what’s ordinary about ordinary?

2013-05-27 21.43.57 An update on my novel’s latest adventure! The Mosquito Hours has been with an editor for the last month and now has returned to me, full of fresh, new ideas. It is invigorated and excited (so to speak) and so am I! I had a terrific Skype meeting with my editor last evening. (How much do I love saying my editor?? A LOT!) I have some work do to, but I am getting very close to the final edit. Which means you (yes, lucky you!) are getting close to being able to read it!

I remember how I felt when this manuscript was in the early, dreamy time of the creation process—when the story is beginning to take shape, although very loosely. When characters are emerging as if from a steamy room into clear air. It’s a point when I don’t want to know too much, just enough to begin. Then I allow the momentum to carry me along, because the story knows best where it’s going.   One thing I am always pretty sure about is the likelihood that my characters will be ordinary people to whom pretty ordinary things will happen.   Does that seem dull?

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Well, here it is: I am almost never interested in writing about the big things—horrific atrocities, murders, jilted brides, war, abducted children. I prefer to write the small, familiar ruptures, hurts and joys. I write about everyday people and everyday life. I can write pages and pages about the way a character thinks and feels about and reacts to ordinary life.

(The trick? I try to create characters people care about.)

Even when I choose a book to read, I shy away from those brimming and expansive plots and gravitate to the quiet stories.

Sometimes I wonder if it would be easier to write the big stuff...

But whose life—even the most ordinary—is lacking in trajectory and meaning? I feel safe in saying these is no life with such lack.   I think there is an importance in moving focus to the lives of the people who seem commonplace, one of the masses, contributors to the stereotypes. Individuals, whose lives symbolize a wider significance in our history and can rise out of anonymity in being given a name and a place in the collective consciousness. The people I want to write about are the people who, in real life, would probably be ignored, but in the creation of whom readers will be able to connect with the everyday-ness of their stories. Find something of their own stories within.   I suppose I am much more interested in the “nothing” that happens. I am eager to witness what is revealed in the everyday. I believe authenticity surfaces from the details. Right now, everything that is ordinary is, well, ordinary. But as time passes, a picture is created. A history collects.   A curious thing happens when I set out to write the ordinary: anything but emerges. Vivian, Tania and Guin (the protagonists of The Mosquito Hours) are not ordinary whatsoever. And yet nothing particularly out of the ordinary comprises their lives. What happens are the things that do not possess the scope of power to reveal themselves as immediately life-altering, but with time prove out to be just that.   And so I wonder: is anything really ordinary?

Parts of this post originally appeared in a somewhat different incarnation on Her Circle Ezine.