Literary Links

May/June 2003


Good News and Announcements

May/June 2003--This issue marks the six-year Anniversary of Literary Links, our on-line newsletter. This past year saw the publication of our Victorian Research Guide and a growing family of on-line authors.  This year, our web design services for authors are back!  For more information, click here

Victorian Research Guide--We're now on CD-Rom!  You can purchase the 252-page research guide, Researching the British Historical--The Victorian Era, in a new format--CD-Rom.  Compact and convenient, order the file type you prefer: MS Word or .pdf, for only $7.95.  The original print version is still available also.  For more information, click here. Or, if you're attending the conference in New York, we'll be selling the guide at the Moonlight Madness Bazaar.  Look for us there!

RWA National Conference--July 16-19, 2003--New York--Romance Writers of America will hold its 23rd annual conference at the Hilton New York.   See the RWA website for more information.  


New On Literary Liaisons

There are many new additions to Literary Liaisons. After reading about them below, check them out on the web site.






Shadows Over New Orleans by Shirley Chance Yarbro




Dearest Vicky, Darling Fritz by John Van der Kiste

From Printout to Published by Michael Seidman

The Garden at Chatsworth by the Duchess of Devonshire

The Pocket Muse by Monica Wood

Queen Victoria's Family by Charlotte Zeepvat

A Writer's Book of Days by Judy Reeves


Featured Title

From Printout to Published by Michael Seidman

The Video Library

Queen Victoria's Empire


Researching the Romance


Dearest Vicky, Darling Fritz by John Van der Kiste

From Printout to Published by Michael Seidman

The Garden at Chatsworth by the Duchess of Devonshire

The Gardens of William Morris by Penny Hart, et. al.

The Pocket Muse by Monica Wood

Queen Victoria's Family by Charlotte Zeepvat

A Writer's Book of Days by Judy Reeves


Writers' Resources Online


A Brief History of Fashion


The Proceedings of the Old Bailey London 1674-1834

Relationships between Queen Victoria's Descendants and Other European Royal Houses

The Thirty-Six (plus one) Dramatic Situations


Feature Article 

Conflict--The "Why Not?"

by Michelle Jean Hoppe


Conflict is defined as a competitive or opposing action of incompatibles; or a mental struggle resulting from incompatible or opposing needs, drives, wishes or external or internal demands.  In the literary sense, Conflict is a mechanism that sparks all stories.  It fans excitement and creates drama. 

    Conflict is NOT two pampered pooches and one bone.  Conflict is two hungry strays and one bone. It is the reason your character can't have what he wants. It is the obstacles or impediment your character must face in obtaining or achieving his goal.

   Now that we've defined it, how do we create it?

   Before you know your conflict, you must know your goals and motivations for each character--the 'what' and 'why' of everyone.  A success for one character should be a setback for another.  Paths and goals must intercept, thus ensuring that your Goals, Motivations will collide to create Conflict.  

    "But" naturally triggers conflict.  For example: The hero wants to rekindle a former love, but can't because the heroine is engaged.  They each have a goal and motivation, and these will collide, creating conflict.

    Clearly outline your conflict before you start to write.  This enables you to focus on scenes that advance the plot.  Within your scenes, you can foreshadow and create tension by knowing what's at stake for each character. 

    The essence of conflict is in the antagonistic force.  If portrayed larger than life, it becomes an intolerable threat.  Create a force your protagonists must overcome, because if they never face hardship, are never in danger, or never struggle, they're going to be boring.  Don't go overboard with too many problems, though.  The reader will stop believing after a while.

    Conflicts test your characters.  Those who are tested experience character growth.  Cowards and courage make for great conflict.  Think Indiana Jones.  Does your character hate snakes?  Put him in a snake pit.

    Make character's choices conflict-laden, not stagnant.  When a character faces a major choice, there's usually conflict because the choice is not easy.  Each time you highlight the choice, you highlight the conflict.  At some point, a choice has to be made and the characters may have to go against moral beliefs.  But be careful. Your choices should always be appropriate and in keeping with the character. 

