Writing Business

Reversion of Rights: From Old to New

Gail Gaymer Martin
Gail Gaymer Martin

Historical Post by Gail Gaymer Martin

Reversion of Rights: From Old to New

It’s spring in our new homeland of Sedona Arizona and flowers are everywhere. I had no idea our landscape had so many amazing colors and so many beautiful birds. In Michigan where I lived all my life until our recent move, I knew the flowers and birds in that part of the country. But here in Sedona, I’m seeing orioles, hummingbirds (by the droves) and even the Western Bluebird that is so beautiful.

You can probably see that I am happy. I am, but that’s not the only reason. After contacting my two major publishers, I have been able to request and receive reversions on the rights of some of my books which means, they now belong to me rather than the publisher. Since I have been active writing for a small press, I also have the opportunity to rework my older novels and bring them back for a whole new audience.

One thing we learn as novelists and readers, is that writing grows and changes with experience and practice. I have studied writing for years, grasping new concepts, honing my craft, and trying to be the best writer I can be for the Lord who gave me the talent. It has been an adventure, and when I look now at my early writings, sometimes I cringe because I see ways in which I could have said something so much better.

Now with the reversion of rights, I can improve on that writing and make changes that will bring the books closer to the abilities I have as the author of 76 published novels or novellas. I will never be sorry for my earlier books. The stories are often some of my favorites, but now I am able to make them even better with changes.

For novelists who have the opportunity of having your older novels revert back to you, do yourself a favor and study them to see how you can improve them. So far I have often used the same title with a new cover, but I usually refer to those books as reissue so readers will recognize of they have already read them. Almost 20 years have passed and new readers spring up every day.

In a future post, I will share with you some of the changes that I have made with the older books and the new techniques I have learned.


Writing craft

Cut, Snip, Tighten by Gail Gaymer Martin for CAN

Historical Post by Gail Gaymer Martin

Cut, Snip, Tighten

I have been blessed to have been given an amazing career as a writer of Christian fiction, and in my days of creating stories that I hope will touch your hearts, I have learned so much about writing stories readers can enjoy. Most people do not understand the amount of detail and craft that goes into being a writer, and most people do not sell their first novel. I did, but not before it went through “refining fire.”

I knew nothing about writing fiction when I began to write. My first romance novel began with the death of the heroine’s husband, traveled through months of her grief, and on page 102 she met the hero. The book was rejected numerous times until I realized that a romance begins with the meeting of the hero and heroine within the first couple of pages. I also learned a story starts at the point of change—not the husband’s death, but the heroine’s new beginning. With the advice of a few kind writers who knew about writing fiction, I had to cut one-hundred glorious pages from my novel. That made all the difference, but by then the book had been rejected a number of times.

I courageously continued to submit books, and most of those were sitting on editors’ desks, waiting for rejection. In 1998, I submitted a new book to Barbour Publishing. Within a few months, I heard from them. Though the editors felt that particular book would not work for their readership, they liked my voice and writing style. They asked if I had anything else. I thought of my first novel…just sitting there. I said, “Sure I do and I’ll get it in the mail right away.”

But “right away” meant doing some serious edits. At that time the completed book was seventy-five thousand words. Barbour accepts only forty-five to fifty-five thousand words, so I had some serious cutting to do. I had learned so much more about writing by then, and I went through the manuscript tightening the story by removing useless dialogue and scenes that did not move the story forward. I cut a sub-plot and tightened my language. When I’d reached the right page count, I mailed the book in. Within eleven days, SEASONS sold to Barbour Publishing and I became a published author.

I have learned to cut, snip and tighten. I continue to improve my writing skills by honing the craft, listen to those who know the business, and understand that tightening a novel can only make it better. Those lessons have reaped great rewards and blessings for me. Now with 76 published novels and over 4 million books sold, I conclude that I finally know how to write a good book. It takes time, patience and tons of perseverance. Improving the craft never ends! I continue to read and study writing techniques and find new ideas for ways to improve my work.

In my next post, I will cover what I have done when I’ve received the reversion of rights and can now republish my older books for readers who hadn’t read them years ago when they were published. My goal is to use what I have learned to this day and to make my old novels new and improved. I hope you look for this blog on Reversion of Rights.



