Call out my name

Welcome back to another blog hop, with #OpenBook. Here’s this week’s prompt.

Did you ever get picked last in gym or some other class? Have you used that in your writing?

Because of the fact that I moved schools quite a bit in my teenage years, I spent a lot of time as the “new kid” who possessed unknown and possibly dubious sporting skills. I was therefore often the last to be chosen. Just in case I was more of a hindrance than an asset.

As it happened, I managed to be quite good at a variety of sports and, if I stayed in one place long enough, occasionally made it to the lofty heights of being picked on merit. I eventually played rugby and cricket for a college team, so I can’t have been that bad.

The constant change meant that I never really felt like I fitted in. I’m pretty sure that it influences my writing. Many of my stories concentrate on the underdog (or the fish out of water) and their reaction to life’s challenges, I love to see what my characters do when thrown a problem outside their comfort zone, as I was forced to do so many times, in life and work.

Adversity in a character’s arc is a very useful thing, as I’ve said before, having an ex-serviceman or computer whizz as a lead, using their skills, smacks of lazy writing to me. Any expert can solve a problem in their field. When you read the story, it’s never in any doubt that they will triumph.

Nobody can survive in a situation that they’re not equipped to deal with without a journey of discovery and a little help.

I would rather have a person attempt to do something they have no knowledge or experience of, learning about it (and themselves) as they go. Which also raises the stakes and the tension, when every action carries the possible side effect of terminal disaster.

Like Andorra Pett. She’s a clothes designer running a café on a space station. Talk about a fish out of water. There’s plenty of scope for a grisly end, especially when bodies start turning up and there’s a chance that she can blow herself out of an airlock or succumb horribly in so many ways. All while she tries to figure out what’s going on. But she learns to survive and thrive, and we follow her journey as she does.

Or Horis Strongman, my steampunk hero, a shy civil servant who learns about life and the realities of his world, aided by those who know a little more about it than he does.

Which brings us to another thing. If your hero is all-knowing, he or she doesn’t need a sidekick and all the possibilities that go with the relationship. That gives you one less way of developing the plot.

Returning to the theme, being unwanted or in a position of apparent weakness can be a useful experience for a writer. It can give your characters and situations a depth that those who always got picked first can’t relate to.

Getting older makes you see that everything that happens in life counts, even if it hurt at the time.

Let me know what you think about this week’s subject.

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7 Responses

  1. kendra brooks

    I never had the experience of jumping arround schools a lot as a kid. the closest I got was twice, from elementary schools as a little kid and then from high schools when my mother moved to a mountain town. neither seemed to affect the getting called on thing too much as it really depended on what we were talking about. Also, i guess it helps if you have a personality that is as flat as cardboard one moment and dynamic that other moment, lol.

    Cool read, either way, awesome look into your past and into your characters!

    • Richard Dee

      Thanks, I like to think it made me appreciate the variety of experiences I had.

  2. Stevie Turner

    I absolutely hated all sports except tennis and country dancing. The worst was netball and relay. I was never picked for any team and used to slink off…

    • Richard Dee

      I hated that nobody would ever give me a chance, just because I wasn’t one of gang.

    • Richard Dee

      Me too, but at least some good can come from them. Using them in my work helps means they were never wasted.

  3. phil huston

    There’s a concept. Third person allows for the journeyman, or journey persons to develop outside of the sidekick scenario. For me, anyway, but I’m a caper type. Caper types can bounce off each other and the story becomes the thing that no one character has to carry. I can stick a repeating character into anything, whether he gets it or not. He might up start out sleeping in a gas station and end up as a hooker houseboy and lounge piano player without having the slightest idea where to start. Like the old Hitchcock everyman in not their own element.

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