Hi gang, Craig here today. One thing good fiction requires is a bit of turmoil. Your main character has to have something unsettling going on in his or her life. I write speculative fiction, so it’s fairly easy to give an example or two.
I could dive right into an alien invasion or zombie apocalypse and have all the turmoil I need. In these examples it’s something the main character never wanted, but now has to come to grips with, maybe even defeat.
Something unwanted might apply in a more realistic setting when settlers have to flee an Indian uprising, or survive a starvation winter because the ships didn’t come.
There are also divorces, loss of employment, sick children, that kind of thing.
Another form of turmoil involves getting what you want, but it turns out to be problematic. Think about that new marriage that leads to her entire family moving in with you.
Shame is a good one, too. People will go to unfathomable depths to keep something from becoming widely known. Caesar has epilepsy, kill everyone who knows, etc. In a modern setting, maybe it’s social media postings from years ago that could be targeted in our current environment.
In all these cases, someone has something going on they would rather not have to deal with. That could be putting it mildly, but there you have it.
That was a long lead in, to get where I’m going today. There is an old piece of writing advice: Write what you know. People often misunderstand and ask questions like, “How can you know about a haunted house?”
You can’t, or can you? But that’s not what the advice means. What I do know about is turmoil. How will people act when put in the crucible? Some will break, some will survive, a few will excel.
Welcome to the modern world. We have a deadly virus all over the globe, and you’ve seen all the absurd things people are doing. They’re attacking each other in some cases because someone is wearing personal protective equipment, in other cases because they aren’t.
There is political and social unrest, and we have rioting in the streets. We’re destroying works of art just like when other cultures burned books.
I’m not going to turn this into a tantrum, but I could. This is Story Empire, and we want to offer you something useful here.
The point is that you know turmoil. You’re living it. You’re neck deep in it right now. Observe the people around you, or on social media. This is how characters might act during an alien invasion. This is how your characters might feel under similar circumstances.
Maybe you have more personal experience to draw from. Think about that acid reflux in the middle of the night because you have a loved one in a nursing home that is currently locked down. You can use that in a story, even if it’s a different set of circumstances.
Give a thought to the unemployed person who used to work at a Wendy’s restaurant that got burned to the ground. How might they feel this morning when the rent comes due.
Maybe your eight-year-old is late coming home from school, and the riot is right outside your apartment building. This is stress and turmoil.
There are equipment operators who got called upon to dig a lot of graves in the last few months. This isn’t the same as installing culverts. Maybe there is some PTSD they have to deal with. Maybe it sparks them to take up a cause where they can do some real good.
There are stories to be written based upon what we’re observing right now. These can be real world, speculative environment, or historical. I’m not talking about stories that include a virus either, only about how people react under stressful times. Apply this to your own work and see if it makes it better.