Extra: Jenny and Bob Brainstorm the Romance Conflict in The Devil in Nita Dodd

We mentioned in the Central Conflict Post that we’d veered off topic (surprise) and talked about my plot problems with Nita.  Here is that discussion:

Bob

Re-reading what you wrote– perhaps the romance comes to life over both caring about the political plot?

 

Jenny

The political plot is definitely a complication, the way any good subplot should be.

 

But because the political plot has such a strong conflict, it suckered me into thinking the romance did, too.

When I separated the romance plot out, the romance conflict fell apart.

 

Bob

Which means you needed the romance to fix the political problem.

 

Jenny

They’re pretty united on taking down the political antagonist without the romance; that is, they’ll both do it because it’s the right thing to do, regardless of whether they’re lovers.  The conflict is that the bad guy is trying to kill them because they’re thwarting his plans.

 

It’s a power struggle in Hell, but it’s being played out on the island.

 

Bob

Right– but if they solve the political problem, do they want the same thing to result afterward?

 

Jenny

Yes.

They are both heavily in favor of good government and no killing or exploitation of the innocent.

 

Bob

Make them want different things afterward. And then the romance is culminated by one of them giving up what he thought for what she thinks because she has a better idea.

 

Jenny

Oh, wait, I HAVE THAT.

I’m a genius.

 

The conflict is not about the political plot, it’s about the romance plot, but that’s even better.

 

Bob

There are people who would prefer more socialism afterward and people who want less government.

 

Jenny

Yes, but we don’t care about those people (g).  We just saved two societies.  And now we own a bar that’s full of our friends.  We’re really happy.

I write cheerful books, remember?

 

Bob

I know, but what if your characters disagree about exactly how the society afterward develops?

 

Jenny

They’re not that controlling.  They’re more caretakers, fixers.  There’s a problem, they come in.  As long as everybody plays nice, they don’t care about the form of government that ensues, that’s too far in the weeds for them.

 

Bob

But everyone never plays nice.

Remember, “Antifa” grew out of the communist party in Germany pre-WWII.  But you could also call the guys who landed at Normandy ANTIFA.

 

Jenny

Antifa is so many different things right now, it might as well be “protest.”

 

Bob

Right.

But after the war those guys at Normandy ended up opposing the communists.

 

Jenny

Yes, the situation evolved, but when a social system is working for the people in it, momentum tends to keep it moving.  The arc of the universe bends toward justice.

 

Bob

Love your optimism.

 

Jenny

Nothing but good times ahead.

 

Bob

Uh huh

 

Jenny

I was expecting “We’re all doomed,” but that’s probably too close to reality these days.

I mean besides plague, anarchy, and financial ruin.

 

Bob

Maybe your heroine and hero are too much alike?

 

Jenny

That was the point.  They’re both isolated in part by circumstance and in part by choice. There’s a line in the beginning where the hero thinks that maybe they can bond since neither of them belongs anywhere.

 

Bob

So you set up a scenario where you can’t have conflict.

 

Jenny

There’s conflict in Act One and Act Three, minor conflict in Two and none in Four.

 

In Act One she thinks he’s a con man (with good reason) and she’s cop, so she’s investigating him while he’s trying to work behind the scenes.

Then there’s a turning point and they combine teams and in Act Two they jockey for who’s going to be in control.

Then in Act Three he gets poisoned and cycles through several bouts of amnesia, and she has to deal with all the different Nicks, some of which she has to slap.

Act Four he ends up back in Hell and she harrows Hell to save him and defeat the Bad Guy.  (He actually saves himself, but she saves Hell and Earth.)

 

All of which means I have four separate conflicts, so I can do a conflict box for each act, I just can’t do one for the whole damn book.

 

 

Bob

Do either of them change?

 

Jenny

They both change.

 

Bob

Arggghhhh.

Did you see Zootopia?

 

Jenny

Yes, I saw Zootopia.  I loved it.

 

Bob

He was the con man fox. She was the rabbit cop.

He was the predator. She was the prey.

 

Jenny (posting at the same time)

Yes, but the big conflict there was predator/prey.

Beautiful conflict.

 

Bob

So do that for your heroine/hero.

 

Jenny

So look for contrasts?

She’s alive/he’s dead.

 

Bob

That’s a pretty big difference. Usually.

Just watched Joe Black. Which shouldn’t have worked, but did.

 

Jenny

She’s 21st century, he’s multi-century.

She’s only partly human, he’s all human.

 

Bob

Seems like there’s a lot the two of them have to resolve.

 

Jenny

The thing is, they’re pretty much the same (which I like in an antagonist and protagonist, doppelgangers):  They’re both fixers, they both take responsibility for keeping their societies strong, they’re both not crazy about people.

 

There’s a power struggle there, though.

 

Maybe that’s the key.  They’re both loners used to doing things their own way.

 

Bob

Right. They have different ways of solving problems.

 

Jenny

I’ve already got that struggle in the second act.  And they have different ways of prioritizing their problems, only some of which overlap.

 

Power struggle.  Hell, that’s the basis of a lot of relationship conflicts.

 

That could work.

 

Wow.  This is just like old times.  Me babbling and you rolling your eyes and then there’s a solution.

 

Bob

Another core problem people have is if one is process oriented and the other is results oriented. They may want the same thing overall, but they approach it very differently.

 

Jenny

Oh, that’s interesting.

 

Bob

The results person tends to rush and thinks the process person is too slow.

 

Jenny

Results oriented meaning the end justifies the means?

 

Bob

That too.

 

Jenny

So Plan Ahead and Execute vs. Rush Ahead and Get Things Done?

 

Bob

Yeah. and the results person tends to make more mistakes by rushing.

 

Jenny

Nick’s very methodical, but then he’s dead.  He’s not on a time lock.

 

Nita’s seeing her island come undone around her; she’s not stupid or rash, but the clock is ticking.

 

Bob

It’s about what a person enjoys: the process or getting the result.

 

Jenny

I’ll have to cogitate, but that sounds good.  They do have arguments about procedure that pretty much follow that.

 

Hey, thanks for the help.

 

Bob

It all works out. I’m trusting my instincts a lot more. I used to rush since I’m a results guy, but now I slow down when things don’t feel right.

 

Jenny

Does Process = Big Picture Thinking, and Results = Single Goal Thinking?

 

Bob

I view it more like this:  I hate raking the leaves up because as soon as I’m done more leaves fall. There’s no payoff. Deb likes raking the leaves because she likes raking the leaves.

 

Jenny

So your goal is a clear lawn and her goal is raking.

 

Bob

So she does a better job raking.

 

Jenny

Because she likes raking

 

Bob

My goal is the end result, hers is the process, the doing.

 

Jenny

And I don’t rake leaves because it’s bad for the lawn.

I don’t think that analogy is going to work for me (g).

 

[And then we went back to discussing Conflict.]

 

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