Date Night By R.C. Matthews

Monday, June 02, 2014

DATE NIGHT: From broad concept to sustainable conflict!

BOOK BLURB: Jordan Billette faces the greatest challenge of her life - find her soul mate and get married before cancer takes Grannie away forever. Not dating? No problem. A dating service will turn up a soul mate. JT Murphy has been best friends with Jordan's brother for years. When he agrees to protect Jordan from unworthy dates at the restaurant where he waits tables, he gets more than he bargained for!

How to build sustainable conflict:
As an avid reader growing up, I often wondered where authors got the ideas for their books. Once I became a writer myself, I realized it wasn’t the broad concept for a book that was difficult to develop, but rather how to take the concept and build a sustainable conflict between the hero and heroine.

The broad concept for Date Night was simple – I wanted to write a book about a woman who went on a series of hilarious dates. Why? Because in my mid thirties I used a dating service for one year and, as a result, had first hand experience with many outrageously funny dates. My friends and family often found my dating stories entertaining. And so the idea for a book was born.

But that was only the beginning. Nobody wants to read a story about a woman who goes on a series of dates without her meeting the love of her life, right? At the time when I really started to plot out the story, I also decided it would be fun to write a novel for my niece who is 21 years old. With that in mind, I built my story line around a 22 year old heroine (“Jordan”). However, this created an issue; why in the heck would a 22 year old woman want to use a dating service? I figured she would have to be highly motivated to meet someone. And that is where the idea for a dying wish from her grandmother (“Grannie”) came into play.

Now I needed a compelling hero. I considered having Jordan fall for one of her dates, but that would mean a large portion of the story wouldn’t be focused on “romance” but rather her funny dates. I wanted the heart of the story to be a romance novel…which led me to the idea of having Jordan fall in love with a waiter at the restaurant where all her dates take place. He would be the one constant man she interacted with throughout the story.

I was really getting somewhere and felt great about the direction of my story. Except for one little nagging problem. What grandmother (or mother for that matter) would encourage her granddaughter to find a fiancé in a few months and marry him? And that’s when an idea hit me…a conniving grandmother who already knew who the perfect groom was…and plotted to bring two of her favorite people together…her granddaughter and her grandson’s best friend (J.T.).

Presto. The waiter had to be the best friend of the Jordan’s brother. Jordan and J.T. had known each other their whole lives. So if they fell in love and got married in just a few months, it wouldn’t be completely insane. In fact, Grannie would be thrilled to see them happily married. At this point I had a heroine, a hero and a basic story line. But what was the conflict going to be which kept them apart?

I started with the one basic fact I knew – Jordan was highly motivated to get married in a short period of time to fulfill her grandmother’s dying wish. So J.T. needed to be highly motivated NOT to get married in a short period of time. Getting married costs a lot of money, is time consuming and the first year of marriage can be stressful. So I needed a hero who was financially strapped and under a lot of stress already.

I wanted the reader to truly sympathize with J.T. and his reasons for resisting a relationship with Jordan. What is more heartbreaking than a young man raising his younger brother after their parents’ unfortunate death when J.T. was only 19 years old? He’s now 24 years old and one year away from achieving his dreams. He can’t afford to blow it and has to stay focused on college. And he certainly can’t afford a wife and a wedding. Not to mention that his best friend’s family is all the family he has left…so he doesn’t want to lose them too if a relationship with Jordan doesn’t work out.

Enough conflict? Almost. I decided to add one more element to their conflict. Jordan was raised to be self-sufficient and doesn’t need a man to pay her way through life whereas J.T. was raised in a traditional family with a stay at home mom and feels it is his duty to be able to support his future wife.

Whew! I’d made it – a story line about a woman who goes on a series of hilarious dates – all the while falling in love with the man of her dreams – and yet she has to work hard to get past their conflicts in order to achieve their happily ever after.

By the way…I eventually found my happily ever after through internet dating. My husband and I met on right at the time when I was about to throw in the towel with dating services and internet sites. I decided to give it one last shot – because he was just too handsome to pass up.