I’m usually deep into an imaginary story dreaming up havoc to dump on my characters. Conflict is a critical component of storytelling.

The characters and the readers should be surprised when a writer “throws another bear into their canoe.

That’s a direct quote from writer friend JoAnn Ross during a writing class she taught. It refers to adding twists and turns to complicate characters’ lives when plotting.

Bears can be good things or bad things, whatever adds conflict to the lives of the story characters.

This week Mother Nature dumped a surprise bear at our house.

The beautiful 200-year-old oak in our front yard lost a massive limb on a bright sunny day with zero wind. Just kaboom and it was on the ground.

We don’t know what caused the limb to fall, but the theory is that the hard freeze of 2021 followed by the extended, excessive heat this summer has weakened the massive oaks that populate our neighborhood. Several smaller limbs have fallen throughout the neighborhood and many trees have died.

Our tree disaster is a perfect example of how story-plotting bears should work.

All those limbs and leaves in our front yard are a problem. Ever since its fall, it’s been raining which makes it impossible to get a tree company to come out, and clearing it ourselves is impossible.

The branch will just have to stay there until we get some dry weather.

Plotting bears work the same for writers. They can be good or bad things that complicate a character’s life as things happening in real life can be good or bad.

Have you had any complicating bears drop into your life lately?