Captured by Conflict

Reading to Write Right at Ordinary Lives

Here's my Facebook post about From This Day Forward:
"The book reached out, grabbed me and CHAINED ITSELF to my hands until I read the whooooole thing. Really and truly. What book? Margaret Daley's new historical: From This Day Forward. But it wasn't a good book. nuh uh. It was GREAT! Filled with conflict and growth and chuckles and danger and romance and ALLIGATORS! Loved this book!!! (and now I'm at least six hours behind in my day. Yikes!!)"

So what was it that drew me in and held me captive?
The conflict.

Shirley Jump, in her Seekerville post, Conflict, What it is and what it isn't said:
It’s About Character: If you remember that conflict comes FROM your character, is what DRIVES and/or PARALYZES your character, then you create a book that stems from character, not from plot. Plot-driven books are mostly about external forces on a character, whereas character-driven books are mostly based on the internal workings of your character. In turn, that creates a more emotional read, which draws the reader in and makes your book not only more compelling but more memorable.

Every scene of From This Day Forward has threads of conflict. Some of it internal and some of it external as a gentle English woman learns to live in South Carolina--and not on a plantation. (Hint: that's where the alligators come in.)

Rachel's marriage left her determined to never marry again (he died on board ship--not a nice man), yet she's attracted to Nathan, adding conflict to their encounters and within her heart.

Nathan knew it would be difficult for a man to attempt what she was planning, moving to an abandoned farm--let alone a woman, with a newborn daughter. After his time as a doctor in the War of 1812, against the English, he's chosen to live in his cottage and not practice medicine but emergencies arise that need his skill.

The over-arching conflict is if they can overcome their pasts enough to move into the future together. It would mean facing their greatest fears, which involves great internal conflict as their hearts whisper one thing and their minds another. Each thread of conflict deepens the story and ups the ante.

The conflict, both internal and external, is solidly anchored to the characters. Daley shows us why Nathan doesn't want to doctor and the emotions it evokes in him. They are very real reasons, ones we can relate to. Rachel's determination makes perfect sense. She's just come from a loveless marriage where her fear was capitalized on and with a daughter depending on her, she must do these things or be right back in a similar situation. Thank goodness, she's not a wimp and didn't take the easy way out.

The internal conflict is what drives this book. It's masterfully done and drew me in from the very beginning.

Here's an excerpt of From This Day Forward:

Chapter One

March 1816

“We are going to die,” Rachel Gordon’s young maid cried out.

Rachel looked up at the clouds rolling in. Dark, ominous ones. She shivered and pulled her shawl tighter about her as the breeze picked up. A storm brewed, and she still had several miles to go until she reached her new home in South Carolina. “God willing, we will make it, Maddy.”

Fear deepened the lines on Maddy’s plain face. “’Tis like the squall on the boat.”

Lightning flashed, momentarily brightening the shadows of the forest. A clap of thunder rumbled the ground. Maddy screamed. The old gelding that pulled the cart—all Rachel’s meager coins could afford—increased its speed, weaving from side to side. Out of control.

Determined to be there before nightfall and in one piece, Rachel gripped the reins and fought to slow the maddening pace of the horse. Finally it resumed its plodding step. The weather-beaten cart she had bought near the dock in Charleston hit a bump in the road, jostling her into Maddy. Her maid clutched the seat with one hand and held onto Rachel with the other.

Steadying herself, Rachel rested her wrists on her rounded stomach. She had more than herself and Maddy to worry about now. Her life had changed so much since she left her ancestral home in England. She had married, conceived a child, and was now a widow, all in the space of a year. And worse, she was going to a place she had never seen because she had nowhere else to go. Her husband had used most of their money to purchase this plantation she was traveling to. It was her future, whether she wanted it to be or not.

The warmth of a spring day quickly faded as the sky grew blacker. Rachel stared at the menacing clouds through the treetops and realized she would not make it to her new home before the storm broke. She scanned the area for a place to seek shelter.

Sinister shadows lurked just beyond the road. Again she shivered, her imagination conjuring images of wild animals staring at her from the depths of the forest. She’d heard stories about the bears. Huge. Fierce. Sharp teeth and claws. Shifting on the seat, she darted a glance from side to side, feeling as though she were some beast’s next meal. She could not stop, even if it poured down rain.

Oh, how she missed England, with its gently rolling hills and refined beauty—not this raw wilderness. Like a fish floundering on land, she did not belong here. Nothing in her life had prepared her for this strange environment.

