Life has a dump truck, and its beeper is broken because I never hear it backing up to take a great big dump on my carefully ordered life. One minute everything is orderly and going well and then, with not so much as one loudly obnoxious beep, it inundates me with a wealth of crappy chaos. At no point has anyone ever promised us anything less than chaos so those moments of quiet and contentment are more of an anomaly.
It occurred to me that in fiction authors are the great broken beeper dump truck. We must come into our protagonist’s carefully ordered life and wreak havoc without warning. Just as he or she begins to relax, here we come backing up with a load of it. What is it? Just go dumpster diving in your own life and those of other people you know. A broken dishwasher that floods your kitchen floor the week you have the boss and a client coming over for a big dinner. It’s a blowout on a freeway on the way to a big job interview. Did I mention it’s 110 degrees as you change the tire in your $300 suit?
As writers, we know we have to hurt our character so we write it into the intricately woven plot. That’s good. It works because those things are a part of the story worthy problem and provide the complications. Still, what about life? The character propels through the story, but they are also living a life. One you have carefully orchestrated. If you’re going to put that much work into this character’s goals and thematic elements and work on his personal growth, why not also look at what he would face as a guy walking down the street of your home town?
What’s the favorite thing you’ve ever dumped on one of your characters?