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

NaNo Day 14: Movies are Medicine

Instead of writing last night, I saw Big Hero 6 with friends. Instead of writing tonight, I saw Interstellar with my parents.

And you know what?

It was worth it.

As you can maaaybe tell from my posts this week, I’ve slowly been becoming more and more stressed. To the point that I’ve basically just been walking around in a confused and frustrated haze and snapping at everyone and not being able to sleep and, yeah, every other symptom involved in heading for a breakdown.

But movies are a surefire way of getting me to unwind.

Not that I’m, like, not tense now. Because I am still very much in a confused and frustrated haze and (unfortunately) snapping at everyone. (For instance: My mom just very kindly reminded me I need to work on this letter I need to send to government people about business stuff and I was like, “I WILL GET TO IT EVENTUALLY RIGHT NOW I NEED TO WRITE THIS BLOG POST AND EDIT ANOTHER AND I AM SEVEN THOUSAND WORDS BEHIND IN WHERE I WANT TO BE IN NANOWRIMO RIGHT NOW AND I WILL GET TO IT FREAKING EVENTUALLY OKAY IS THAT OKAY.”)

But still, anyway, back to the point I was trying to make: It’s NaNoWriMo and I am behind on absolutely everything and quite possibly losing it. (Go ahead. Make the joke about how I’ve always been crazy.) But curling up on a cushy chair in a dark theater for a couple hours with a massive screen filling my vision and a rumbling movie score rattling in my fingers is the sort of relief that keeps me from stepping over the edge.

For a couple hours, I am not impossibly stressed. I am not how-ever-many-words-behind or neglecting my homework or trying to make so many things work that might never work, maybe are impossible to work, who knows. The constant pressure at the front of my skull and behind my eyes gives a little. My brain starts analyzing the movie rather than all the things I am not doing right in my life. And it’s just enough to ground me.

Movies remind me why I love stories. They remind me the types of stories I’d like to tell and why I’m doing this admittedly VERY crazy thing known as Trying to Be an Author and why stories are important at all.

Yes, when the lights came up tonight with Hans Zimmer’s base-heavy score still vibrating my skull, I was just as many words behind as when I woke this morning, exhausted and too tightly wound and wondering how I was going to be able to do all this.

But I’m more ready to face life, now.

Also: If you haven’t already, you really need to take a break and watch Big Hero 6 and Interstellar. They’re both fantastic.

Goal for today: 5,000 + yesterday’s leftover 1,000 + Wednesday’s leftover 1,500.

Overall goal: 28,000.

Current word count: 23,527.

(Looking at that, it should be pretty obvious I’m not catching up with my schedule anytime soon. I think I’m going to drop the extra words and just focus on making it to my weekly goal for the next few days, rather than making daily goals. Then hopefully I’ll be back on track the rest of the month. Fingers crossed.)

~Julia