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A conflict, however believable, is not successful if it does not end in a way that satisfies the reader.
If your hero meets the heroine on Page 1, is promising his undying love on Page 2, and tries to prove it by stalking her as she goes about town on Page 3, he’s not going to come across as a roguish charmer readers will root for. If you still find your characters acting in unbelievable or unsympathetic ways, the problem may be that your characters’ goals are too small, trivial or contrived.Suppose Greta has always loved her grandmother’s quilts, which remind her of her grandmother’s house, the only place she ever felt safe and loved.She has the internal goal, perhaps never explicitly stated, but certainly implied, of finding a way to feel safe and loved again.Hank must learn to trust again in order to feel connectedness, and perhaps he realizes that despite their conflict, Greta has never lied to him or let him down, and so he learns to trust her. However, she does if the bet is the external manifestation of something hugely important to the character—for example, proving that she is not a failure.When they fall in love and realize they can both get what they want, they open the Main Street Hobby and Quilt Shop. Suppose Lou Ann’s awful ex-boyfriend says, “I bet you you can’t get a job by the end of summer,” and she takes that challenge. In romance, when you have two main characters trying to reach their goals, their competing goals must be of similar importance.For her character to be powerfully motivated through the story, Greta’s internal goal will need to drive her external goal that will lay the foundation for the plot.Suppose she learns that the old general store on Main Street has finally come up for sale, and she realizes that she can buy it to start a quilt shop.We’ve all read some form of frivolous conflict along the lines of, “Sorry, I don’t date blue-eyed men.” If the conflict relies on a misunderstood email, or some malicious third party interfering with the couple’s road to happiness, or could be cleared up if the heroine would just ask one nine-word question, it isn’t believable for very long.It isn’t enough to set up a believable conflict in your story; you also have to resolve it.Suppose you have a story where the Greek shipping magnate spearheads a hostile takeover of the financially imperiled business that the spunky heroine is trying to save.Are we expected to believe that once he does her out of a job and destroys her dreams, she’ll fall in love with him?