Conflict. It’s what makes readers keep turning pages late into the night, and what helps writers know what to put on the page next. Some conflicts are fairly obvious: blizzards, runaway trains, or moustache-twirling villains are pretty easy to identify as the enemy.
But what happens when your real enemy is . . . you?
That’s what writers call internal conflict, and it can be subtle.
As I read this month’s releases from Bethany House, I noticed that all of the main characters had a great story arc involving internal conflict. Yes, things are happening outside of them: a mistaken identity, hostage negotiation, impending murder, and blackmail. But what really drew me into the story were the unique and nuanced issues that each character faced. Here, the authors and I talk about the characters’ internal conflicts.
From A Shining Light by Judith Miller
Judith’s Take: For several years Andrea Wilson faced the consequences of a bad choice. A choice that destroyed her trust. Now, unexpected events have thrust her into life among the Amana Colonists in Iowa. If she is to ever find the peace, safety, and love she desires, she must learn to trust God as well as the people who have given her shelter. When trust proves more difficult than she anticipated, she must decide if she will rely upon her own understanding or finally trust God.
Amy’s Take: Sometimes communities like Amana are so peaceful that they seem far away from the problems of the outside world. When Andrea brought some of those problems into Amana, I loved watching how the people there loved and protected her. Sometimes trust doesn’t come easily, and I appreciated the realistic way Andrea struggled with that.
From Love Comes Calling by Siri Mitchell
Siri’s Take: Though this book is set in 1924, I purposely gave Ellis one of those impulsive, restless minds diagnosed by modern medicine as having ADHD. She just can’t concentrate no matter how hard she tries and because of this, she feels she’s doomed to disappoint everyone she loves. So when she overhears a plot to harm the hero, she tries to stop it on her own since she assumes that no one will believe her story.
Amy’s Take: Oh, the expectations poor Ellis feels like she has to live up to! Over and over again in this book, I wanted to tell Ellis exactly how unique and talented she was. Her lively determination won my heart.
From Death by the Book by Julianna Deering
Julianna’s Take: After facing the deaths of people close to him just two months ago, Drew really doesn’t want to deal with murder again, unless it’s between the pages of one of his favorite mystery novels. When a widow asks Drew to clear her murdered husband of accusations of adultery, he initially tells her that the police should handle the matter. But when she tells him her husband was a Christian man who, though flawed, tried his best to be true to his faith and to her, Drew agrees to investigate. Perhaps, he considers, helping people find the truth is something he’s called to do.
Amy’s Take: As a reader, I wanted to believe in the man’s innocence, but just like Drew, felt myself wavering back and forth. Drew’s devotion to the truth and discovering it no matter what the cost is something I can always cheer for in a hero, but particularly in a detective.
Lady Daylily of Middlecrescent
From Shadow Hand by Anne Elisabeth Stengl
Anne Elisabeth’s Take: Lady Daylily has been hiding her true self for many years. She is little more than her father’s tool, expected always to be composed, emotionless, and malleable. And this is what she has always striven to be, from the time she was a little girl. But Daylily has a hidden “wolf” inside her, strong, furious, and ready to burst out of the restrictive chains in which she has always lived. Daylily is afraid of this secret side of herself, however, afraid what will happen if people learn the truth about her. Afraid of what she might do to her loved ones if she ever lets herself go. She knows she won’t be able to hold it at bay for long, so she decides to run away . . . and never look back.
Amy’s Take: I think all of us have a little Daylily inside of us: a need to hide who we really are, and a fear that others won’t love us if they see our true selves with flaws and weaknesses. As I read, Daylily’s struggle with her “wolf” made me think about a few of mine, and what it means to be real with others.
From Tide and Tempest by Elizabeth Ludwig
Elizabeth’s Take: My character struggles with the guilt that she associates with the loss of her child. Not only does this impact the way she sees herself, it affects the way she relates to others because she feels that her bad choices make her unworthy of love or happiness. It’s only after she reconciles with God and her past that she is finally able give her heart to another.
Amy’s Take: Shame and regret are two of the heaviest burdens we can carry, something Tillie well knows. Even her good works were motivated by her guilt—and I’m very familiar with serving from wrong motives. Tillie’s loss moved me, making her eventual freedom even more exciting.
How about you, readers? What’s an issue (like grief over a prodigal child) or an internal conflict (like feeling unworthy) that you would find interesting to read about in a novel?