Conflict & Structure with Author Stephanie Rowe

>> Wednesday, June 29, 2011

As a four-time RITA® Award nominee, a Golden Heart® Award winner and a nationally bestselling author of more than twenty books, Stephanie Rowe knows a thing or ten about writing.  So when I created interview questions for her appearance here, I thought craft would be a topic both writers and readers would enjoy.  I know I was intrigued with Stephanie's answers and can't wait for my copy of her July release, TOUCH IF YOU DARE, coming in the mail.  Yes, I won one early!  And you can too!

Comment on any of Stephanie's answers or ask a question of your own and you'll be entered to win one of the following 7 prizes! (U.S. & Canada Shipping Only)

  • A print copy of TOUCH IF YOU DARE
  • A print copy of KISS AT YOUR OWN RISK
    Stephanie's prior release
  • 1 of 5 custom bookmarks

Welcome, Stephanie!

How long does it typically take you to write a book from concept to polish?
It totally depends on the book. Last year, it took me almost six months to TOUCH IF YOU DARE, my July release, and that didn't even include pre-work or editing. This spring, I wrote my latest book in 17 days! That one just came alive for me, and it was the coolest experience. From idea to polished book, that one took me just under two months. I wish they were all that easy! Over the last five years or so, I've focused on educating myself about how other writers prepare for writing a book, and I've created an extensive system of 10 or 12 documents that I go through as I brainstorm. They are cumulative, building upon each other as I learn more about the story and the characters and can dig deeper into everything. By the time I finish, I've got a 10 or 12 page very tight document that tells me exactly what I need to know to write, and not a bit more. It's been working really well for me and I continue to refine it as I learn more and evolve as a writer.

You write in several romance genres: paranormal, suspense and contemporary.  What do you love to write the most?
I really enjoy the freedom of writing in different areas. Each one taps into different strengths and has different challenges and opportunities, so writing in the different genres helps to keep me fresh and it keeps me growing as a writer. I am usually most interested in whatever genre my current work-in-progress is in, which is good, since that's what I'm immersed in all day!

What is your philosophy on conflict in a novel?
There are two kinds of conflict: external (e.g. bad guy) and internal (the character's personal baggage). I believe that the most powerful conflict has to come from the soul, and it has to be the kind of conflict that can't be overcome by a simple conversation or illuminating moment. A book without a powerful internal conflict will often lack that compelling element, while a book without a powerful external conflict can often be riveting. So, when I write, I always focus on the internal conflict and I allow the external conflict to arise from that.

How do you go about building your novel’s conflict?
My first step is to get to know my two main characters in their souls. I don't bother with their favorite kind of ice cream. I need to sink myself deep into the emotions that drive them, and peel back the layers to expose their greatest fears, their greatest hopes, and their greatest joys. I find out what drives them, and I find out what terrifies them beyond belief, and then I create a story that forces them to defeat their innermost terrors in order to get that which their soul burns for. Sometimes those obstacles can be external, tapping into their inner traumas, and sometimes those obstacles can be internal, but every obstacle and every event and every relationship stems from that darkest place in their soul that is yearning for hope, for love and for light.

Do you plan out the structure of your novel? What model do you use?
From a structural perspective, I have created my own model based primarily on Blake Snyder's SAVE THE CAT screenwriter's book, and the hero's journey as described in Mary Buckham's brilliant lecture, Plotting with Mythic Structure (I highly recommend going to her website,, and buying her lectures. They are absolutely invaluable). I've taken those plot points and created a chart in word that I fill in with assorted ideas for events. I've created assorted brainstorming documents that I use, and as I proceed through them and come up with plot points, I write them into my chart. By the time I finish going through my brainstorming documents, my chart is usually rich with events to challenge my characters. I usually don't have to do any more work, and I'm ready to write at that point.

Great tips for writers! Fun insight for readers! Hope you have enjoyed.

Comment on any of Stephanie's answers or ask a question of your own and you'll be entered to win one of the following 7 prizes! (U.S. & Canada Shipping Only)

* Must leave a contact email *
  • A print copy of TOUCH IF YOU DARE
  • A print copy of KISS AT YOUR OWN RISK
    Stephanie's prior release
  • 1 of 5 custom bookmarks


Lolarific 9:12 PM  

Which genre would you rather read yourself between the ones you write? It's always interesting to see if writer's read the same type of books that they write.

LOVE the bookmarks!


Joan Swan 9:36 PM  

Ooo, good one, Lolarific!

Karen H 9:44 PM  

I loved your answer about conflict, I enjoy stories where the characters have to overcome their pasts to embrace their futures.

claddagh64 at yahoo dot com

Maureen 3:44 AM  

I'm wondering if you start with the plot or the characters when you begin a novel.
mce1011 AT aol DOT com

Stephanie Rowe 5:09 AM  

Hi Lolorific! My favorite genre to read is historical romance. I could never write it, but it is my first love when it comes to reading.

Hi Karen H, I agree! I feel like in real life, that's what we're always doing, struggling to overcome baggage from our pasts to be able to move forward, and I think having my characters do the same is very powerful.

