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Friday, December 14, 2012

Merry Mayhem ~ Anita Higman

Merry Mayhem
Anita Higman

Novels set during the Christmas season are becoming more popular than ever. People love reading cozy stories during the coziest time of the year. But the stories can’t be all about Santa’s rosy cheeks and merry dimples. If I don’t have St. Nick ripping his pants on the way down the chimney, or landing on some burning coals, or facing a gun-toting homeowner, then readers might want to settle in for a long winter’s nap—but only after opening the shutters to toss my novel out onto the new-fallen snow!

Okay then, let’s brainstorm a snuggly Christmas scene that can be tweaked enough to turn tranquility into turmoil.

Our heroine and hero, Lucy and Harold, are in love—oh, how sweet—and Lucy knows that Harold has created a perfect evening so he can pop the question. The tree is decorated, Josh Groban’s Noel CD is playing, and Harold and Lucy are nestled in front of a crackling fire sipping hot wassail. That’s a nice Christmassy proposal scene, but we can only take cozy so far. Ray Bradbury said, “First, find out what your hero wants, then just follow him!” Good advice, but what if my heroine, Lucy, wants to marry Harold and is about to yes? It’s the end of my happily-ever-after story. Something ugly will need to happen soon. Some sort of struggle, internal or external.

Here’s one scenario. Hours before their romantic interlude, Lucy discovers that one of her beloved friends, Alice, is also in love with Harold. This could cause some struggle, but Lucy may say yes to the proposal anyway, since she could convince herself that she is the only woman on earth who could make Harold happy. Okay, so after a chapter or two, the conflict fizzles.

Maybe a moral dilemma would turn up the heat. What if Lucy’s friend, Alice, was a widow, and the reason her husband is dead and her children are fatherless is because of an accident—an accident that was Lucy’s fault? And what if Alice had a problem with depression because of her loss and grief? Okay, that’s a twist that will make readers squirm. Lucy is now going to say no to Harold’s proposal—that is, if she has any moral marbles in her bag—and she’ll want to give Harold a chance to fall in love with Alice.

Good, but maybe the conflict needs another layer. Perhaps since the accident—which was years ago—Alice has used the incident as leverage, and she has forced Lucy into a subservient mode that has turned into oppression. Lucy will not only need to love Alice as Christ would, but she’ll also need discernment and wisdom and courage to break free of Alice’s control. Hopefully this additional dimension will help keep Lucy tripping toward the altar until she finally gets to say, “I do.”

If you have trouble creating conflict in your story, then find a brainstorming buddy who can help you flesh it out. This simple but effective idea has worked well for me.

I think one of the best books out there on plot development and conflict is The Plot Thickens by Noah Lukeman. I highly recommend it. Hope this helps.
Merry mayhem to all and to all a goodnight!

Bestselling and award-winning author, Anita Higman, has thirty-two books published.
One of Anita latest novels, A Merry Little Christmas (Guideposts/Summerside) is a romantic story set in the turbulent 60s. The novel is available in bookstores and online at Amazon.

Anita would love for you to visit her online at or chat with her on her Facebook Reader Page at!/AuthorAnitaHigman.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this. I like the idea of "layering" conflict. That way you don't have to go all melodramatic with one overly huge problem.


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