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Thursday, 24 June 2010

Internal and External conflict for Mills and Boon

I have been lucky enough to get a slot with a Mills and Boon editor at this year's Romantic Novelist Association conference. To make the most of it, you are invited to submit a first chapter and a synopsis and I have just sent mine off.

Now, I tried Mills and Boon years ago, I gave it my best shot and although I came close-ish with a request to see the whole manuscript (after submitting the required three chapters) I ended up with a rejection.

Part of the reason, I am sure, is that I did not understand the difference between internal conflict and external conflict. After many years which has included on/off flirtations with writing for M&B, reading many examples and attending a couple of sessions at writers weekends listening to their editors and authors I believe I have now got to grips with internal/external conflict. So I will try and do my bit for other aspiring writers to explain it here.

An external conflict is basically one that someone or something else can resolve. So, if your hero and heroine have been marooned on a desert island because of a plane crash someone else could send in a rescue craft. If they are in conflict with one another because of a case of mistaken identity, a simple conversation with one of the other characters (or with each other) could put the situation right. More importantly, with external conflict the reader will be able to see that there are easy-ish ways out of the problem. A Mills and Boon can of course contain both external and internal conflicts but the internal ones are by far the most important. They are the problems which are not nearly so easy for the hero and heroine to extract themselves from - their own internal conflicts. Internal conflicts are the things inside us shaped by our personal histories that make us the people we are and on occasions form blockages to relationships.


An excellent book by Penny Jordan, one of the acknowledged queens of Mills and Boon which I read years ago concerned a woman who had been raped by an ex husband. This had lead to her finding it almost impossibe to let another man near her, even one to whom she was deeply attracted. This afforded all sorts of opportunities to display the hero's sensitive, persuasive and very Alpha characteristics - those of the ultimate nurturer. I am at present reading a fabulous Mills and Boon by Annie West (www.annie-west.com) 'Scandal, His Majesty's love-child', about an Arab prince - sheik books are enduringly popular - the ultimate escape!


Annie West's prince has many redeeming characteristics but these are hidden behind a cold exterior borne of a childhood with a brutal father. Given that sort of history he has built a wall around himself brick by emotional brick which our heroine is very slowly having to knock down. I will not reveal any more as it is on the shelves now and do not want to destroy an excellent read. But this is an good example of internal conflict, mainly in this case the hero's, which prevents him forming strong relationships. These sort of internal conflicts are difficult for us all to address and require the characters to undergo a considerable amount of change within themselves but of course they cannot do this on their own. The other half of the pairing has to help them through the conflict to a happy conclusion and thereby lies a good read! Fiendishly difficult to write, I take my hat off to all the Mills and Boon authors who do this so well.

1 comment:

rama said...

You have beautifully analysed the internal and external conflicts in M&Bs. I have to read the books mentioned by you.
It is such an interesting post, makes one think of things that one never knew existed in such novels.
Well, I am Rama from India and you can visit my blogs if you feel like.
Rama.