Writing craft

Writing Fiction Using Real Locations


Gail Gaymer Martin
Gail Gaymer Martin

Welcome to the CAN Blog from Gail Gaymer Martin @ Today I decided to talk about one way my writing has changed in the past few years. Although I wrote about places I knew, I didn’t worry about accuracy and often I used a fictitious location so I didn’t have to worry about accuracy.

Writing Fiction Using Real Locations

But over time, I learned if I want to write real, I needed to visit the location of my novel. While creating a fictitious location can be easier, I’ve found that fans love to read about real places since they often relate to them as a place they lived or visited. I’ve also learned real places offer bonuses as I researched.


Bonus 1 -Realistic Details

My writing is known for realistic characters and locations that bring my stories to life. For the last few years, I’ve used real towns for my novels. When I use a fictitious street or home description, I usually pattern it after one that is real. By researching real location, authors can take photos, note impressions, involve the senses and later can recall their reaction and experience. This can add reality to their novels. When I do Internet research, the photos and information also come to life.

Bonus 2 – Simulating Plot Ideas

While researching a town, authors can learn town history, sights, events and activities that help stimulate story ideas. Recently, I spent two days in the small town of Owosso. Though a lifelong resident of Michigan, I’ve never had reason to visit this mid-state town. My publisher, Love Inspired, enjoys stories set in rural areas and small towns, making Owosso perfect. This town has its own castle, built by a 1920s novelist, James Curwood, to use as his writing sanctuary.

With children in some of my novels, learning about Owosso’s three Playscape venues was a find. Two of these areas provide a kid’s splash pool, slides, swings, rock wall, rope brides, a pavilion and gazebo.  One Playscape is located at the DeVries Nature Conservatory and gives children opportunities to study nature in a hands-on activities. Owosso also has a sled hill for winter fun. The town has a Steam Railroading Institute, an art gallery, a conference center, sleigh museum, community actors and theater, numerous community festivals and events, and a nearby town that has a historic village.  People can roller skate, bowl and shop in a four street area, and the town is filled with restaurants and churches. All of these features triggered ideas for novels in the Lilac Circle Series.

Bonus 3 – Making Contacts

The Chamber of Commerce is the location of the woman who is in charge of all city events. She graciously took me on a tour of some of the cities features. We drove through residential areas where I located the street I called Lilac Circle, featuring characters from my series. We went to the nearby town of Corunna to visit their Playscape in McCurdy Park where characters will find Sled Hill, the historic village and the county Courthouse which is part of the first book, Unexpected Mommy, a 2015 release. Through my contact I learned about holiday events and their details, such as: Christmas, Easter egg hunt, 4th of July celebration and other unique city festivals and celebrations.

I also learned the local newspaper is privately owned and is open to carrying local articles that would interest the town’s residence. I am hopeful I can receive some press when my book series is released. Another contact was the Owosso Bookstore where they are interested in carrying my books when released. I offered to do a book signing.  These personal contacts provide individuals to call for answers to question not found through research.

Bonus 4 – Tax Deductible

The cost for a research trip is travel expenses which are tax deductible. The benefits are high: realism, idea stimulation, contacts and the ability to feel, taste, touch, smell, hear and see the location of your story.

Yes, you can fabricate a town, and you must if it’s speculative, but visiting a town is a far greater investment especially for contemporary fiction, as well as historical fiction which is heightened by walking the fields of Gettysburg, exploring a real plantation, seeing migrant workers and where they live. How can a writer imagine looking at Paris from the top of the Eiffel Tower or riding in a gondola on the Grand Canal without experiencing it? I have, and so could you.

(c) Gail Gaymer Martin 2017







Writing craft

An Emerging Theme In Fiction – by Gail Gaymer Martin

Good morning and welcome to the CAN Blog from Gail Gaymer Martin. As a novelist, I work hard to improve my writing no matter how many novels that are published. With over 70 published novels, I am excited to find a new idea or a new approach or technique that will make my stories better. I always enjoy sharing these ideas with other writers and even readers who then learn what writers go through to make a book enjoyable.

