Using the Power of Dilemma to drive a Story

Posted on Posted in Starting a New Story, Story Structure

Choices, choices, choices.

In A DILEMMA. A choice has to be made between two equally bad – or two equally good- alternatives.

 Example. Many marriage of convenience stories or moral dilemmas have exactly this kind of dilemma.  

Charles Dickens loved them -such as where the pretty heroine innocent has to marry the repellent man to save her sister/aged parent/child from destitution or prison or some other terrible fate.

Today it would be the unmarried mother who needs what this man can offer her. Or the person who agrees to pretend to a fiancée or girlfriend to save someone or something they care about.

For example, in the recent movie ‘The Proposal’ Ryan Reynolds is persuaded to pretend to be Sandra Bullock’s fiancé so that he can keep his job and she can avoid being deported back to Canada.

One good central dilemma can drive both the conflict and the energy in a romance.

The power of this dilemma can build in intensity until her hero and heroine is forced into a situation when they have to make that crucial decision and decide which of the equally bad or wonderful options to accept. One way or the other, this dilemma is finally resolved at the point of resolution.

In my first novel for the Romance Line ‘Always the Bridesmaid’, my heroine Amy must decide whether to give her long standing goal of adopting a child, and a future with a wonderful man, Jared, who has just come into her life.

In that heart wrenching scene when they declare their love, that precious moment is marred by the revelation that Jared does not want children, adopted or otherwise.

Both alternatives are equally desirable, but each is at odds with the other –forcing poor Amy to make the ultimate choice.

Powerful emotions, deep choices. That is the power of the dilemma. And don’t we love them?

5 thoughts on “Using the Power of Dilemma to drive a Story

  1. Thank you Phillipa and Caroline and you are most welcome. I am working a dilemma into my current WIP and throwing some rather large rocks at my poor hero and heroine!
    Happy writing to you both! LOL

  2. I echo Philipa. Thanks for this timely reminder as I try to put the finishing touches to my HM&B comp. entry! Eww. Conflict, conflict, conflict. I know it’s out there somewhere! Take care. Caroline x

  3. Nina – thank you! So glad you’ve reminded me of this. It is so helpful to the book I’m writing now. I’ve taken some time to think about throwing the biggest dilemma/conflict I can , my heroine’s way. It really does drive the story forward.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *