By: Traci Kenworth
“Do not ask your children to strive for extraordinary lives. Such striving may seem admirable, but it is the way of foolishness. Help them instead to find the wonder and the marvel of an ordinary life. Show them the joy of tasting tomatoes, apples and pears. Show them how to cry when pets and people die. Or show them the infinite pleasure in the touch of a hand. And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.” ―
It seems that parents are charged with offering sage advice as if giving birth somehow imparts wisdom. Writers too fall into the trap of giving advice, or being entertaining or enchanting their readers because they write about extraordinary things.
But in the simple acts of ordinary life, we can find the extraordinary and unusual, and that is the distinguishing characteristic of an excellent parent – or writer.
Where Do I Find the Ordinary?
1. Take Walks.
Get out there. Enjoy yourself. Down a quiet back road. Around the park. Or even go hiking on the trails in certain areas. Just start walking. Bring some music or listen to nature.
Really take a look around. We spend so much time being busy, but sometimes, we need to just observe our surroundings. What might you see?
A bunny. A deer. A swan on the lake. There are so many visions in nature to see. Not to mention plot points, characters, inspirations to happen. You could solve a problem in your story with just a short walk.
Walking also has health benefits to it, so you’re gaining there as well. It can help us stay in shape instead of sitting in the chair all day. It’s an adventure to take your kids on and to educate them and yourselves with what you discover.
2. Listen to Music.
Music leads to ideas. Or a playlist. It can inspire us as we write to see that scene clearer. Music evokes the emotion we need to complete that part of the story. It can help us keep going when we’re stuck.
Sometimes listening to the same piece over and over can push what we need to fix things to the forefront.
“Don’t Fear the Reaper” always puts me in the mood to write horror. Likewise, the soundtrack theme to the LOTR can bring fantasy to light. Creation is both a delicate and sturdy string that once we follow, it pays off big time. So, bring out those old records. Listen to Spotify or Pandora. Music bleeds the soul.
3. Watch TV Shows, Movies, and Plays.
I’m sure everyone gets this one. Our viewing habits can lead to ideas for new stories.
We watch our favorites and wonder: would I have done it that way? That wondering makes us ponder our own stories, how to improve, maybe a new angle to what we were doing.
When something disappoints us, we want to correct it. Game of Thrones, anyone? For a long time now, there’s been a lot of people saying how they would’ve ended it if it was their story.
Be careful of fans, people. If they’re not happy, they tend to make it known with the dollars. I’m not saying to make your ending all rainbows and unicorns. Plenty of books end with a tragic situation. Horror especially. I prefer the positive ending myself, but I know that sometimes, bad things happen. Why not in fiction as well?
4. Play Games.
- Dungeon & Dragons.
- Final Fantasy.
- Resident Evil.
- Silent Hill.
On and on. Every game is a story.
Our characters take on creatures that defy the imagination. They fight side-by-side to win against the evil that invades their lives. Over and over, they seek to save their friends, their loved ones.
Sometimes it works, sometimes, it doesn’t. We follow them over hills and down into the valleys. We mourn with them. In some games, you actually make their choices for them. Or create them from scratch. A little of this, a little of that. It’s all in your hands.
5. Read Books.
I bet you thought I wouldn’t list this one! What gets our heartbeats pumping faster than using our imagination to join a character in their hero’s journey?
Like them, or hate them, they tug us into their worlds. It could be the need to throw a ring into the fires of Mordor. A need to destroy the Empire. A rebellion against the Darkling. Two thread-sisters fighting to escape a blood witch.
There are millions, perhaps billions of stories out there. The choices are yours. Light. Dark. Happy. Sad. Everything in the universe exists. Space travel. Sea battles. Cave divers. The settings are endless.
Lessons in Books
Not to mention, books can teach us so much. They can give us hope to go on when we’re struggling with depression. Teach us how to deal with anxiety. They can open us up to new ideas. They can comfort us. Console us in our grief. Takes us away from our day-to-day problems. Entertainment is a given. They can teach us about things we know nothing about. Wars. Social issues. Technology. History. And more. They can inspire us to be better people. And isn’t that, hopefully, what we all want to be? Better.
We see the mistakes characters make and think, would we do that? Can that character even be redeemed? Will the hero survive his choices? Is our heroine doomed to repeat her old ways? Will the witch be defeated? The monster be revealed to be good instead of the scientist who created him? Anything can be turned on the coin. The devil better than god? The beast more advanced than the human?
And when they win? What do we take away from that? A smile. Admiration. A reason to go on. A way to open up our scars and build ourselves back up. They give us joy. Hope. Inspiration. Heroes are just that. They are always heroes. Unless they fall. Sometimes they do. However, they get back up. Harry Potter had to die to defeat Voldemort. Violet had to nearly lose her mother to the gray before she could complete her ritual and free herself of the beast. The three dark witches had to come together and defeat the sorcerer. Stories like this keep us coming back for more.
6. Always Eavesdrop.
People watching can teach us much. We can see how people move. Their habits. Their voices. The way they look. We can see their happiness. Their sorrow. It’s not something we relish; we observe to get it right. To bring humanity to our characters.
You’re sitting at a table in Starbucks and you hear the best line ever. You work where you can watch people interact. You jot down notes. A story starts forming in your mind.
A person catches your eye and you think, that’s the perfect model for my new hero/heroine.
Where Do You Find the Extraordinary in the Ordinary World?
While my six ways to find the extraordinary work, I’d be interested in knowing how you make ordinary encounters into something extraordinary or where you find the extraordinary in the ordinary world. Let me know in a comment, thanks.
Bio: Traci Kenworth
Traci Kenworth writes all genres of YA as well as the occasional historical romance. She lives in Ohio with her son, daughter, and four cats, chasing snippets of whatever story she’s working on at the time.
She has been writing since she was old enough to hold a pencil. Writing saved her during a dark period in her life. She is forever grateful to God for this way out of the darkness and into the light.
That’s the type of hero/heroine she writes about, survivors and those they love. Her writings show others a way back when they think everything is lost.
Her character’s stories give the reader that most welcome gift – hope.
Some other things she enjoys: genealogy, riding horseback, and, of course, reading.
Follow Traci on her adventures of getting published.
Website: Where Genres Collide
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