Wordy Wednesday: Put the Ordinary in Extraordinary

Today was my first day at the office! I was only there for a few hours, so it was a pretty chill first day, but it was cool. And now I am exhausted.

And I don’t have much else to say, so let’s dive right into this week’s Wordy Wednesday, shall we?

This week we have a writing process post.

I’ve talked a lot about character development on the blog–primarily because it’s not something at which I’m naturally, well, at all decent. But I’m learning to make my characters more complex and realistic, and in the process I’ve learned a number of ways to go about doing that. Currently the one I’m looking at, in particular, is putting your character in “ordinary” situations.

This can range from thinking about what your character would purchase at the grocery store to what she would do in those last moments awake at night to how he would handle getting a cold. What would she do if she found twenty bucks on the street? What would he order at a fast food restaurant? (Which fast food restaurant would be his favorite? Would he even eat fast food?)

It’s these ordinary, everyday things that make up so many of the little pieces of our personalities. And they’re what make it so that we can relate to one another.

Like, thinking back on my interactions with friends in the past week or so, the main things we have discussed are:

a) Opinions on current events (gay marriage, the confederate flag, etc.)

b) Opinions on pop culture stuff (Jurassic World, Taylor Swift’s open letter to Apple, etc.)

c) Opinions on food (Chipotle, breakfast, etc.)

My friends lead diverse lives. Everyone’s off studying abroad or working somewhere unique or taking classes this summer. We have different backgrounds and live in different places and, ultimately, are insanely different people. But these ordinary things bring us together.

If your character has super powers, that’s awesome. That’s a good jumping off point for getting someone to pick up your book. But the reader can’t relate to that.

On the other hand, if your superhero protagonist has nasty allergies or acts like a five year old every time she sees a cute dog or is addicted to House Hunters? Those common, ordinary characteristics transform your character into someone I’d not only like to let save my city, but with whom I’d like to be friends.

Running with the superhero example, let’s think about superheroes: Superman is a really difficult hero to work with nowadays, because he’s too perfect. He doesn’t have those ordinary quirks and flaws that define humans. People have trouble relating to him, so he’s losing popularity.

Who is popular right now? The Avengers. What makes the Avengers so popular? Not their powers, but their banter and weaknesses and interactions with the every day. (Steve Rogers has trouble understanding twenty-first century technology. I understand that.)

The situations you put your characters through don’t necessarily need to go in your novel. You don’t even necessarily have to write them out. You just need to consider them. Let complexities develop organically. Think about how your extraordinary characters would go about doing the ordinary.

The point is that five thousand, million, billion little things go into making us who we are. Let your characters have those same kinds of complexities.

Maybe next time your hero is saving the world, he should crave shawarma.

Thanks for reading!

~Julia

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10 thoughts on “Wordy Wednesday: Put the Ordinary in Extraordinary

  1. This is EXACTLY what I needed. I just don’t think about this stuff, ever–I’m usually more worried about things like what my MC would do if she had to choose between saving a friend or the world, or if she’d be willing to give her life for her cause. But I think I’m focusing way too much on the big things. And besides, poor April needs a break from the strange mixture of nightmare sequences and escape attempts that I’ve been putting her through….

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  2. This is such good advice. I’m terrible at character development and I hate questionnaires where they ask stuff like “What is your greatest fear? How do you define the meaning of love?” because that sounds good but it doesn’t really tell you much about who the character is day-to-day. So I like more everyday stuff. Plus it’s fun to imagine your characters doing normal stuff.

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  3. *nodnod* This is so important. And I need to remember it more often… I love writing ginormous high fantasy stories, and I frequently get so caught up in writing Epic Battle Scenes that I forget to write about the little things. Everyday things. Things like “oh, my hero’s on a quest right now, and she’s far from home, and what she misses most right now is her favorite food, or her cat, or whatever.” Ordinary things.

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