by Monica Fairview guest blogger and author of The Other Mr. Darcy
Conflict is the bread and butter of romance. Of course, those of you who don’t like butter will probably object, so I’ll say it another way: conflict between a hero and a heroine are like a spark to kindle. Without one or the other, there’s no fire.
Having said that, I can’t say I’m a fan of plots where two people quarrel all the way through the story except in bed, and then, in the last chapter, they realize that their differences aren’t that important, or that one of them was missing some crucial information that he/she needed to resolve their differences. I don’t really think this is about romance. It’s more about two desperate people who’ll take what they can get. You can almost predict their future.
To me conflict has to be about opposition. There is something about the human psyche that hardwires us to deal in opposites, even if we can do this in many different ways. If we look at the ancient Chinese concept of yin and yang, it’s based on opposition: darkness and light, hardness and softness, hot and cold, positive and negative. But the relationship between yin and yang is always moving. It’s not a static, fixed thing. Just as daylight dissolves into twilight, which is neither light nor darkness, but both, so, too, do relationships, which aren’t simple oppositions, but are interactive, revolving situations that bring about change and growth.
That, to me, is how conflict in a real romance works. You bring together two people who initially don’t like each other, who are so different that you can’t imagine they could have anything in common, and you allow them to interact, to play the yin and yang game, pulling, pushing, dissolving, standing fast, until one day they find themselves changed. They’ve found that middle ground, and they can now dance around it. When they reach this state, a state one which belongs to neither one nor the other, then they can experience love.
When I started out writing The Other Mr. Darcy, I knew right away that my characters would not like each other from the first second they met. We already know what Caroline Bingley is like because Jane Austen told us. She is snobbish, given to gossiping and making snide comments, and, as a social climber, she is very much a champion of social rules and all that is proper. The other Mr. Darcy, on the other hand, doesn’t need to climb. He’s a Darcy, with all that this implies, and he can afford to be casual about both his wealth and position. Plus, as an American, his ideas of what is important are very different from those of Miss Bingley, who has had her ideas fed to her ready-made at finishing school. She is Miss Rigid, he is Mr. Floppy. There’s no way on earth this is going to work. And of course they’re going to clash. It’s going to be a huge clash, too. And as long as they simply stay in those positions, they will continue to clash for infinity. And they’ll have to, because they’re stuck.
But it’s a romance, and a romance is different from a Tom and Jerry cartoon where cat and mouse are condemned to that permanent state of enmity. Here is where the yin and yang principle comes into effect. In The Other Mr. Darcy, Mr. Darcy tries to convince Caroline to set aside her scruples and discover freedom. She tries to convince him that his concept of freedom is false because it doesn’t work in a social context. Slowly, without them noticing it, they both change. He’s no longer Mr. Floppy, go where the wind blows you. She’s no longer Miss Rigid, her ideas carved in stone. They’re both something else, both transformed into some new thing that is a new combination of both. Call it the middle ground. Call it an opening up to each other. Call it love.
Conflict is an essential ingredient in a romance, but only if it is capable of bringing about transformation and change. Otherwise, conflict by any other name is simply a fight.
The Other Mr. Darcy—in stores October 2009!
Did you know that Mr. Darcy had an American cousin?!
In this highly original Pride and Prejudice sequel by British author Monica Fairview, Caroline Bingley is our heroine. Caroline is sincerely broken-hearted when Mr. Darcy marries Lizzy Bennet— that is, until she meets his charming and sympathetic American cousin…
Mr. Robert Darcy is as charming as Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy is proud, and he is stunned to find the beautiful Caroline weeping at his cousin’s wedding. Such depth of love, he thinks, is rare and precious. For him, it’s nearly love at first sight. But these British can be so haughty and off-putting. How can he let the young lady, who was understandably mortified to be discovered in such a vulnerable moment, know how much he feels for and sympathizes with her?
About the Author
As a literature professor, Monica Fairview enjoyed teaching students to love reading. But after years of postponing the urge, she finally realized what she really wanted was to write books herself. She lived in Illinois, Los Angeles, Seattle, Texas, Colorado, Oregon and Boston as a student and professor, and now lives in London. To find out more, please visit http://www.monicafairview.co.uk/