Creativity · Writing

Unnecessary Drama

I’m not a fan of drama. I’m one of those people who like things to remain calm, reasonable, stable. This is one of the reasons I tend to keep to myself in the workplace. Oh, I socialize a bit, but I’ve found that the more people I interact with at work, the more drama I see around me.

It’s interesting to see how some people thrive on it. If there’s not some crisis or imagined slight, they create it. It’s like they feed off it, like it gives them subsistence. Personally, I don’t understand it. Although I admit it’s sort of fun to watch from a safe distance.

I’ve also discovered that the people who are most vocal about not liking drama are usually the ones instigating it. Actually, it reminds me of the people who say things like, “I’m not a racist, but…” Yeah, you are.

Despite my dislike of drama, it can be useful. At least, to a writer. As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, I tend to draw inspiration from real life, the things that occur around me. I listen in to conversations to pick up on who people speak so I can write better dialogue, and I listen closely when people talk about events in their lives. It’s all fodder for my next work of fiction.

Drama is like that, too. It’s interesting to sit on the sidelines and watch it unfold. I generally don’t get to see the catalyst, but I can watch the ripple effect it has as it moves across the office. It’s like tossing a stone into a still pond and seeing the ripples make their way across the surface.

That’s the important part – seeing the cause and effect, how it migrates. That’s key to including drama in a story. It doesn’t “just happen.” No, there’s usually reasoning behind it. What’s the motivation for the instigation? What’s the end game? What is the instigator trying to do? Simply hurt someone? Drive them away? Or is it more insidious? Are they trying to make someone cry? Kill themselves? Break up a relationship? There’s always a cause and effect.

But then, I sometimes wonder how important drama is to fiction. It’s often the main catalyst to a story, but is it necessary? One of the things I remember hearing from a creative writing professor was that she felt the catalyst for the story should be want. What does the protagonist want? What does every character in the story want? That’s what drives them. They’re searching for something, needing something. Drama should be secondary to this.

When I’m thinking about an idea for a story, mulling it over in my head, one of the first things I do is ask myself, “what does this character want?” From there, the story usually unfolds fairly quickly. In life, we’re driven by want, by need. We need to go to work to earn money because we want to buy a new car. We want to have food in the pantry. We want to have a place to live. Basic want and need is what drives our regular lives, so it should drive our stories as well.

I know I started this piece by saying how I didn’t like drama, but in a way, I do. Drama can be an important part of a story and watching is unfold is like sitting in a classroom. But I don’t add drama to my fiction unless it’s necessary. The character’s needs should always come first.


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