Q – Quandary

My A to Z Challenge theme is teaching you how not to write a book, or a short story, or any piece of creative writing whatsoever. For more information, including links to previous chapters and lessons, please refer to this post. Now buckle in and proceed with…



Billionaire Highlander cowboy Hawk MacHardcastle is tired of living the jetset life of champagne, bucking broncos, kilts, fast cars, and burning bundles of cash for warmth. Desperate to find meaning in his life, he retires to his family’s isolated cabin in the wilds of New Jersey, on the shores of majestic Lake Latrine.

There, Hawk plans on self-reflection and pursuing the great love of his life—fishing. However, Hawk’s self-imposed loneliness comes to an end when he makes a most unusual companion and fishing buddy.

Dropsy Velvet was once a young woman living on the shores of Lake Latrine with her settler family. However, a curse turned her into a mermaid and now she lives, sad and alone, in the depths of the lake. She hasn’t had human contact for close to fifty years, thanks to everyone either being terrified of her or thinking they’re drunk when they see her—but Hawk may be the connection to the world she’s been craving. Charmed by her innocent face, sparkling wit, and huge bare breasts, Hawk decides to help her find a way to lift the curse, as she will lift his: the curse of ennui and affluenza. But time is running out, for something sinister wants to flush Latrine away forever.


The next morning, Hawk made breakfast while Dropsy lay in the hot tub outside on the deck. He gazed out the window at her, smiling like a fool. Last night had been magical, breathtaking, everything he needed. He had already forgotten the rigors of running a business, about bucking broncos and Highland clan wars. For the first time in his life he was simply Hawk. And he liked the man, as much as everyone else did.

When he strolled out on the deck with a tray of the finest breakfast foods—toast, eggs, bacon, oatmeal, two pounds of Canadian bacon, more eggs, a pot of coffee, six cubes of sugar, a jug of milk, fruit, home fries, crepes, pancakes, waffles, a jar of syrup, and yet more eggs—he caught a wiff of something, something peculiar. The smell of fish boiling.

In horror, he dropped the entire tray of food and ran to the hot tub. He scooped Dropsy out of the churning water. She was flushed, her eyelids fluttering, her tail sizzling.

“Hawk,” she said weakly. “I fear I cannot live in your world. Take me back to the lake.”


A quandary is a necessary plot device—your characters find themselves faced with a challenge, or something that’s blocking what they want to achieve. In most stories you will have to make your characters struggle to get what they want. If everything is perfect and goes like it’s supposed to, it probably won’t be much of a story and you can write it all in one chapter. A quandary presents a problem that must be solved and the story is created in how your characters solve that problem. In romance, this often plays out in the form of the hero and heroine falling in love, but then something tears them apart or doesn’t allow them to be together. The suspense for the reader is in wondering how they will make it work, how their love will overcome.

Quandaries should be realistic though, not overwrought and dramatic to the point of becoming ridiculous. Throwing absurd roadblocks in the way of your character’s progress isn’t a good idea. Problems should arise organically—like they do in real life—or be born from the situation itself and the powers that are working against your characters. In other words, there’s lots of reasons a man and a mermaid might not be able to be together, you don’t also have to cook her in a hot tub. Fish soup, anyone?

Author: Megan Morgan

Paranormal and contemporary romance author.

18 thoughts

  1. That’s the most annoying of things. When it’s obvious there is an obstacle on the hero’s journay and it’s very natural and it would work perfectly… and the author puts in something that has nothing to do with the story, but he/she thinks it will rise the stakes.
    Unfortunatly, I’ve seen this happen before.

    I mean, of course Dropsy can’t share her life with Hawk. She could get cooked any minute. That’s the most natural and obvious of reasons, because there’s nothing else standing between them…

    The Old Shelter – Jazz Age Jazz


    1. LOL yes, like her tail! Or the fact she has to live in water…hmmm, I wonder why they couldn’t be together?

      I think sometimes an author tries too hard and piles all this drama on to make the stakes even higher, which ends up making things too unrealistic. Just like in life, it’s easy to run into obstacles…I don’t think you have to try too hard to find them!


  2. Ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha !! I want that breakfast, what a pity, all of that and the dozen eggs fell down!
    Just a typo there – “He scooped Dropsy out of the roiling water”,fyi..
    As always extremely well researched, thought of, dripping in romance and one hell of a master piece in progress..cant wait for the next one.

    Would be delighted if you could stop by mine and read few of my latest? would love to hear your thoughts, thanks so much !

    P * Passenger >>Q * Quest >>

    @Subhmohanty from
    And Life Unfolds…

    A * Alone >> B * Butterfly >> C * Curry >> D * Dance >> E * Edge >> F * Forest >> G * Grin >> H * Homecoming >> I * Ink >> J * Jasmine >> K * Knot >> L * Last Laugh >> M * Midnight >>N * Neon Lights >>O * Obituary >>P * Passenger >>Q * Quest >>


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