Even Heroes Crap: The Immersive Power Of The Mundane



Do you know what the biggest problem is with most high-concept fiction? Fantasy, science fiction, horror? Nobody poops. So why is that a problem? Because the more exotic your premise, the more grounding it needs in the “real world”,  the less believable it is except through your characters. And only ordinary people can make the extraordinary ring true.

When is the right time for “ordinary”?

The most obvious answer is, when things aren’t blowing up (metaphorically or literally) around the character. The more nuanced answer is, it’s a matter of pacing. Think of it as a coffee break. Your character, if he or she is human, can’t be going full-tilt-boogie all the time. Even if the nature of your character is such that he can, your readers can’t necessarily do so.

High-pace is only notable when it rises, plateaus, and falls. Maintain the same pace throughout and your story not only becomes exhausting for the reader, it attains a quality of monotone; it desensitizes the reader as it wearies them.

So give your characters quiet moments. And fill those quiet moments with showing that your characters are whole, organic people with basic needs. Let your heroes crap.

Eh… crap? Really? Isn’t that going too far?

Maybe. Maybe not. It depends on how far your story goes into the fantastic. As noted above, the more un- real you make your adventure, the more real you want your adventurers to be.

And bear in mind, it also depends on how you depict the real. We don’t need to hear the plops, just show the hero stepping out of the facilities. When it comes to the more intimate activities, implication is perfectly sufficient.

Break it down to brass tacks for us — what’s the real reason to keep the story grounded?

You’ve caught me — there isa deeper reason than just verisimilitude: Keeping your characters relatable. Characters who have no basic biological needs in common with the reader have no point onto which the reader can emotionally anchor themselves to the character. Without that, the reader doesn’t become invested in finding out what happens to the characters. That’s when the reader puts your work down and goes off to play Xbox instead.

They’ll face the same paradigm on Xbox, but the Xbox has rapidly moving flashing lights, and books haven’t. Books have to offer something, therefore, that the Xbox doesn’t. That something is emotional and psychological investment in the fictional worlds books present.

Thanks for reading, thanks for watching, and as always: Do good work, and be good to yourselves and each other.

If you’ve enjoyed this post — and I very much hope that you have — consider making a donation in the amount of your choice.

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