Monday, April 18, 2011
For the letter O, I received 32 suggestions. Random.org selected number 4: ordinary.
As writers, we want—no, we NEED—our work to be extraordinary. We need to avoid the slush pile and make some agent take notice. We need to catch the eye of a publisher. We need to make the public notice us and buy our book. It calls for lots of footwork, both physical and virtual, to accomplish these tasks.
So, how do we do that? Can we just write about the most extraordinary characters we can think of, put them in the craziest situations that come to mind, make the writing as flamboyant as possible, and hope that we get someone's attention?
Am I alone here in thinking "no"?
Sometimes the best writing is the simplest.
Sometimes the most compelling characters are the ones who seem the most ordinary.
Why is that? Why is it easier for me to relate to some lazy high school girl who makes the teachers think she's smart when all she does is watch TV and read for fun when she goes home, or hangs out with her friends? *cough* Because I've been (something) like that. This doesn't mean that I can't relate to a forty-something man, or a five-year old who's never left a room (who's read that?), or an eighty-year-old dementia patient. It's more like I can't relate as easily to the five-legged superhero who always wins and gets the girl/guy and has super flame-throwing vision and...
You get the idea.
The best hero is the anti-hero. Jane Doe, with all her faults and quirks and the little things that make her human.
What kinds of faults do you give your characters? If you write genre fiction and your characters aren't 100% ordinary, how do you make them feel ordinary to the reader?