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!