Thursday, November 21, 2013

Merry Mayhem by Anita Higman

Anita Higman
Novels set during the Christmas season are becoming more popular than ever. People love reading cozy stories during the coziest time of the year. But the stories can’t be all about Santa’s rosy cheeks and merry dimples. If I don’t have St. Nick ripping his pants on the way down the chimney, or landing on some burning coals, or facing a gun-toting homeowner, then readers might want to settle in for a long winter’s nap—but only after opening the shutters to toss my novel out onto the new-fallen snow!

Okay then, let’s brainstorm a snuggly Christmas scene that can be tweaked enough to turn tranquility into turmoil.

Our heroine and hero, Lucy and Harold, are in love—oh, how sweet—and Lucy knows that Harold has created a perfect evening so he can pop the question. The tree is decorated, Josh Groban’s Noel CD is playing, and Harold and Lucy are nestled in front of a crackling fire sipping hot wassail. That’s a nice Christmassy proposal scene, but we can only take cozy so far. Ray Bradbury said, “First, find out what your hero wants, then just follow him!” Good advice, but what if my heroine, Lucy, wants to marry Harold and is about to yes? It’s the end of my happily-ever-after story. Something ugly will need to happen soon. Some sort of struggle, internal or external.

Here’s one scenario. Hours before their romantic interlude, Lucy discovers that one of her beloved friends, Alice, is also in love with Harold. This could cause some struggle, but Lucy may say yes to the proposal anyway, since she could convince herself that she is the only woman on earth who could make Harold happy. Okay, so after a chapter or two, the conflict fizzles.

Maybe a moral dilemma would turn up the heat. What if Lucy’s friend, Alice, was a widow, and the reason her husband is dead and her children are fatherless is because of an accident—an accident that was Lucy’s fault? And what if Alice had a problem with depression because of her loss and grief? Okay, that’s a twist that will make readers squirm. Lucy is now going to say no to Harold’s proposal—that is, if she has any moral marbles in her bag—and she’ll want to give Harold a chance to fall in love with Alice.

Good, but maybe the conflict needs another layer. Perhaps since the accident—which was years ago—Alice has used the incident as leverage, and she has forced Lucy into a subservient mode that has turned into oppression. Lucy will not only need to love Alice as Christ would, but she’ll also need discernment and wisdom and courage to break free of Alice’s control. Hopefully this additional dimension will help keep Lucy tripping toward the altar until she finally gets to say, “I do.”

If you have trouble creating conflict in your story, then find a brainstorming buddy who can help you flesh it out. This simple but effective idea has worked well for me.

I think one of the best books out there on plot development and conflict is The Plot Thickens by Noah Lukeman. I highly recommend it. Hope this helps.

Merry mayhem to all and to all a goodnight!

Dora here. How do you layer the conflict 
in your stories?
Do you brainstorm with your buddies?

Purchase Link
Charlotte Rose Hill, who loves serving up country delicacies and uniquely blended teas, discovers that while she's been faithfully caring for her tearoom customers, she'd also been quietly turning into an old maid. Charlotte did fall in love with a young man, Sam Wilder, when she was 18, but his family forced her to walk away from their relationship. Now, more than a decade later, Charlotte finds that she still has feelings for her first love. Initially thrilled to learn that Sam has come home to Middlebury, Texas, Charlotte is then devastated to learn that he's brought someone with him: his fiancée. But all is not lost when one of the loveable but meddlesome townsfolk decides to get involved. Will the next marriage in Middlebury be for Sam and Charlotte?

Best-selling and award-winning author, Anita Higman, has thirty-six books published. She’s been a Barnes & Noble “Author of the Month” for Houston and has a BA in the combined fields of speech communication, psychology, and art. Anita loves good movies, exotic teas, and brunch with her friends. 

Please visit her website at and drop her a note by clicking the “Contact Me” button.


  1. Greetings!

    I hope you enjoyed my little piece on conflict. Happy writing and happy Thanksgiving too!

    Bless you all.
    Anita Higman

  2. Not only did I enjoy this post, but I learned from it and can apply it to my own writing efforts. Plotting a novel is not easy (at least for me), so I appreciate any little nuggets of advice I can pick up. Thanks, Anita!

  3. Good points, Anita. I guess you could equate it to gingerbread. Without the spice (conflict), it would be just another sugar cookie. :)

  4. What a cute, fun way to show how to ramp up the conflict, Anita. :)

    Right now, I don't work with any brainstorming buddies, but I think this is a great idea. Might have to strongarm some of my nearby writing friends. :D

  5. I am not a writer, but i love the way Anita Higman writes, i enjoy her book tremendously. Her little story that she started it would help anyone to know how to out line their story and have a great book, because she has different plots going there. Great job Anita, now i want to hear the rest of the story.

  6. Hi Anita, great blog and great question. I don't now how good I am at conflict, but I think I'm pretty good at believability and seeing "conflicts" that are nothing more than bickering and a misunderstandings that should have been figured out if the scene lasted one second longer. How many times in a TV show or movie does the hero/heroine come across their love interest hugging or chatting with an ex...and they just huff off? Me, I'd go confront them and at least say, what's up. I love when nature causes conflicts. The blizzard cancelling a flight makes more sense to me than somebody just missing the plane (and the wedding et al), Good stuff.


We'd love to hear your thoughts! Please leave comments. We'll moderate and post them!