I considered posting about character-driven vs. plot-driven stories, but romance technically has to be a combination. The happily-ever-after component is plot-driven, in that it's the end goal. How the characters arrive at their HEA is mostly character-driven. The plot requires external conflicts to help move the story forward, while internal conflicts drive the characters toward resolution.
What are external conflicts?
External conflicts are outside influences that can directly or indirectly affect the hero/heroine's path toward the goal and are often beyond the character's control. They force the characters to take action. Although they can cause/influence internal conflicts, external conflicts are separate from the romance itself.
A storm causes a tree to fall on the hero's house.
A new city ordinance prohibits the heroine from having camels on her property.
A huge conglomerate is buying up all the available real estate in the heroine's neighborhood to build a mall.
What are internal conflicts?
Internal conflicts provide the character with room to grow and struggle against himself. They force the characters to make decisions about the relationships in their lives--with self and others.
Can the hero trust the woman who might've stolen an Mayan artifact from his collection?
Will the heroine serve as a surrogate for her best friend, even though they suspect the friend's husband is cheating on her?
Does getting married mean the hero has to give up being a cop?
By using a combination of internal and external conflicts, you can create a well-balanced story with a strong plot and character arcs through GMC.
I love the way the elements of writing are all connected. :)
Next week, we'll take a look at Foreshadowing!
Romance...With A Kick!