In her book Writing Fiction, Janet Burroway states that “Only trouble is interesting.” And I’ve lately been realizing how right she is. In the book I’m currently revising, I’ve realized that one major issue is the character isn’t in trouble. He *gets* into trouble, but it takes a little while. After the huge, page-one problems of the first book, that makes this follow-up sag. So I’ve been busily making his life much more difficult.
But the thing is, Janet’s maxim is actually much bigger than fiction. It’s really a statement about human nature. Bloggers have found that it’s their controversial posts that get the most attention–my most-read post is about sex, violence and George R R Martin. Why? ‘Cause it gets a lot of controversy into a few hundred words: fights about sexual content, recent blow-ups over the Game of Thrones mini-series, the question of violence as entertainment.
And there’s the news. We hear complaints that the media ignores good news, that they inflate even small stories about distant problems into front-page headlines rather than have an issue where things are doing just fine. A murder six states away has been a hot topic in my local paper lately. I read the first article looking for the local connection–there isn’t one. It’s just an exciting, awful story about people doing bad things to one another. But I’ve kept reading the series. It has nothing to do with me, but it’s full of conflict, tension, trauma–the stuff that keeps people paying attention, whether in fiction, or in life.
Yes, we’ve got trouble, right here in River City. And, let’s face it, people, we like it that way.