Become intimately familiar with the following terms: GOALS. MOTIVATION. CONFLICT. So familiar you can watch a movie and pick them out immediately. Warn your friends before you catch the flick, however. Or learn to go to the movies alone.
You won't find the three concepts in all fiction genres, but you will [should] find them in well written romances. Each should be so well-ingrained into the story and the internal dialogue of the protagonists as well as the verbal dialogue, they jump out and shake your hand as you turn the pages.
Goals are easy: what does the hero and heroine want? Make it worthwhile, realistic, something the reading audience will relate with, will root for.
Motivation should be tied directly into the Goal: WHY the hero or heroine wants this goal. Again, make it understandable, relatable, realistic.
Conflict is probably the most difficult to craft. External Conflict is the event or situation or circumstance which brings the hero and heroine together and keeps them together throughout the story. Internal Conflict is the deal breaker; it's what keeps the two apart. When done well, it keeps those pages turning because the reader, who believes the H&H will never get together, wants to know how the author pulls it off the HEA.
By now, I hope someone is asking: Is this dame going to give me an example or two? Okay, the dame will provide two strong examples.
In Naked in Death, the first in JD Robb's futuristic police procedural series, we meet Eve Dallas, a New York City police detective. Her goal is to solve homicides, in particular the homicide of a US Senator's grand-daughter who worked as a high-priced call girl [External Conflict]. Eve's motivation: she's always wanted to be a cop, being a cop is what defines her.
Enter Roarke [one name only, a gorgeous Irishman, more money than the Pope, and very funny]. He is, from the beginning, high on Eve's list of suspects. [more of the external conflict] The attraction is immediate and intense, though both fight it tooth and nail [this is the Internal Conflict]. She can't have anything to do with a suspect; he doesn't want to become involved with a cop because some of his business practices walk a fine line between the legal and illegal sides of the street. Before the story ends, evidence is manufactured to frame Roarke for the murder, only heightening the Internal Conflict.
So, after you've got all of the above down pat, and truly believe you have the next Pulitzer Prize winner on your hands, the more experienced �gwinner�h suggests you need to strengthen the character's motivation or hype up the conflict between the two protagonists. Do it!
Nowhere do I suggest the comments won't hurt your pride, because they might. Nowhere do I suggest the “winner” has publishing credits. Someone may be published; that doesn't make them a winner. There are people out there who live to tear down a new writer just to inflate their own egos. Stick with the winners; they'll never let your down.
With that, I think I should shut up.
Come back tomorrow to read about Captain Marvelous and Try Just Once More.