What internal challenges will my characters face in their relationship?

With the external obstacles and challenges identified, it’s time to explore how the characters’ experiences will be affecting them emotionally. Remember, while plot is important, it’s the characters’ inner journeys the reader cares most about. Do not underestimate the importance of delving deep into your characters’ psyches.

Let’s look at how to explore the internal conflict of the story and how it will affect the romance.

Step 1: Remember the misbelief

A character’s misbelief is central to their story. It’s through the external plot events that you throw at them that they’ll come to learn this deeply ingrained belief is not true. And in learning this lesson, they’ll find true happiness. Bear your characters’ misbeliefs in mind as you work towards identifying their internal conflict.

Step 2: Consider personality flaws

Personality flaws can also play a part in hindering your characters from achieving their goals, as we saw in The Hating Game example, with Lucy’s need to please people, even at her own expense. Think about your characters’ personality flaws; will they play a part in their inner journey? 

Step 3: Define the obstacle

Consider how the characters’ misbeliefs and personality flaws will hold them back from achieving their internal goals. Why don’t they believe in love, or why don’t they believe this specific relationship will work?

Step 4: Consider the solution

Think about what the character needs to do, what action they need to take, to overcome the obstacle. In what way will this help them achieve their goal? Note the formulaic phrasing used in the earlier examples: ‘If [the character] can [do this task], then [this is how they’ll achieve their internal goal].’

Step 5: Determine the challenge

Given what you know about your character, think about the difficulties they’ll have in completing this task (in the emotional sense). What will occur to challenge them? Note the formulaic phrasing used in the earlier examples: ‘This is a challenge for [the character] because [this is why it’s emotionally difficult].

Step 6: Explore the romantic conflict

Now that you know how your character is going to struggle, consider the impact that will have on the romance between the protagonist and the love interest.

In your workbook, you’ll find these six steps have been put into a table, along with prompt questions, to help you determine the internal romantic conflict in your story. This exercise should be done for both the protagonist and love interest — even if you choose to write the story from only the protagonist’s point of view, it’s still important to know how the love interest will be struggling.