Every story must have external and internal conflict. External conflict comes from the world around your main characters, and internal conflict is rooted in your main characters’ emotions. In the romance genre, this internal conflict is front and center as two people fight for—and against—their love.
Do you have trouble coming up with good internal conflicts for your romance stories? Or maybe you’re in the brainstorming phase of your romance writing process and are looking for inspiration. This post includes one hundred options that anyone can use as sources of conflict in their romance novels.
How to Use These Conflicts
You can’t build a successful conflict without the why behind it. If one of the below options catches your interest, you will then want to come up with the reason your character believes in the conflict. What happened in the past that is influencing them in the story’s present? Here is an example:
Some of these conflicts are also pretty general, so you may need to come up with specifics. And some of them carry more weight than others, meaning you might have to use more than one.
In the below lists, you’ll see the acronyms MC1 and MC2, which stand for Main Character 1 and Main Character 2, the lovers in your novel. These conflicts can also be adapted for polyamorous relationships.
The List of Conflicts
What consequences do your characters want to avoid?
MC1 is afraid if they fall in love with MC2,
- their family/friends won’t approve / MC2’s family/friends won’t approve.
- they’ll lose their money.
- MC2 will leave them.
- MC2 will cheat on them.
- MC2 will try to change them.
- MC2 will try to control them.
- they will lose themself in the relationship.
- they will lose their financial/emotional/physical freedom.
- MC2 will die.
- MC2 will pressure them into having children.
- MC2 won’t support their career choice / life’s passion.
- they’ll be bored in the relationship.
- MC2 will lie to them.
- MC2 will hate their family/friends.
- MC2 will abuse them.
What lies do your characters believe?
MC1/MC2 believes deep down that
- they aren’t worthy of a healthy, loving relationship.
- they can’t make a romantic partner happy.
- they can’t live up to a romantic partner’s expectations.
- they aren’t physically desirable.
- they don’t have a lovable personality.
- they can’t handle a romantic relationship.
- they are incapable of commitment.
- they are incapable of loving someone.
- they are incapable of enjoying sex.
- no romantic relationship can last.
- everyone will leave them at some point.
- love makes them weak.
- men / women are evil.
What personal struggles are your characters dealing with?
MC1/MC2 struggles with
- their mental health.
- having enough time/energy to devote to a relationship.
- letting others emotionally close.
- being faithful.
- trust in themself.
- trust in a partner.
What values do your characters disagree on?
MC1 and MC2 have conflicting views on
- having children.
- social interaction.
- life’s purpose / what’s important in life.
- what one should do in their free time.
- entertainment / sports / the arts.
- home / where to live.
- social issues / social justice.
- public displays of affection.
- public displays of emotion.
- how to deal with conflict.
- crime / the law.
- how to make big decisions.
- perseverance / when to give up.
- physical appearance.
- personal hygiene.
- personal protection / security.
External Conflicts Internalized
What external issues do your characters believe cannot be overcome?
MC1 and MC2
- are of different species.
- are from different cultures / races.
- are from different social classes.
- have different levels of life experience.
- have different levels of intelligence / education.
- are mismatched physically.
- are mismatched socially / power-wise.
- are far apart in age.
- are physically distanced.
- are forbidden to be together.
- are related.
- are on incongruent life paths.
- are married / in other relationships.
- are bad influences on each other.
- are exes.
- are in an arranged marriage / partnership.
Do you find this list of romantic internal conflicts useful? Are there any you feel I missed?