When I was a child, I went through my school days quiet as a church mouse. Minding my own business. Not doing anything to cause a ripple in the pond of my life. But there were still times somehow, someway when I was thought of as a troublemaker and suffered the consequences because of it. No matter how vanilla flavored a world I tried to surround myself with, I discovered life was full of ups and downs...obstacles to maneuver around and overcome. No matter how hard I tried, trouble was going to eventually find me.
When I started writing professionally my stories were still vanilla flavored. Simple, bland little ditties with no true conflict. My main characters lived in a marshmallow world where the worst thing that could happen to them was maybe a chipped nail. What kind of reality was that? It wasn't. No wonder I collected an abundance of rejection letters. I'm amazed agents didn't shake their heads and chat about me behind closed doors as an example of what NOT to do as a writer.
As I learned more and more about the true art of storytelling, I remembered the lesson learned in school...life is full of ups and downs...obstacles to maneuver and overcome. That meant I couldn't cushion my characters from the world I created for them. I became the troublemaker I tried so hard to avoid during my youth.
At first it was difficult. I didn't want to see my babies suffer. I'm a mother and thought all writerly mothers had a duty to "save" their main characters from themselves. The first time I stirred up some trouble it felt like ripping off a band aid. But I did it...knowing I had to allow my main character to grow. Soon I was able to throw problems at my story willy nilly and watch in fascination as I saw my characters struggle to deal with the roadblocks I gave them. Sometimes the problem was too much and they learned to accept defeat with dignity. Other times they managed to overcome the trouble I threw at them and grew stronger in the process, now better equipped to handle the next bit of trouble heading their way.
With age comes wisdom and the more I write the more I realize that we ALL should strive to be the troublemakers for our stories. We WANT to see our characters struggle...fall down...get up...fall down again...until by the end of the story both the main character and our readers come away with something tangible to help them face their own troubles. If we as writers manage to do that, then we can proudly face the world and say I'M A TROUBLEMAKER AND PROUD OF IT!
What about you? Are YOU a troublemaker?