Welcome to the Blog Hop - it’s the merry month of May and we are talking about confrontation and how it creates powerful drama. Without conflict there is no story and conflict brings confrontation before resolution. Whether it's a protagonist who finds him or herself thwarted by circumstances or opponents, or lovers on opposite sides of a problem, their desires and motives push them into the action that makes the story exciting. I'm fortunate that I have a brainstorming group we call the Sandy Scribblers because I tend to be a Pollyanna and I don't want to hurt my characters. But my Sandy buddies ask the tough questions that make me stop and rethink my plot or my characters' motivations. Often they help me come up with great ways to create conflict and confrontaion. My new book HEALING A HERO which is coming out this summer is a reunion story and the final black moment is full of confrontation. Here's an excerpt.
Background: One crazy summer, in a whirlwind affair Philip and Elena fell in love while Philip was home on leave, and while no commitments were made when they had to say goodbye, both were eager for his tour aboard a Navy ship in the South China Sea to end so they could be back together again. But then 9/11 happened and due to circumstances neither could control, they lost touch. Philip, a Marine, was sent almost immediately and without warning to Afghanistan and Elena was left wondering why he stopped e-mailing her.
Now, fourteen years later, Philip is injured and in rehab and it turns out Elena is his therapist. Although it breaks all the rules the attraction and passion they once shared comes roaring back and both are eager to start fresh. Then Philip learns that Elena’s daughter Julie is his child.
“I was going to tell you—”
“You should have told me fourteen years ago,” Philip cut her off, his tone harsher than he intended.
“Fourteen years ago I didn’t think you cared.” Elena set her untouched sandwich back into the wrapping it had come out of.
Her accusation slammed into Philip with the force of a sucker punch. “After everything that happened to us that summer?” he asked incredulously. “How could you ever have believed I wouldn’t care?”
“You never replied to my emails. What was I supposed to think?”
“You could have called Jake. He’d have told you why I couldn’t write.”
“I didn’t know Jake knew about us.”
“He knew I loved you,” Philip shot back. He shoved the sandwich he no longer felt like eating into the bag and pushed it aside. “You could have swallowed that damned pride of yours and called my parents.”
Elena blanched. “I couldn’t call them, Philip. I’d have been too embarrassed.”
“Embarrassed?” Philip shouted. Several heads turned their way. Coming to the canteen for this conversation had been a bad idea. His uniform betrayed his rank, and his behavior was inappropriate. He lowered his voice. “You going to eat that?”
She shook her head.
“Good. Let’s get out of here.”
He grabbed her hand and pulled her from her chair, led her through the now goggling crowd and out the door. He dragged her along in his wake until they were clear of the buildings where he turned onto a short cut to somewhere on the next block and finally stopped in a cluster of young trees that afforded them at least the illusion of privacy.
“My parents would never have blamed you. I’d have gotten a reaming, but if you’d gone to them they’d have helped you out in any way they could.”
“I barely knew them.” Elena crossed her arms over her chest.
“But they’re my parents. Julie’s grandparents. And they’d have been better able to reach me and get me back home to accept my share of the responsibility for getting you pregnant. I might have been in disgrace, but I’d have come no matter what was happening in Afghanistan. I’d have found a way.” Anguish was tearing him up inside.
Elena lost some of the defensive posture, but her body language told him she still blamed him for everything she’d endured.
“Do you have any idea how I felt when I got back and discovered you were married? After you promised to wait for me?” His chest ached
“I can explain.”
A bloom of anger erupted, shoving the pain aside. “You’ve had fourteen years to explain. You were pregnant with my baby. I had a right to know.”
“Sorry!” Philip shouted. He felt the veins popping out in his neck and temples. He shouldn’t be dumping on her like this, but he couldn’t seem to stop the steamroller that had gotten hold of his self-control and was flattening everything in its path. “I’ve missed my daughter’s whole growing up. And you’re sorry? You can’t ever give those years back, Elena. They’re just gone.”
Elena stopped arguing. Stopped apologizing and just stood there cringing like a whipped puppy. Philip ignored the stab of doubt and plowed on.
“What about last week? When we were baring our souls and promising each other a new beginning? What about then? Why didn’t you tell me then?”
Philip’s cell phone rang. He ignored it.
“Didn’t you think it would be important to tell me about Julie when we were talking about the rest of our lives? You’re as big a liar as Holly.”
Elena looked like he’d hit her.
“What about Julie? Didn’t she have the right to know her own father? If you’d told me you were pregnant, I would never have forced you to marry me if you didn’t want to, but I had a right to know. Julie is my daughter. I had a right to know about her. And she had a right to know who her real father was.”
Unable to stand still, he turned in an angry little circle and came back to loom over her.
“When I got home that next summer, I was all set to hunt you down and find out why you stopped writing. I meant for us to get reconnected. Then Andy told me you were married.
“Married!” Philip rammed his fingers through his already disheveled hair. “You can’t begin to understand how I felt. Every dream I had of coming home and making a life with you was smashed all to hell and back. I couldn’t volunteer fast enough to get back into action so I could forget. But if I’d known about Julie, I never would have gone.” His phone rang again, and again he ignored it. “I wouldn’t have been shipped out of the country on every deployment I could get signed up for since then either.”
“But you were gone. And Julie had Eli. Eli was her father as far as she knew.” The whipped puppy was gone. Elena squared her shoulders and punched two fingers into Philip’s chest. “She had a father who was there for her.”
“And that was a lie too, wasn’t it. I’m beginning to feel sorry for the bastard. You lied to me. You lied to Julie. And you lied to Eli.”
“I never lied to Eli. He knew from the beginning how I felt.”
“You married him. You promised to love and cherish him. Or have you forgotten that part of the vows?”
“We were married by a justice of the peace.”
“So you never mentioned love? Or fidelity. What did you promise him that you didn’t really mean?”
“I promised to be his wife. And I did mean it.”
“You put that man through hell because you couldn’t muster up the kind of love a wife should feel for her husband. Gratitude doesn’t cut it, Elena. No wonder he went looking elsewhere.”
Philip’s phone rang a third time.
“Dammit!” He yanked the offending gadget from his pocket and glared at it. Crap! He should never have started this conversation when there was never going to be enough time to finish it. “We’re not done. But I have to answer this.”
“We’re definitely not done,” Elena snapped. “But don’t bother to call me again until you cool off. You aren’t the only injured party here.” With that, she spun on her heel and stormed off through the trees to the lawn beyond.
Philip gasped at the pain slicing through him. In just two short days he’d gone from ridiculously happy thinking he’d won back the one woman he could love for a lifetime, to finding out he had a thirteen-year-old daughter he barely knew, to this.
To this shattered empty place where his heart used to be.
Check out how all these authors have used confrontation to add drama to their stories:
Dr. Bob Rich