Today’s topic deals with  developing a theme in the novel that is natural and pertinent in the story and that fits a character, plot, setting or life lesson.

An Emerging Theme In Fiction

Many novelists want to leave the reader with a final thought or message as well as to entertain them with the story. Yet a theme cannot be forced into a novel. Instead it is moral, belief or value that seeps into the story on its own and emerges from the story to the reader.

Element of Theme

A good theme happens because it is intrinsic to the story. It’s a natural element that grows within it and often has to do with the convictions of one of the story’s main characters. It influences and/or creates conflicts within the novel so that it produces growth or failure of the character.

Themes are not always present at first, and they are not always what the character embraces. Look for things he avoids or ways in which he restrains himself. These are as important. As you develop your character’s needs, wants, goals, and struggles, keep track of what influences the character and how it affects him. As you review these factors, take note of the bigger picture. What do these influences affect in terms of life values, beliefs or morals. Does it make comments about forgiveness, acceptance, longing, compassion, wealth, honesty, awareness, hope, or love.

A Theme’s Purpose

Various story elements remain in a reader’s mind. It can be a character, a setting, a plot, or a life lesson or message that lingers. Everyone has values, morals and beliefs that they struggle with or deal with in their lives. These can cause them joy or grief depending on how their life grows or sinks. When a person fails something they value or believe in, they suffer. If they overstep their moral bounds, they can falter and doubt, fear retribution and sink into an abyss. Reading a story where a character overcomes, rebounds, and moves forward gives readers hope. If they fail, it can lift a reader who has survived a lapse in a belief or moral situation. They can feel forgiven or uplifted that they made it through the dark water. Themes teach, stimulate and connect with readers. This is their purpose.

Give Characters Strong Values and Beliefs

Looking at your own life, note what is important to you. Family? Job? Health? Generousness? Communication? Faith? What is it that molds your life and your actions? Give your characters these kids of strong, unshakeable truths. Use the plot to force these characters to protect these values, show these beliefs and morals in the life of your characters, demonstrate their problems when these truths are attacked or are weakened and the character fails. Through these convictions, the characters provide a focus, a message, a lesson that becomes a theme in the story.

Avoid Sermons

Human kind is imperfect. Everyone has flaws and weaknesses that they succumb to or learn to overcome and grow. Readers want to see these flaws and weaknesses in characters, and they learn from the ups and downs of men and woman in the novel. When a novelist steps into the story and breaks the natural flow of the story’s reality to make a point, to teach, to show the problem in a way that doesn’t fit the story line, then readers withdraw. A theme cannot be blatant or forced. As I said earlier, it must come from a naturalness within the character and the situations in the story. Help the reader see that all mankind is flawed and yet can still succeed and win over their failures. Show it through character action, dialogue and introspection and not through a harangue from the author to jam the theme down the reader’s throat.

Use setting to enhance theme

Sometimes a setting can bring the theme to life. Certainly the absurd opulence of the home in The Great Gatsby emphasizes waste and corruption of values. A barren plain can be a symbol of a life that is empty and unproductive. An island setting can emphasis the aloneness of life and the dependence people have on each other or the lack of it. A cozy village can stress the value of family or the simple life that connects people to others. A stormy sea or a winter setting can remind us of the power of nature and the finiteness of human life.

Use analogies or symbols

If you saw the movie The Great Gatsby, you cannot forget the billboard sign of the eyes looking down on the world of corruption and loss of morals. It’s almost as if God is sitting in judgment over the mass of humanity. Novels can also have motifs and symbols such as this to be a subtle emphasis of a novel’s theme. Certainly the ring in the Lord of the Rings provides an ever present symbol of evil in the world and the need to win over it, to let good remain and evil fail.

But the sign or symbol must be subtle and a meaningful part of the story. It must make sense. It might be a child’s rocking horse in a home where there are no children, reminding the reader that we were all children, or that somewhere in all of us a child still lives, or the loss of a child never leaves us. It depends on other elements of the novel to make the sign have meaning. Once the reader latches on to it—and on his own cognition and not being told—it serves the purpose of keeping the theme ever present in the story. The important thing to remember is that the sign must be a natural part of the story.

Whether you use symbols or setting, whether you allow the characters or plot to bring the theme to life, keep it real and natural, avoid author intrusion and let the theme grow on the reader without being forced. The lesson, message or thought can make an impact that will linger in readers’ minds longer than many other elements of your novel.

(c) Gail Gaymer Martin 2017


New Releases

New Release: Over Her Head by Gail Gaymer Martin

Over Her Head by Gail Gaymer Martin
Over Her Head by Gail Gaymer Martin

Over Her Head 

By Gail Gaymer Martin

January 2017

ISBN-10: 1542361125

ISBN-13: 978-1542361125

High school teacher, Lana West, plans a quiet summer doing anything but being around teenagers. But Mark Branson, her new neighbor and youth director has other plans. But soon Lana finds herself knee deep in bowling and horseback riding, and chaperoning teen summer camp, elbow-deep in soap suds, up to her neck in poison ivy and over her head in love.

About the author: 

Gail Gaymer Martin
Gail Gaymer Martin

Award-winning author, Gail Gaymer Martin writes romantic suspense, romance and women’s  fiction. She has 4 million books sold. Her books have received numerous national awards including: Romantic Times Reviewers Choice and the American Christian Fiction Writers Carol Award. She has a Bachelor and Masters degree from Wayne State University in Detroit. Before writing, she was a high school guidance counselor and English and public speaking teacher. Visit her website at

Writing craft

Five Steps to Write Forward-Moving Scenes – by Gail Gaymer Martin

Gail Gaymer Martin
Gail Gaymer Martin

Welcome to the Christian Author Network blog from Gail Gaymer Martin. Today I will be talking about ways to improvement elements of writing fiction. My experience comes from seventeen years of published fiction writing, and my pleasure is to share my expertise with you.

Today I will talk about keeping your novel moving forward so that readers are caught up in the story and don’t want to put it down.

Five Steps to Write Forward-Moving Scenes

 A scene is part of a chapter in a novel. Some authors write only in chapters and therefore have far more chapters than a typical book. A new scenes are used mainly to change the POV character, move a character to a new setting, and showing the passing of time. Each scene will connect to the story in a logical way by providing pertinent information about character, a conflict or to add a red herring in a suspense or even add a twist to a story. No matter the purpose, the new scene must move the story forward in a significant way.

  1. Before writing a scene decide what will happen in this scene to move the story forward. What is going to happen of significance or what new information will be shown in this scene. Will a major decision be made or will new conflict begin or a continuing conflict end? Will the scene foreshadow an upcoming situation or event? If the scene will only allow the characters to get to know each other better or to introduce backstory, eliminate it. Characters can get to know each other better while something significant is happening and backstory can be included in small pieces throughout the novel on a need to know basis only.
  1. The next step is to ask what the characters need to be in this scene and what will each accomplish during the scene. In what way will the character’s needs or desires create conflict or add tension? Conflict does not have to be blatant but can be reflected in the POV character’s introspection or shown through the response or action of a POV or non-POV character.
  1. Select the best setting for this scene, the location and time of day or season of the year. The setting can add or detract from a scene, so chose one that will enhance the purpose of the scene and the needs of the characters. Too many scenes are set in a car while the characters are driving or at a table in a restaurant or kitchen as they talk about situations. Be creative and use locations, time of day, weather, and seasons to enhance the scene and its purpose.
  1. Each scene will provide pertinent information, action and conflict to move the story forward, and it will be either be a scene or sequel. Dwight Swain’s definition of a scene is to provide interest and move the story forward with its structure being: Goal — conflict — disaster. A sequel is defined as a transition unit that links two scenes and focuses on the main character’s reaction to the previous scene and provides him motivation for the scene to come. The function is: To translate disaster into a goal, To telescope reality, and To control tempo. Therefore ask yourself “what must happen in this scene,” and then decide what is the strongest way to start the scene and then, what is the most effective way to end it. A scene ending with a hook keeps the reader reading. Writing the scene’s opening sentence can trigger your creativity and help you devise interest immediately.
  1. Though many novels write their novels providing all elements of fiction, such as: description, action and reaction beats, dialogue and introspection, some authors begin their scenes by writing the dialogue first. This keeps the scene on track moving the story forward. Then the author returns to the opening and adds the action, description and introspection. Writing a scene this way can help you to understand how a story is layered and it gives you time to put yourself into the characters so that their actions and thoughts can show their emotion and their growth.

