We don’t often think about protagonists in our daily life. We don’t think about tension and timelines and plot points. We may get annoyed or angry or frustrated with people who surround us but we don’t label them as antagonists. Mostly we just wake up each day, consider if and how we’re going to get out of bed, and get on with the individual and collective minutiae of living. Life happens and we try to control and influence what we can and navigate the rest with the skill and grace that we each possess. Some days we are successful. Some days we are not.
Writing Trigger, my April release thriller/romance, became a balance of crafting a story while allowing life to happen to my characters. The protagonist, Dr. Kate Morrison, is an ER physician in a downtown Vancouver hospital. She sees life happen to other people and her job is clean up the aftereffects. When one of her patients becomes involved in a police investigation, an investigation tracking people who have been turned into explosives, no less, it quickly becomes clear how Kate reacts to the obstacle thrown into her path. Kate is a question asker and an answer seeker. She is most comfortable, even in the midst of a crisis, focusing on her patient. For Kate, her patient is not a plot point but a mystery to be solved. And as she gets to know the lead investigator, Sergeant Andy Wyles, Kate has no words to describe her reaction or her relationship to this woman, all she can sense is a confusing tension that she has no time to label.
Our real lives are not so different than the characters of fiction. It is rare that we are able to take a momentary step back and reflect on the key players who impact us, the interplay of tension and action, the often opposing forces of emotion and reason. We feel crises acutely, each with our own set of skills that help or hinder us as we navigate life’s obstacles. We stress and fret about wrong decisions, the potential tumbling, domino effect of our choices. We are invested, body and soul, in what happens to us. But we cannot predict the outcome. We cannot anticipate a plot twist. We cannot smooth the timeline of our lives to give ourselves a chance to breathe before taking on the next critical event. And above all, we cannot skip to the end of the book to confirm there is a happy ending.
In Trigger, life certainly happens to Dr. Kate Morrison. I want the reader to see the elements of a real person in an extraordinary circumstance and the range of simple to complex emotions that surface as a result. Kate’s drive to do whatever she can to save her patients comes from her own history and shows the very heart of who she is a person. It’s not because she’s the protagonist and heroes should be brave. We witness Kate’s uncertainty, about her role in the investigation and with her increasingly strong feelings for Andy. She wrestles with recklessness and bravery, gratitude and guilt, trust and self-preservation. I want to be able to recognize ourselves in her struggle.
We are the protagonists of our own stories. It may not feel that way when we surround ourselves with the regret of past decisions or worry about the potential complications in our future. We may wish we had more power to influence our own timelines and plot points and antagonists. But instead we wake up each day, decide if and how to get out of bed, and we write another day in our very own unique lives.