    Don't use heavy emotional conflicts in lighter books.  You can create strong conflicts which will keep the hero/heroine apart emotionally without them being heavy.  Lighten the conflict by reducing the impact one degree.  For example, abuse is a heavy emotional conflict.  But by having the heroine's sister abused, instead of the heroine, you've removed the impact by one degree, so you've lightened the conflict, yet kept it strong.

    Think of your character at war--either with themselves or with others. And then chronicle the war until there is peace. 

   There are two kinds of conflict--External and Internal  

    EXTERNAL:  This is the conflict easiest to understand and create.  It is outside forces, physical entities.  It is your villain.  Your setting can even create instant conflict.  Think darkened alley, courtroom, jail cell.  Each has its own connotation, and suggests conflict before even meeting the characters.  In Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None, the setting is a country house--but not just any country house.  It's on an island with no escape, and a murderer on the loose. 

   Create a setting where conflict can flourish. 

    INTERNAL: These are the emotional roadblocks.  Think back to the dogs. You have two hungry strays.  Let's complicate it and make one a male stray and one a female with a pack of puppies.  They fight over the bone.  The stronger male wins.  Then he sees the female's pups.  He has second thoughts. 

   The External conflict here is.....the fight.

   The Internal conflict here is......the male's moral code.  He's hungry.  He wants to eat the bone he won.  But that would mean letting the puppies starve.

   So how do we build this idea into the story?  Think in blocks.  Let's start at the beginning.  Your first scene should be a hook.  Start at a point where something is happening!  Make it interesting.  Get the reader's attention.  Present a problem and the reader will want to see how it is solved.

    For example, in my Golden Heart Finalist entry, TEMPTING FATE, the heroine is sneaking a child through London's alleys.  The hero sees her, but lets her go on her way.  She thinks she is safe, until he appears later at the same dinner party.  The stakes have just risen.  At first, the heroine was only concerned with whether or not the child would be safe.  Now she has to worry about whether or not the hero will reveal her secret.

   As the story progresses, it relies on a developing conflict (or conflicts) to generate interest.  Conflict should build or change, not remain constant.  It should escalate.  Don't start your story with a riveting conflict in the earliest stages (other than opening hook).  You want to build up to severest action. 

   One way to escalate conflict is to keep adding uncertainties to the resolution.  For example, in Romeo and Juliet and West Side Story, the original conflict is opposing families or gangs.  It is complicated by a love interest between opposing sides.

   When creating individual scenes, begin with something interesting, something dramatic, to establish the conflict.  Then stop at a point where the reader doesn't expect it.  Satisfy yourself that the reader is intrigued, but don't give away the answer or explanation.  However, you DO have to answer at some point, whether it's the next page or the next chapter. 

   Conflicts should not just spring out of nowhere.  The hero can't announce halfway through the book--I don't want children just because I don't.  If goals and motivations aren't there, neither is conflict.  The reader must know those goals.  Lay a foundation, then escalate.  Move from vague hints to the concrete.  Introduce obstacles, each more difficult than the last.  Introduce clues.

   This brings us to the ending. You want to maintain conflict as long as possible if you want the story to have impact.  Don't glide to an end, especially in a suspense.  Hit a wall, then break through it.  The way the story ends is the final impression you leave with the reader.



  •  Bickering--This is not conflict.  It's annoying.  Witty repartee is fine, but bickering is a petty squabble.  Look at your scene--are the characters arguing for argument's sake, or will they solve a problem by discussion?

  • Misunderstanding--This is never to be confused with conflict.  If characters can sit down and solve a problem with simple discussion, it's not conflict.  This can be a brief minor conflict, but look at its value to the story as a whole.

Conflict is about character.  Emotions are important.  Motivation is important.  All the conflict in the world won't matter if the reader doesn't care.  So how do you make the reader care?

  • Character History--Give the reader someone to care about and the conflict will double in intensity

  • Raise the stakes--Add meat to the character

  • Setting--Match or contrast to the tone of the book.  It is harder to contrast.  You have to work harder to create tension.  For example, how believable would a murder mystery at Disney World be?

  • Put your character in a strange environment without a social or cultural compass

  • Foreshadowing--Hint at what's to come later

  • Grammar and Writing technique--Strong conflict/tension requires short sentences, quick imagery.  Speed up the pace.

