You’ll rarely find me at the epicenter of a violent, ground-shaking event. I try to avoid conflict whenever possible, because conflict wears me out. That’s not to say I don’t stand up for myself when I need to, but I try to do so in a calm and rational way, not by crying and screaming and flinging dishes at people’s heads. And when I see someone getting ready to erupt, I try to defuse the situation.
That’s not true for everybody. I know people who love a good fight. Nothing makes them happier than piling ingredients into a pot and watching it boil over. Maybe it’s their way of blowing off pent-up steam, or they like the adrenaline rush that accompanies their actions. Whatever the reason, they cause trouble at any opportunity.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve started trying to avoid some of these people. At least in real life. In the fictional world, I make sure to add them to the cast of characters in every one of my books. People who love to be at the center of all that drama spend their time intentionally creating conflict, and conflict makes a story interesting.
Now, there are plenty of ways to add conflict to a story that involve perfectly pleasant people, but I think sprinkling these characters into a book reflects real life. We’ll always encounter individuals who cause the ground to shake. Even if they don’t generate a full-blown earthquake, they still cause minor trembling. People in this group might include a never-satisfied boss, a constantly complaining aunt, or a hot-tempered roommate.
In a story, these types create a solid counterbalance to the more pleasant folks. It’s always interesting to see how the nicer people deal with the trouble-making ones. Some avoid them, others face them head-on, and still others learn how to use those difficult personalities to their advantage. These interactions can highlight the personality traits of everyone involved. Sometimes earthquakes, or at least the people at the center of them, are worth dealing with.