WARNING: This is a no-edit zone…
When we’re writing, it’s easy to get into the fray of the conflict and goals. To focus on getting key character traits into the work through actions and deeds. To get that forward momentum going and get to the point.
But often we leave out the ordinary. I’m not talking about inconsequential, mundane dialogue. That should be omitted, because while we emulate real life “talk,” we realize that much of it is boring and insignificant. It’s “chat.” Snippets of chat can be useful, if purposeful, but too much and we lose the reader.
So what do I mean: Remember the Ordinary? And where and how do you include it?
An example: A female protagonist uses a tube of mascara and gets a bacterial eye infection. This complicates her tackling her obstacles in the novel because her eyes are tearing and that blurs her vision.
You can see how this could be used in the novel to advantage. To complicate her achieving her goals and escalating her obstacles, making her overcoming them more difficult.
Where do you use it? You follow the Rule of Three. (There’s an article on the Rule of Three in my writer’s library [www.vickihinze.com].) Basically, foreshadow, reinforce, complicate.
- The first time you show her using the mascara while actually focusing on something else.
- The second mention of her with the mascara might be so slight as her eyes itching and watering and her wondering what’s going on–and if it has anything to do with the mascara.
- The third time the impact of the mascara–the blurred vision, tearing, itching, redness shows up should be at the worst possible moment for the female. At the very moment she most needs clear vision, she doesn’t have it–and it puts her in a bad position or in jeopardy.
That’s the what, where and how. Now, the why…
Readers bond with the characters. They do so through emotions. That includes emotional reactions to things the reader and character have in common.
Sticking with our example… It’s widely known and accepted that mascara must be replaced every few months–even if it’s used once and not used again in the interim–because with that first use, bacteria is introduced to the tube. That bacteria multiplies. Women are acutely aware of this. It’s something that is so common and well known among women that most replace mascara even more often than the every three months frequently recommended.
That’s a bond. That’s something in common. That’s relatable. Women will connect. Women who have gotten a bacterial eye infection will connect. Men who have been with women who have suffered bacterial eye infections or who have for some other reason had bacterial eye infections will connect.
Anchoring readers into scenes with details allow the reader to stop reading words on a page and to live the story. Anchoring readers to characters with ordinary details encourages the reader to relate and become the character.
That’s a very important job, and an essential writer’s tool. So in your writing, remember the ordinary…