Drops of water spattered her. The wind picked up.

“That man on the boat told me about a big cat. They are out there.” Maddy whimpered, draping her shawl over her head and hunching her shoulders. “Lord, have mercy on us.”

Rachel forced herself to keep her gaze fixed on the road ahead. Once they were at the plantation Maddy would settle down. The squall two days out of Charleston had nearly sunk the ship they had traveled in. Surely this storm would not be as bad.

Taking deep breaths, Rachel calmed her racing thoughts and heartbeat. Pain spread through her lower back. She gripped the reins, the leather digging into her palms. The pain dulled to an ache. Another deep inhalation and the panic nibbling at her composure abated. Soon she would be at her new home and could sit in front of a warm fire, put her legs up, and rest. Hopefully the letter her husband had sent ahead would alert any staff to her arrival. Her glance strayed to the tall pine trees, swaying in the gust. Everything would be all right when she arrived at Dalton Plantation.

But even with Maddy next to her on the seat, the feeling she was the only person in the world overwhelmed her.

The wind picked up, whipping strands of her long brown hair that had escaped its coiffure about her face and threatening to whisk away her bonnet. Lightning zigzagged across the sky, followed by thunder. Maddy jumped in her seat. The gelding’s ears flattened.

A chill embedded itself deep in Rachel. She arched her back to ease the pang still plaguing her. Suddenly lightning struck a tree nearby, its flash a beacon in the growing darkness. A crack as the pine split into two pieces echoed through the forest. Immediately afterward, a boom of thunder cleaved the air. Maddy shrieked. The horse increased its pace while a few more splotches of water splashed Rachel. Then all at once rain fell in gray sheets.

The gelding lurched forward even faster. Rachel grasped the reins, trying to maintain control. She pulled on the leather straps to slow the horse. Nothing. He kept galloping down the road, oblivious to his surroundings, as though the hounds of hell were nipping at his hooves.

Rachel glanced from one side to the other but saw little except a wall of gray and green. Another peal of thunder spurred her horse into a dead run. The jostling motion bounced her around, nearly throwing her off the seat. A scream from Maddy competed with the din of the storm.

The cart hit another rut in the road. Rachel flew from the seat, the reins wrenched from her hands. The impact with the ground jarred her, knocking the breath from her lungs. Rain pelted her face as she sucked in oxygen-rich air. Stunned, Rachel closed her eyes against the continual downpour. Everything seemed to come to a standstill, as though her body went numb.

Then pain, as she had never felt before, ripped through her lower torso. She clutched her stomach, gritting her teeth to hold back the scream. She rolled to the side.

From This Day Forward

Rachel Gordon is stranded in South Carolina, pregnant, a recent widow when her husband fell overboard on the voyage to America. Nathan Stuart, a physician who came home from serving in the American army during the War of 1812, disenchanted with his life and the Lord, rescues Rachel and saves her life. Feeling responsible for her, Nathan tries to discourage her from living at a rundown farm her husband bought to start a new future in America. He wants her to return to England.

Rachel refuses to go back to England where her father disowned her for marrying against his wishes. The farm is all she has, and she is determined to make it on her own. But Nathan has other ideas and becomes her farmhand to discourage her from staying in America. Instead he ends up protecting her and being challenged by her. Can two wounded people heal each other?

As a reader, I was a captive audience, not able to turn the pages fast enough.
As a writer, I learned how to better use conflict and how to make conflict work for me. From This Day Forward is one of those books I'll go back to and study often, savoring each visit with Nathan and Rachel even as I dissect the conflict.

Want some more posts on conflict? Be sure to check out Seekerville's conflict collection.

So tell me, what is it about conflict that draws us in to a book so quickly?
What book have you read where you've been captured by the conflict?


  1. Jewel of Persia by Roseanna White was absolutely, positively FILLED with conflict, and it completely drew me in and kept me there.

    And I think I (and maybe most people) have an intense need for things to be "okay," and when there's conflict, I HAVE TO know how it will work out. Just one theory ;)

  2. You're so right, Jo. Resolution is a must for some of us!!

  3. I definitely want to find and read this book now! Thanks for sharing about it. :)

    A book I read recently that really grabbed me was Larua Frantz's "Courting Morrow Little." And like you said, while external conflict helped shape the story, it was the character-driven conflict that kept me turning pages. I felt I lived the story with the characters.



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