  • Point of View--Choose the character who has the most at stake, the most to lose or gain.

  • Uncertainty of outcome--Balance forces of good and evil.  Give the hero a villain he's worthy of--not too strong that the reader won't believe the hero can overtake him, and not so weak that he's easily overtaken.  Make the reader wonder to the end who will win.

   A happy ending is a given in a romance, but leave your reader something to think about, something to take away.


Conflict, Action and Suspense by William Noble, Writer's Digest Books, 1994.

Goal, Motivation and Conflict by Debra Dixon, 1997.

These books are available for purchase in our on-line bookstore in the non-fiction section.

Also see the Researching the Romance page of Literary Liaisons for more suggestions.

Editor's Note

Here it is once again--May, and our anniversary edition of the newsletter.  May also brings other themes to mind--Mother's Day, gardening, and the inspiration of nature's beauty.  You'll see these themes reflected in our choices this month.  View the gardens of Chatsworth, be inspired by William Morris, or learn about one of England's most powerful mothers--Queen Victoria.  Her descendants include connections to over thirty European Royal lineages.  There must be a story in there somewhere!  So have yourself an Artist's Day--absorb and enjoy, and bring these experiences back to your computer to enrich your words.

--Michelle Hoppe

President, Literary Liaisons, Ltd.

Q&A Column

Q:  Hi.  I just read through the essay on titling (Dukes, Duchesses, Marchionesses, Marquesses, &c.) and the question had already popped into my mind. In what cases was the format "Christian name", "Lord" "Family name" (such as Alfred, Lord Tennyson or Tristan, Lord Rule) used? I ask partially b/c I'm curious, and partially b/c I'm researching my own regency/historical romance. 


A:   This format of addressing peers was simply to distinguish oneself from other peers in the lineage. Thus Alfred, Lord Tennyson was distinguishing himself from other Lord Tennysons. This practice was more common in the lower reaches of the peerages where the family name was also the title name. It wasn't used as much among higher peerages, where the title was often taken (in the case of Dukes, always taken) from a geographical area.

Michelle Hoppe
President, Literary Liaisons

Historical Calendar of Events


Henri Barbusse--French novelist

Ford Madox Ford--English author

Gerald du Maurier--British actor-manager

Clara Butt--English singer

Enrico Caruso--Italian opera singer

Sergei Rachmaninoff--Russian composer and pianist



Napoleon III--Former Emperor of France

Edward Bulwer-Lytton--English author

John Stuart Mill--English philosopher

Sir Edwin Landseer--English painter

King Lanalilo of Hawaii



The first Spanish Republic was proclaimed.

MacMahon elected French President

Slave markets and exports abolished in Zanzibar.

The cities of Buda and Pest were united to form the capital of Hungary.

Prince Edward Island joined the Dominion of Canada.

Germany adopted the mark as its unit of currency.

Vienna held the World Exhibition.

The Fourth Coinage Act passed by Congress February 12 made gold the sole U.S. monetary standard.

Financial panic struck Vienna in May and soon spread to other European money centers. 

European investors withdrew capital from the United States, causing the Wall Street banking house Jay Cooke & Co. to fail September 18. This set off a panic that would begin a depression that would last 5 years. 

Britain’s “golden age” ended after 23 years as Germany and the United States challenged British industrial preeminence. 

Piracy and native hostility ended U.S. pepper trade with Sumatra after 937 voyages.

Port Moresby founded on the Pacific island of New Guinea by English naval commander Sir Fairfax Moresby.

The Victoria government at Melbourne passed Australia’s first factory act to protect female and juvenile mill hands.

Canada’s first prime minister Sir John Macdonald resigned November 7 following charges of corruption.

A Canadian order-in-council August 30 established the Northwest Mounted Police. 

San Francisco’s population reached 188,000 and the city has a United States Mint. Los Angeles had fewer than 10,000 people.