Whichever method you use, these five steps can help you write scenes that are strong in purpose, deepen characterization, show change and growth, reveal emotion, and hook readers.

(c) Gail Gaymer Martin 2017


Writing craft

Build a 3-Dimensional Hero Using Core Personalities – Part II

Historical Post by Gail Gaymer Martin

Build a 3-Dimensional Hero Using Core Personalities – Part II

In Part 1, I explained Core Personalities and gave you the basic information needed to use these personalities to create fictional heroes and heroines. Today I will go more deeply into the subject of Core Personalities by adding more of the techniques novelists use to create characters.

After digesting the personalities of the four core types from Terrance Real’s book How Can I Get Through To You, you can see the opportunities to build some interesting characters and create dynamic conflicts. Consider plotting a thriller where two elitists are on opposing forces or plotting a romance with the one character being a feeler and the other an analyzer. Put two drivers together in a story built around a family dynasty. Conflict is brewing in any of those scenarios.

To add to the total character, you will take the basic core personality and add a past that will help the reader understand why one person is driven, why another lives with self-importance, and another can find a positive in the most negative situation. You are a mix of genetics and experience, and to help readers believe in your characters and find them compelling, you must develop them just as you have become who you are. Remember that your past (backstory) is made up of a multitude of elements: upbringing, family discipline, education, religious attitudes, health issues, birth order, family dysfunctions, successes and failures, location (south/west/north/east or rural/urban), and income.

As you build these core personalities, begin thinking how these characters will dress, their language and diction, their manner of responding and reacting to situations. You can see that each will be different.

The feeler will speak in a more flowing language using animation. The language could be more poetic, using alliteration and similes. He will emphasize the good, and avoid talking about the bad. A woman might dress more colorfully, with gussy jewelry and more ruffles. A man might take more chances in trying something new, fads or something outside the box.

The driver will speak in shorter, emphatic sentences. He doesn’t waste time. He wants to get to the nitty gritty of the topic. No flowery language for him. He is organized in both his speaking and in his apparel. He dresses for the situation, but clothes aren’t his concern. He focuses on getting things done and accomplishing his goal.

The analyzer will be thoughtful in his speech and will not waste words. He won’t speak until he’s thought the situation through, and come up with the best response. He will ask questions, dig deeper, and not be afraid to pry. He expects answers. He will dress conservatively. He wears basic appropriate clothing for the occasion and doesn’t take chances in style. He prefers tradition.

The elitist will use a large vocabulary and good grammar. He’ll speak clearly and decisively as if what he says is truth whether it is or not. He will stand back and observe rather than jump into a mundane conversation. He could be a name dropper both in style of clothing, and in who he knows. His apparel will be influenced by the situation. At a black tie dinner he will wear a designer tuxedo, but he’s not afraid to be his own person and make others think it is appropriate. They will sometimes follow his lead, thinking if he can do it maybe it’s the best way to dress. No matter what he wears, he will stand out in the crowd.

As you weigh these characters and their interactions, notice how conflicts can easily arise depending on their roles in your novel. Don’t always make the boss the elitist. An employee could outshine the owner and bully him, if he’s not confident in his role. You set the scenario. Although we often think of women as the feeler, try this attribute on a man. Don’t make him effeminate, but make him care and show he does. By working with core personalities, you can create some unexpected characters with compelling conflicts.

And finally remember that your characters will change from the beginning of the novel to the end. When two elitists battle face to face, it will cause one to change. Perhaps he realizes that his elitism is only a cover for what he thought he lacked in his past, and he walks away from the battle feeling he is a winner. The driver who falls in love with a feeler can learn that he’s destroying his chances for happiness by thinking success in his business is the most important thing in his life. He learns that loving and being loved is the ultimate happiness.

With these techniques, you will create dynamic believable characters!




Writing craft

Build a 3-D Hero Using Core Personalities – Part I from Gail Gaymer Martin

Historical Post by Gail Gaymer Martin

Build a 3-D Hero Using Core Personalities – Part 1

Gail Gaymer Martin
Gail Gaymer Martin

Today I will talk about using Core Personalities to help create a novel’s hero or main male character. This information can also be used for females, but since most popular authors are females, especially those who write romance which is the largest selling genre, we need to put our feet into a man’s shoes.

Whether you write suspense, romance, or adventure, any genre needs 3-D characters. Author Mark Mynheir presented a workshop once on characterization and suggested the use of the Myers Briggs personality test to help create dynamic characters by using the basic core personalities and then wrapping a backstory history around him. Here is a site where you can check out the basic eight personality types used in the Myers Briggs test.

But let’s begin by looking a four core personalities from Terrance Real’s book How Can I Get Through To You. He suggests in his book that people have four personalities: Feeler, Driver, Analyzer, and Elitist. Now we can take the eight personalities of Myers Briggs and find these personalities there as well, but for writing, these four will provide a good basis.

The feeler is a person who reacts and interacts through emotion and comes across as warm and friendly. He avoids confrontation and always tries to put the most positive twist on every situation. He prefers intimate groups rather than a crowd and rarely initiates conversation, especially with strangers. When in a larger group, he becomes more reticent and only expresses opinions that are non-aggressive. His emotions are often on his sleeve. His body language can be emotive. Think Oprah.

The driver tends to be a Type A personality who is perceptive and therefore likes to control the situation. He is curious and enthusiastic while tending to pick up on the mood and style of the group he is in. He is verbal and quick-minded. His body action is animated. Some people might considered him overly-friendly, but he is naturally gregarious. He would be considered a non-conformist, willing to take chances if he sees the possibility of positive results. Think Bill O’Reilly.

The analyzer is organized, logical, and stoic. He is careful in what he says, controlling himself mentally, physically and verbally. Though he is pleasant, he keeps his distance and appears to need no one besides himself. Emotions are not for the analyzer, but intellect is. He is very self-confident and is not at ease in lighthearted or frivolous situations. Think Barbara Walters and Martha Stewart.

The elitist is aloof and feels superior. Although he appears friendly, he has a strong sense of his own importance. He observes his surroundings yet is detached from the situation. He can be charismatic and easily stands out in a crowd by his bearing and manner. Think Simon Cowell and Hannibal Lector.

Think about how this information might be used in your novel to build a 3-D hero using core personalities. Part II will add some layers to the core and pose some thoughts on how to use the core personalities to create great conflict.


Writing craft

Not All Conflicts Sustain A Novel by Gail Gaymer Martin

Gail Gaymer Martin
Gail Gaymer Martin

Good morning at Christian Author Network from Gail Gaymer Martin. Last month I provide information about Conflicts That Lifts the Bar, but this month, we’ll talk about conflicts again but the topic is: Not All Conflicts Sustain A Novel. I hope you find this information useful.

Not All Conflicts Sustain An Entire Novel

Since I’ve taught writing fiction for years and wrote the Writers Digest book, Writing The Christian Romance, I have received questions from writers about many elements and techniques of writing that they struggle with. Below is one of the questions and my response.

Question:  This question is about conflict. I’m reading books, trying to figure out how to make my own conflict work better, but I can’t see that I’m doing anything differently than most writers. I don’t see that any of the conflicts I’ve read in fourteen books are any more developed than the conflicts that I have been getting “this won’t sustain an entire book” comments. Can you explain this to me?

 My Response: On this Writing Fiction blog I have discussed and shared tips on conflict, but this is a good question and it’s worth answering it again.

Sometimes novelists must step back and look at the conflicts in their fiction. A story needs more than one, and each is resolved as the story goes to have a larger more complex one rise to challenge the goal of the character. Some conflicts seem important but they drags on through the story  and a good conversation could solve the problem.

