Creating Chaos


In my personal life I’m NOT a chaos maker. I love when the seas run smooth, when all is calm and quiet. As a writer one of my jobs is to create total chaos in the life of my protagonist. Does this seem like a contradiction? Impossible to embrace both of these?

If your protagonist isn’t a maker of chaos, you need someone or something in your story that plays this role. It might be another major character or the antagonist, or both. It could be an element of nature or some aspect of society.

Whether fiction or real life, people who are addicted to chaos don’t seem to function well unless there is something dramatic going on in their lives. Not only do they seek or create this in their lives, they also have a need to SHARE this drama with others, usually friends, but some will share with anyone including strangers.

Two things many chaos makers have in common are they tend to lose things (and this can be anything) and they have a tendency to run late. They are addicted to the rush they feel when chaos is going on all around them.

The chaos maker doesn’t want or seeks positive advice or support. No calm wanted here!

And details. Have I mentioned that? And no matter how small the matter – such as a paper cut – it’s escalated into a MAJOR LIFE EVENT. Let’s take that paper cut: It happened because the boss made the chaos maker do something totally outside of his or her job description. The next morning the finger was all red and swollen. By the third day, the finger is so “horribly swollen” that the chaos maker fears going to a doctor, so afraid that the now “super infection” has taken hold and the word “amputation” might come up.

This is the “happy” life of a chaos maker, drama queens and kings extraordinaire.

How might a writer make use of this “chaos making?” Without conflict and tension, stories fall flat. Chaos makers, whether another character, nature, society, evil incarnate, or something else, are an important element in good story writing. As a writer, embrace chaos, embrace the drama queens and kings. They help increase the tension and conflict if you let them loose in your story. Besides, isn’t a bit of chaos part of being creative?

When you’re thinking of all the things that could keep the protagonist from achieving his or her story goal, throw in some aspect of chaos making in your “what ifs.”

As for the guy with the infected finger, see what happens if your protagonist suddenly pulls out a knife and begins playing with it while the guy relates his story…

Go forth, writers, and create chaos. Lots of it. I give you my full, unconditional support in this task.

(And you do know I’m talking about your stories here, don’t you?)

Challenge for today: Look at a story you’re working on. What would happen if a “chaos maker” would show up? How might this deepen the tension or conflict? Share your thoughts!

Best Wishes,


Out of the Comfort Zone – Part 9: Visioning 2011


What a week! And it’s only the beginning of an exciting new year. After I looked back over 2010 and everything that I accomplished– and the things that will float over to 2011 – I decided to write my visioning of 2011. Here’s what my year looks like:

For the first time, I’ll be teaching a year-long novel writing class (and working on a proposal for a mentored class on writing young adult and middle grade fiction). My heart sings at all the new novels that will be completed during the coming year.

Another first for me: I’m working to transform some of the workshops I’ve taught over the past couple of years into ebooks. I should have the first ones ready by the end of March.

I plan on finalizing a novel and submitting it before the end of the year. In the mean time, I hope to write and sell a few short stories in advance of the novel. (Yes, they will be tie-in stories to the novel’s story world.)

Between teaching workshops and classes, I’ll continue my own education through the Writer’s Program at UCLA.

I plan on attending a couple of writing conferences and look forward to meeting writers in-the-flesh.


I’m also making a list of things to watch out for – the kind of things that come along and make me want to run for my comfort zone. Two of the biggest things I need to be aware of are the fear of change and of doing something new. Along with this list, I plan on journaling any reason(s) that the obstacle is trying to prevent me from doing what I WANT to do.

This is my plan for keeping focus and moving forward in 2011. (Just like what a writer does in creating a story – keep the focus and keep it moving forward: GOAL, CONFLICT, RESOLUTION!)

My new vision is not only focused outside but into the inner ME. Not only can I RE-VISION what I want this year, I can also RE-VISION ME.

My mantra for 2011: New adventures fulfill my heart, challenge my mind, and feed my soul.

This list should help me to continue to take baby steps in venturing out into the new world of 2011.

I’m sure I’ll have lots of manuscripts to review and edit during the coming year. Maybe one of those will be yours!

Challenge for today: What is your vision for 2011? Share yours here!

Best Wishes,