Hi Maureen, I usually start with the characters, though occasionally a plot idea will arise first. If I start with the characters, then it usually gives rise naturally to a plot that is significant to THAT character and that creates a personalization of the story and the conflict.

Thanks for joining us, ladies!

Stephanie Rowe 5:10 AM  

Joan, those charms are AWESOME!!!! Thank you for making them!!

Sherry Isaac 5:20 AM  

Hello Stephanie and Joan,

A 'YES!' went off like a firecracker in my head hearing about the documents Stephanie developed to become familiar with characters and plot. As I learn and grow as a writer I have been doing the same thing, revising as I go along, and the deeper I dig, the more I find there are little things already in the character's actions or history that feed the next step. Subconscious at work? Or Magic? Who knows?

Stephanie, thanks for sharing. Joan, awesome as always.

Sharon 5:55 AM  

Stopping by to show my support for Stephanie. I've read Touch If You Dare and I has a blast reading it! It was my first Rowe read and it won't be my last! Of course I am all about the wounded alpha warrior ;)

What great questions and I love your site. Those bookmarks are incredible!

I already own a copy of TIYD, but I would like to be entered to win a bookmark or KAYOR.

leisa 7:41 AM  

I love the bookmarks..they are awesome. Thank you for the chance to win the books...looks like great

Stephanie Rowe 9:09 AM  

Hi Sherry! I'm so glad you had a lightbulb moment! It sounds like you're doing exactly what I did, and that's great. It really helps! Keep it up!

Hi Sharon! Thanks for stopping by and for your nice words about Touch if You Dare. You're the best!

Leisa, aren't those bookmarks awesome! So cool!

The Loopy Librarian 9:13 AM  

Without internal conflict, external conflict would be a whole lot less interesting. I like that you focus more on what is going on inside each character and allow that to lead the story.

Thanks for the drawing! allisonmoyer(at)yahoo(dot)com

Stephanie Rowe 9:40 AM  

I agree, Allison. It's the depth within that makes everything else interesting! Thx for stopping by!

Linda McDonald 9:45 AM  

Hi Stephanie,
Thanks very much for sharing info about your writing process. I love to hear how authors plan events/brainstorm their stories. I'm at the very beginning stage of plotting my next story....always fun, but I've got a lot of work ahead of me! :) If you ever do an online lecture with regards to plotting/brainstorming the start of a novel, I'd definitely sign up!

Joan: the bookmarks are beautiful. Thanks for the drawing. csolinda(at)hotmail(dot)com

Joan Swan 12:41 PM  

Thanks all. I'm sorta quiet b/c I'm at work :( But I'm checking in. :) Glad you like the bookmarks!!

Sheree 4:28 PM  

Hm, my comment from last night didn't show up (probably during the blogger fit).

What I look for is character growth - the hero or heroine has to grow by the end of the book through meeting the other - so I totally agree with the importance of internal conflict.

Love the bookmark!

Vonnie Alto 11:42 PM  

Just saw this article mentioned on twitter so I zoomed on over. Hi Stephanie! Love the cover. What you said resonates with me. It's a good reminder to nail the internal conflict and emotions and the rest will follow.

I've been plotting backwards nailing the external conflict. As a result, I've been having a difficult time coming up with the emotions and character baggage. Any suggestions for someone like me who has a very detailed external conflict/plot but a sketchy internal plot/conflict?

Stephanie Rowe 8:36 AM  

Hi Vonnie! It's so good to see you here! I used to plot from external conflict first, and when I switched, my books became so much deeper and more compelling! I'd just switch to a blank sheet of paper and start brainstorming a heroine from the inside. Once you get a little traction, then you could switch over to a character sketch worksheet. If you want me to email your mine, just drop me an email and I'll shoot it over.

Stephanie Rowe 8:38 AM  

Hi Linda! I'm at the start of a new book as well, and it is a daunting task! Others have asked me for my plotting/brainstorming workshop, so I think I will probably put it up at at some point. Good luck!

Stephanie Rowe 8:39 AM  

Hi Sheree, thanks for stopping by. I totally agree! if you don't care about the h/h, then the book doesn't matter to the reader.

Tatiana L. 10:39 AM  

I like it that you write in several romance genres which helps you to keep you growing as a writer.

Have you ever considered translating your books into other languages?


Christa C 8:54 PM  

Thank you for the writer tips and insight, especially on plotting! Can't wait to read the book!!


Stephanie Rowe 6:50 AM  

Hi Tatiana, I totally agree. It makes it very fun!

Hi Crista, thanks for stopping by!

Sheree 3:47 PM  

Oops, forgot my email: ironss [at] gmail [dot] com

Joan Swan 9:30 PM  


Sherry Isaac: Winner of Stephanie's new release, TOUCH IF YOU DARE!

Linda McDonald: Winner of Stephanie's previous release, KISS AT YOUR OWN RISK

Maureen: Bookmark

Leisa: Bookmark

Sharon: Bookmark

Tatiana: Bookmark

Allison: Bookmark

I will email everyone! Congrats!!

Linda McDonald 10:24 PM  

Wow! How cool! Thanks Joan (and Stephanie!) Congrats to the other winners!

nv.sms 12:30 AM  

You always do amazing work.. It is really a noce read.

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