjoyed the characters tremendously.
Christian Gray is a dark hero with a tortured past who seduces the heroine, Anastasia. Their sexual chemistry and the attraction between them makes for very interesting reading. To me the characters are what made this story entertaining and kept me turning the pages.  Not the erotica or the naughty bits, but rather the way he pursues her and how she resists him. Even after he has her, she keeps turning his world upside down and antagonizing him.
Christian is an absolute control freak, and Anastasia resists him at every turn. It's such a tug and pull story that I found it hard to put down. He has definite control issues, and she's the woman to tame him. I love compelling stories with this type of conflict. The writing can be horrid, but if there is a tug and pull between the characters, where they are resisting this attraction with everything they have, I have to keep reading.
Another example of this type of story is Julie James, Practice Makes Perfect. It's the story of two lawyers vying for the same position in the firm and their attraction to one another. I couldn't sleep until I knew how that book was going to end.
As an author, to create that type of conflict/tension in a story is everything you strive for, but to actually have characters able to pull it off is a writer's dream. It's magic, and the book almost writes itself while you hang on for the ride.
Here are some of my favorite characters:  Payton and J.D in Practice Makes Perfect by Julie James, Jane and Luc in See Jane Score by Rachel Gibson, Jane and Cal in Nobody's Baby But Mine by Susan Elizabeth Phillips and of course Heather and Brandon in The Flame and The Flower by Kathleen Woodiwiss.  Some of these are older books, but the characters were memorable enough that all I have to do is think of their story and the characters appear before me. I remember their conflicts, their struggles and how delightful it was at the end.  
Good chemistry between characters keeps readers turning the pages to find out what the characters are going to do next.  So tell me, what books have you read where the characters conflicts kept you up at night reading? Was there a conflict that kept them apart? Or was the chemistry so strong you just had to know what happened next?


Liese said...

Margaret Mitchell's book can be boiled down to Sarlett O'Hara's conflict of loving two men and trying to decide between them (her words, not mine). It's this tension that propels her through all the whole book.

And it's not just the sexual tension, but rather the clash of personalities that makes it real.

Good blog!

Sylvia said...

Hi Liese,
I didn't even think about Scarlett and Rhett's story. But you're right it can be boiled down to her thinking she loved Ashley and her desiring Rhett. I kept turning the pages. Good point!

Vicki Batman, sassy writer said...

I love the "will they, won't they" issues. Something always gets in the way of the romance until the characters can overcome it to find their happiness.

I don't know if I'll read 50 shades of Gray. It certainly has garnered a lot of attention. Is it a must read, Sylvia?

Patricia said...

I just found Susan Elizabeth Phillips and read her Simply Irresistible and loved the tug and pull between the couple. I would never have guessed she'd end up with him, given the beginning of the story. I'm on to another one of her novels and will have to read the one you mention.
Thank you.

Sylvia said...

I really like the characters. I don't know if it's a must read. The erotica part is hot, but it really fits into the story. The ending of the first one irritated me, but the second one has been good so far.

I love SEP. I couldn't find the book last night, but one of her stories opens with the heroine's dog peeing on her father's casket. I've let someone borrow the book, but it's one of my favorites. She's a must buy for me everytime she has a book that comes out.

Unknown said...

Love, love, love, love these:
Jane and Luc in See Jane Score by Rachel Gibson, Jane and Cal in Nobody's Baby But Mine by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. did I say LOVE these? LOL. We certainly seem to share the same tastes. I adore the tug of war between these characters. So very clever and yes...magic.

Sylvia said...

Hi Karen,
See Jane Score -- I've read that book at least 3 times. I pick it up ever so often and just reread. There was so much tension between them, I loved it. Yes, we certainly seem to share the same tastes.

Kathleen Baldwin said...

OH, this is such a good post Sylvia!

Conflict is story. No story without it. So what does that mean about us writers. Are we just so well-versed with conflict that we love to write about it?

And I enjoyed your point about how conflict contributes to chemistry.

Now I'd better go get some conflict on the page.

Sylvia said...

Hi Kathleen,
Yes, conflict is story, but how many stories have you read that were missing it? The best books have the greatest amount of conflict. Go get conflict.


Karilyn Bentley said...

Hi Sylvia,
I like Roberta Gellis's Fires of Winter. Loved the conflict between the two. Good blog about conflict!

Shmandarin said...

conflict is great! I just posted a vlog about the chicagoland vamps and I loved the tension between the two main characters Merit (that's her last name) and Ethan. They barely even kiss (in the first book) but the tension was off the pages! loved it!Found your site through the list in the making connections group on goodreads and am following you! Hope you will check out my blog as well!
Have a great day!

Kathleen Baldwin said...

as you all know, I love Pride and Prejudice. The conflict seems fairly tame but it isn't - it's the whole of the story.

There is not much action. It's inner conflict. Her prejudice pitted against his pride. Well really, she has too much pride, too, and he is woefully prejudice against her family. It's a wonderful twist, but throughout most of the story the characters are pitted against each other.

Ah, my kind of conflict. Sylvia you will be so proud of me. I actually wrote today. Lots of conflict. Because you inspired me.

Kathy Ivan said...

Sylvia, I'm really late to the party today--day job stuff. But I agree wholeheartedly you have to have the conflict between the H and H if you want a compelling story. The conflict drives the chemistry, drives the diaglog, and drives the entire story.

Love the examples that you named too, although I haven't read Fifty Shades yet.

Sylvia said...

HI Karilyn,
I use to read Roberta Gellis, but that was many years ago. I wonder if I read that one.


Sylvia said...

Hi Amanda,
Thanks for stopping by and I'll get over to visit your blog. Wow, they barely kiss and there is a lot of tension...that's a great author. I love that kind of tension/chemistry in a book.

Sylvia said...

Hi Kathleen,
I'm so glad you went and wrote today. Love Pride and Prejudice and to me that book has layers of conflict. Great book!

Sylvia said...

Hi Kathy,
Those darn day jobs just keep getting in the way. I would recommend Fifty Shades just for the characterization. It's a hot read, but the tortured hero is really good.

Elizabeth Essex said...

Great post, Sylvia!

I'm late commenting as I read the post and immediately realized what was missing from the story I've been working on—so in went more conflict.

Since I read mostly historicals, my favorite conflicted pair has to be Maddie and the Duke of Jervaux in Laura Kinsale's Flowers from the Storm. Everything about that pair, EVERYTHING, was in conflict. It was a stupendous romance as a result. Sigh.

Now back to work!