The Arts

"The Straw Hat" by Paul Cezanne

"Le bon Bock" by Edouard Manet

"Souvenir d'Italie" by Corot


Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

The Gilded Age by Mark Twain

Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne

The Eustace Diamonds by Anthony Trollope


Studies in the History of the Renaissance by Walter Pater

The Study of Sociology by Herbert Spencer

Physiological Psychology by Wilhelm Wundt



Tchaikovsky's "Symphony No. 2" debuted in Moscow

Tchaikovsky's "The Tempest" debuted in Moscow


"Le Roi l'a Dit" by Leo Delibes debuted in Paris

"Ivan the Terrible" by Rimsky-Korsakov debuted in St. Petersburg

Popular Songs:

"Silver Threads Among the Gold" by Hart Pease Danks

"Home on the Range" by Bruce Higley appeared under the title "Oh, Give Me a Home Where the Buffalo Roam"


Daily Life


St. Nicholas Magazine began publication under the editorship of Mary Elizabeth Mapes Dodge.

Carl Rosa Opera Company founded in England.

American Football clubs adopted uniform rules.

The modern cricket county championship was initiated.

Major W.C. Wingfield of Britain introduced lawn tennis at a garden party.

The University of Cape Town was founded in South Africa.

The University of South Africa was founded in Pretoria.

The University of California closed its Oakland campus and opened new ones at Berkeley and San Francisco.

Poultry, fish, and meat that has been frozen for 6 months was eaten at a public banquet in Australia.

The Paris Council of Hygiene ruled that margarine may not be sold as butter.

The first U.S. postal card was issued May 1.

Henri Nestlé’s Infant Milk Food of 1866 was introduced in the United States.

Bengal suffered a famine after rice crops failed.

The White Star liner S.S. Atlantic ran aground April 1 off Halifax, Nova Scotia. Some 502 of her 931 passengers are lost.

The Preakness had its first running at Baltimore’s Pimlico racetrack.

New York’s Bellevue Hospital established the Nightingale System of nurses’ training.

English physician William Budd proved the contagious nature of Typhoid Fever.

Father Damien traveled to the government hospital for lepers on the Hawaiian island of Molokai to care for victims of the disease that will be called Hansen’s disease. 





Color photographs were first developed.

Austrian explorers Payer and Weyprecht discovered Franz Josef Land, islands in the Arctic Ocean.

The gunsmith firm of E. Remington and Sons began to produce typewriters.

The building of the Severn Tunnel began in England.  The project would be completed in 1886.

DDT (dichloridiphenyl-trichlorethane) was prepared by German chemistry student Othmar Zeidler at Strasbourg.

Thaddeus Lowe discovered a process for manufacturing water gas that would greatly enhance use of gaslight illumination.

Swedish engineer Carl Linde introduced the first successful compression system using liquid ammonia as a refrigerant.

Coors Beer had its beginnings in the Golden Brewery started by German-American brewer Adolph Herman Joseph Coors and Jacob Schueler at Golden, Colorado Territory.

The thermos bottle had its beginnings in the Dewar vessel invented by Scottish chemist James Dewar .

St. Louis brewer Adolphus Busch became a full partner of his father-in-law and renamed the Bavarian Brewery the E. Anheuser and Co.’s Brewing Association.

French perfume makers at Grasse revolutionized the industry with a new process that extracts a solid essence from flower roots or fragrant substances by placing them in contact with volatile fluids which dissolve essential ingredients and isolate them as they evaporate. 

Retired London silk merchant George Grant brought four Aberdeen Angus bulls from Scotland to his farm at Victoria, Kansas, the first of the breed to reach the United States.

The Pekin duck was introduced to Long Island March 14 by Stonington, Connecticut sea captain James E. Palmer, beginning an industry.

Barbed wire exhibited at the De Kalb, Ill., county fair by Henry Rose was studied by local farmer Joseph Farwell Glidden and his friend Jacob Haish, who independently developed machines for producing coil barbed wire by the mile.

San Francisco’s cable streetcar (the world’s first) went into service August 1 on Clay Street hill.

Louisiana’s sugar crop fell to less than one-third its 1853 level as a result of the Civil War and emancipation.  

New silver discoveries were made in the Panamint Mountains of Nevada, the biggest silver strike since the Comstock Lode of 1859. 

Cornelius Vanderbilt of the New York Central gained control of the rail line between New York and Chicago.



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