Deep Conflicts
Conflicts in fiction need to be real life conflicts that aren’t an argument or problem easily solved. Conflict must come from something deeper. It often begins in backstory, twisting the character’s psyche, affecting the characters goals and motivation, and driving them forward without commonsense sometimes. Many such conflicts deal with spiritual issues.

Other conflicts, and most often internal conflicts, develop within a character from a deep-seeded fear or need, and creates the inability to discuss it.

 Look At Your Own Life
If you look in your own heart, you will probably think of something you did in your life that has caused guilt or shame, something you know the Lord had been utterly disappointed in you. These are issues which we don’t easily admit and sometimes they become the “molehills to mountains” conflict in a story that takes more than conversation to resolve. Remember conversation does not solve problems. It helps provide information but the true help comes from an internal process to work through the problem and forgive or accept.

Your story must contain these types of  conflicts, ones that take courage and strength to open and to share with others because the possibility of ramification is greater than the power to share them. The question arises with the character is it better to remain friends than to take a chance on losing the relationship all together?

Examples of Deep Conflicts 
Conflict can come from two people wanting the same thing and only one can have it – or two people wanting the same thing but in a different way. It can come from fears that people don’t want to admit — a woman who’s hidden a rape—highly fears how her relationship will be with a man.

In romance, someone with the inability to have children will not want to fall in love with someone who deserves to be a father or mother, and logically this will hold them back from falling in love. One of my Love Inspired releases has this type of conflict. Even if the other party says it doesn’t matter, it matters to the one who feels to blame and the issue is complicated more if the character saw a marriage fail because of this problem in another couple.

Conflict can come from two people who fall in love and each has a career in different areas of the country—established jobs they don’t want to leave and each hopes the other will give in. The problems can appear simple, but when this job is something the character struggled for–if it provides him or her a sense of identity and purpose–then giving it up can lead to martyrism (if that’s a word) and ruin a marriage.

Conflicts Combine Situation and Characterization
We have to look inside the minds of a character to see how they are viewing the problem with their own set of complexities. Just as emotion is complex and never clear cut, neither is conflict. It has a multitude of issues that feed into the problem that make it a “big” problem, where in your personal life, it seems so simple.

Conflict And Emotion
Still it’s the authors job to provide enough depth to a conflict to make it real and to bring out the emotion of the situation so it makes an impact on the reader and touches them in a way that they can relate to the struggle and it is vital for characters to change and grow throughout the book just as we change with each experience. This makes the characters real and it makes the conclusion realistic.

As far as story dealing with an unbeliever as a major conflict, I avoid conversion stories. I often have a weak Christian who’s struggle is due to something happening in his past that knocked his faith on a tilt—and as he struggles the tilt becomes less and less until he realizes that the Lord has been waiting for him with open arms. Then the story conflict can draw to a conclusion with realism.

Conflicts In Romance
Because of the nature of conflict, especially in a pure romance (not romantic suspense or a romance in women’s fiction), when a character says I love you, it’s the end of the story and sometimes the solution seems to end too fast. But if the author has built up to this, then it works. I have used the “I love you” from one character and a “no” from the other.  In the character’s heart it’s a yes but something holds the character back from being willing to submit to the love they feel. Many things can hold people back, and I mentioned a few of them earlier.

Seeking The Deepest Conflict
When a conflict is not deep enough or not motivated by reality, it doesn’t work as the major “dark moment” conflict. The author needs to find something more important and deep-seeded that will cause true tension and emotion. Conflicts, like emotion, must be layered, deep and realistic.

(c) Gail Gaymer Martin 2015


Writing craft

Conflict That Lifts The Bar by Gail Gaymer Martin

Gail Gaymer Martin

Wishing you blessings from Gail Gaymer Martin and the Christian Author Network.  As always, I’m busy working on a new novel, and  that always reminds me of the many techniques and elements it takes to write a salable book of fiction.

Today I will talk to you about conflicts and why lifting the bar and presenting strong conflicts is important in any kind of fiction from thrillers to romance.

Problems, crises and conflicts need solutions, but the conflict needs to be strong. It can’t be running out of wine at a party or disagreeing on what movie to see. You all know that arguments and disagreements aren’t worthy of being considered a conflict in fiction.

A conflict needs to involve a vital situation or issue needed for the main character to reach his goal. He needs enough money to pay the taxes and buy back the family ranch. He must find the killer to prove the accused is not the criminal. The more desperate the need the more exciting the solution is to readers. So what can you do to raise the stakes in your novel?

Near Home
Stakes are raised when the conflict or threat is close to home. Someone was murdered on the next street. The neighbor’s child was seriously injured by a hit and run driver. The situation could have happened on your street. The child could have been your own. Still the situation creates a problem and desire to resolve the character’s fear. He wants slower speed limits on the highway. He wants a neighbor watch or better police patrols. These types of issues can happen in novels as they do in real life, but they cannot be the major conflict in the story until the problem is on the character’s doorstep. Then it becomes more personal.

Raising the Stakes
Take a scenario such as this: A coworker has a seriously ill child whose life can only be saved with medication not approved by the FDA, yet successful used in Europe. This situation would sadden a family man, but if the situation happened to his brother’s son, it’s his nephew who will die without the medication. The grief and concern deepens the closer the issue. Now it becomes personal. The situation involves his brother and nephew. He is more than sad. He fills with anger and writes to his congressman and the FDA. He writes an article to the local newspaper asking citizens to start a petition to force the government to act on the approval of this medication that is affect in other countries.

Deeply Personal
But let’s raise the stakes even more. It’s not a nephew and his brother dealing with this situation, but the plight is his own son who is dying from a disease that could be healed by this medication. In this case, resolving the conflict is vital to his need to save his son. The situation is desperate, and the courses of action grows to unknown heights. The father would do what he did for his nephew, but he would do more. He might decide to travel to Europe and bring the medication into the U.S. illegally. This adds deeper conflict and brings it to crisis level. It could mean imprisonment for him, but it’s a father saving his son, and he will do anything. The stake is deeply personal and it becomes deeply personal for readers who stand behind the father and his desire to save his child.

The stakes can also be raised by facing a community crisis. Everyone recalls in history when radiation was close to homes and families become ill. When water became polluted from chemicals emptied into it by local factories. These are real life concerns that all people have. Today we hear of pieces of land dropping off into mud slides and taking more and more land from people’s property and endangering their homes. These problems also raise the stakes when the character’s home and family are involved. While a community crisis affecting many, authors can bring the desperation home by involving the main character or a family member into the political fray of corruption and greed as they try to save their communities.

As you work with community issues, again, bring it home. Involve the main character and his family. Ask what will happen if this problem isn’t resolved. What political or industrial reaction could add to the main character’s danger? When big business is threatened, it can afford to fight to protect their business even when they know they are at fault. In fiction, such interference by the main character could put his life in jeopardy. Think deep and broad.

Authors writing speculative fiction understand the battles that war in the netherworld, aliens and beings that can destroy the world as we know it, such fiction as: War of the Worlds, Marvel’s The Avenger, Men In Black, Independence Day, and Transformers to name only a few. The author begins in an ordinary world and then strange things happen. Deeper into the story, the main characters’ lives are threatened by the oncoming attack. The world will change forever. Desperation and cunning is the keyword. These stories are action-packed, but within them, a bit of reality must remain. The story goes from saving the family to saving the world. It is a broad sweep of excitement, ingenuity, wisdom and courage. The stake raises when the main character finds his and his family’s lives are in jeopardy. Remember the more the character has to lose means the more his goal at risk. Readers will read with escalated pulses as the stakes become higher and higher.

Lifting the bar to conflict, whether near home, personal, deeply personal, community or world, means the closer the character is to danger and the deeper he is involved in risk and conflict, the higher the excitement grows for readers. Leave them breathless and wanting more.

Read Gail’s novel, Treasures of Her Heart, for examples of strong conflicts in a mystery and romance. Conflicts are needed in all genre.

About Gail:

Multi-award-winning novelist, Gail Gaymer Martin is the author of Christian romance, romantic suspense, and women’s fiction with 64 novels and four million books in print. She is a cofounder of American Christian Fiction Writers and a keynote speaker and workshop presenter at conferences across the U.S. Look for her novels on Amazon or on her website at