Creating Unforgettable Relationships- by Karen Rock

For contemporary romance authors, our high stakes conflicts are all about relationships. We don’t have marauding Vikings, raiding pirates, kidnappings sheiks, or stalking vampires to kick-up the action. Our conflicts takes place in the heart where the emotional intensity of the story takes center stage. Here are some factors that are important to me when I create an unforgettable relationship:

1.       Unique, relatable, flawed characters. People don’t have to be perfect to find perfect love. In A LEAGUE OF HER OWN, my heroine, Heather, struggles with confidence after a childhood in which her prescription-drug addicted mother abandoned her and her overly critical father raised her. My hero, Garrett, is a former foster kid who became an alcoholic after he assumed some of the guilt for his foster brother’s death. He’s sober now, but still wrestles with his regrets and the temptation to relapse.  

2.       A high-stakes external conflict that brings the hero and heroine together but makes them opposed to one another. For example, in A LEAGUE OF HER OWN, Garrett, the pitcher, has one last chance to make it out of the minors and he needs a strong team behind him to get the number of wins he needs to get Big League attention. When Heather takes over managing the minor league team, he’s opposed to her as he feels she doesn’t have the experience to create a winning team. Heather, on the other hand, wants to show her father she can manage the struggling team and convince him not to sell it. She needs the support of all her team members and she’s opposed to Garrett as he has a prior history, on another minor league team, of having lost his spot due to alcoholism. She doesn’t want a man who could relapse into his addiction on her team and he doesn’t want a manager who could make it difficult for him to achieve his career goals… all external conflict that puts them in opposition to each other.

3.       A compelling internal conflict for each that they will have to overcome in order to be ready for love. In A LEAGUE OF HER OWN, Heather struggles to trust others after a childhood in which her mother betrayed her and lied to her. She’s particularly unwilling to let down her guard against a former alcoholic like Garrett. After being shuffled around in a foster care system and ending up in a group home, Garrett hasn’t had much experience with forming close, lasting relationships. The only person who became like a brother to him died after Garrett lost contact with him and the young man returned to his gang living and was killed. Garrett blames himself for having focused more on baseball and not keeping his promise to keep a sharp eye on his friend when he left foster care. He wants to avoid relationships altogether, especially as he needs to stay focused on this second chance at a major league baseball career. If he gets in another relationship, and is hurt by it, he might relapse like he did previously and he won’t take that chance. When you add these internal conflicts to the external conflicts, you see little chance that Heather and Garrett could ever get together… exactly what the reader needs to feel. Still because they are likable people, we root for them and hope the story will find a way for them to be together.

4.       Obstacles and complications that make it even harder for the couple to get together. Heather doesn’t make headway with the team at first. Garrett struggles to get his wild pitching arm under control. Events like that add tension to the lives of the characters and their relationship.

5.       Reasons why they should be together. Heather has never felt like she belonged after being overlooked by her father and abandoned by her mother. Garrett’s mother dumped him in the foster system and he never knew his father. Both could give each other that sense of belonging they’ve missed all their lives. Both Heather and Garrett share a love of baseball and are both talented and competitive athletes; they will always challenge each other. As the child of an addict, Heather is uniquely qualified, if she can find the strength, to accept and support a former alcoholic like Garrett. Garrett needs someone like Heather who will understand his struggles. Giving the reader these reasons to want to see the couple together, keeps the reader turning pages, anxious to see if they can overcome the conflicts and obstacles.

6.       Growth. Each character needs to help the other overcome what holds him or her back. Garrett helps Heather gain confidence by ultimately giving her his support and faith as the manager of the team. Heather helps Garrett forgive himself for what happened with his foster brother and a second chance to work with the foster kids she brings to the baseball camp. When each character has healed from past hurts they are ready for love.

7.       Happily-Ever-After. It must be earned for us to truly appreciate it. By building the emotional tension in the story, making the relationship seem almost impossible, a happy ending is all the more rewarding. Only then will the reader close the book and feel confident that this beautiful love will last.
You can check out A LEAGUE OF HER OWN on Amazon (Kindle):
Barnes and Nobles (Nook): eHarlequin (Print Book): Kobo: . For updates on future releases and giveaways, please check in on my website, and follow me on Facebook at Thanks!



  1. Wow, your first paragraph hooked me, because lately, I've been struggling with getting that "heart' in conflict... story

    Now, I want to read the book :)

  2. I'm making a copy of your blog to keep by my computer. You've hit on all the important points we need in our stories.

  3. Great post! These are welcome reminders for writers about what we need in our books. Thanks. And can I say...A League of Her Own is an excellent book!.

  4. Excellent stuff, Karen! Love it!

  5. Karen, this is a great post!!! Thanks for spending so much time and expertise on us!!
    You are the best and so is your book!!!!

  6. This was a wonderful post, Karen! I'm saving this as a reminder of what makes a great romance work! :)

  7. So well thought out, Karen. But, darn. Wouldn't you love to run across a Viking on Madison Avenue?

  8. Great post, Karen! Thanks for sharing.

  9. Terrific, Karen! The conflict in my new book was somewhat elusive for a while. Wish I'd had your excellent words of wisdom to guide me. Thanks so much for this! Like Marion, I'm keeping a printout for future reference.

  10. Fantastic post, Karen! Thank you!

  11. Great post, Karen, and I loved the book!!


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