day 4: be less ordinary

A couple days ago, hubby and I had a five-hour discussion about what makes a story ordinary vs. interesting. Quirky vs. “pedestrian” (his word ;)). As a writer, I generally shy away from taking risks. I keep my characters safe. I don’t allow them to make mistakes. I don’t shine my flashlight on their flaws. The conflicts they have, at the moment, are all pretty common.

I’m consciously trying to change these things. It’s hard to do, since as a person in general, I don’t take many risks, keep myself in safe situations, and oh-boy do I ever try and hide (or deny) my flaws!

At first, I was thinking, if my life were a story, nobody would probably want to read it. But wait, no, maybe that’s not quite true?

Everybody has weird and interesting in their life, we just don’t like to talk about it. All those skeletons in our closets, weird habits, the things we like to skip over when we tell people about ourselves. I mean, nobody says, “Hi, I’m Sue, and I’m OCD about bacteria on my kitchen counters.” Or “Hi, I’m Dave, and I like to believe I was born on Neptune.” Or “Hi, I’m Jenny, I like to bite my toenails.” Or “Hi, I’m Chad, and I hit my wife.”

I think I’m afraid if I let my characters do anything too weird, or say anything too mean, or good Lord, have a bad habit (!) that the reader might not like them. But maybe the opposite is true, because keeping them too ordinary makes them forgettable.

If you really, really thought about the people you know, or yourself, I bet you could pick out something weird, or twisted, or deranged, or neurotic, or tragic. Everybody has something. Even me (not that I’m going to admit to anything here). So surely each of my characters have something in their story too. Surely the choices they make can be more original and less predictable. I mean, it’s not even my own life I’m playing with. I don’t even have to live with the consequences of their mistakes, they do!

NaNoWriMo Stats: end of day 3

4471 written (on track = 5000)

So, I was running slightly behind as of last night, but I’m having a very productive day today. I’m digging into chapter 6 and found a really interesting edge to play with. This is the conversation between Danny and his father that I wrote about before, and about how if all Danny’s father has ever given him is financial support (unavailable kind of parent), does that mean Danny is obligated to give him respect? Or maybe he should give him respect, but might not want to? Well, I don’t know, but that’s what I’m exploring anyway.

*Hubby says, yes. All parents deserve at least some level of inherent respect from their children (unless they’ve crossed a line of being abusive), no matter how absent they are, because without them, you wouldn’t even have life.*

Anybody else want to weigh in on this?

So anyway, Danny’s father is kind of fun to write. He’s such a selfish and smarmy and arrogant bastard 🙂 He is, actually, the risky kind of character I don’t normally write.