1. Admin
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    Admin Contributing Member

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    Taking The 'Boring' Out Of Every Day Life For Your Characters

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Admin, Sep 10, 2011.

    This is a problem I consistently have, where I describe a boring and completely normal day for my characters or describe them doing very mundane and boring activities such as eating. Does anybody have any advice for spicing up the mundane tasks of every day life in a novel?
     
  2. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Well, here's some ideas:

    (1)- Maybe while they're doing the mundane things, they're mentally fretting over whatever it is about the plot. So if...say...the story is about a murder mystery, they may be wondering if they're being at all smart about interfering with things that are none of their buisness, worried that maybe the killer will find out and hurt them or their family/friends.

    (2) Have that seemingly mundane thing be the thing that helps move the plot along. Like maybe they're eating and suddenly find themselves munching on paper. They politely ask to leave, go extract said paper from their mouth and it turns out to be...a small message written to them. Though some words are blurred thanks to saliva and other particles we won't discuss here, the message moves the plot along.
     
  3. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    I agree with what Link said, maybe those mundane things can just link/be a transition to the main plot. If they're not important, leave them out completely.
     
  4. The-Joker
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    The-Joker Contributing Member Contributor

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    If the mundane activities don't progress the plot, then leave them out or gloss over them. If they do, well then they're not really mundane, are they?
     
  5. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Why on earth would you need to describe your MCs eating and going about daily routines? Lol, if it's boring and mundane, DON'T WRITE IT! :D

    Just say "He ate lunch" or "He quickly fumbled through his morning hygeine routine" and go straight into the actual point of what happens next.

    If the daily routine is interrupted by something chaotic happening, you can set the scene up in 2-3 sentences. Example...

    Joe hated his tiny sink and how it only took a day to fill sky-high with dishes. He scrubbed at the last bit of gunk with all his strength, but it wouldn't come off. Dammit. The last thing he wanted was more roaches.
    He stopped mid-scrub and listened. Something had clunked on his front porch. He craned his neck to look out the window, but couldn't see anything but the steps and a railing.
    And then the pounding began. Loud, angry pounding that shook the door hinges.
     
  6. Batgoat
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    Batgoat Senior Member

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    Unless the mundane ritual is likely to be interrupted by something significantly plot related then it is pointless to include it in the story. By all means write the scene if you're compelled to write it. Then read over it and make mental notes along the lines of "At what point did I begin this deviation from my plot?" and "How can I avoid doing this next time?"

    I remember once, a story I wrote when I was but a wee lad of, 16 or so, where I wrote--in long hand in a 256 page exercise book--the opening scene. It was about four pages, describing how the MC went through his morning ritual. It included things such as shaving, showering, making breakfast and feeding the cat. The writing was fairly good for my age. But reading it back I was struck by how absolutely droll it all sounded. But, I was able to look back at it as one of those lessons of "not what to do." No one wants to get in the head of the MC while he is feeding his cat.
     
  7. cybrxkhan
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    cybrxkhan Contributing Member

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    As others have said, don't write the mundane things unless they either advance the plot or present something interesting and character-related (but then they wouldn't really be mundane, right?). For instance, let's take eating.

    If the character eats and then begins to have a stomachache that later makes them sick and unable to go to work, then that might be advancing the plot, especially if they needed to do something important for work that day.

    If the character eats and then begins making comedic nonsequitur statements about food, then that's making it interesting and it also is an opportunity for the character to reveal more about themselves.


    Ultimately, there's nothing wrong with mundane or "boring" stuff. There's nothing that says that going to the toilet or eating dinner is boring per se. But like all other supposedly non-boring scenes, you have to make sure you get the reader interested, somehow.
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Leave the ordinary day out of the story, unless you are making the point of how mundane and monotonous it is. Even then, it is extremely risky to begin with monotony.

    If you must do so, consider letting your character or narrator inject some humor about how drab the routine is.
     
  9. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    As Alfred Hitchcock said, a good story is life, with the dull parts taken out. If the everyday routine has no importance to the story leave it out. concentrate on the stuff that advance the story.
     
  10. Dithnir
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    Dithnir Member

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    Robert E Howard did this lovely thing with the Conan stories where he'd literally gloss over the journeys Conan took and then pick it up when the action starts :)

    At best you should perhaps mention, if these things are preludes or reasons for other things happening or not happening, that they happened. "After a quick breakfast of muffins, Joe finally got up the courage to..." or "People would mock his habit of ironing tee shirts, but like juggling or yoga, the taking of something ragged and creased and leaving it smooth and box fresh was therapeutic."
     
  11. Admin
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    Admin Contributing Member

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    Now that you mention it, I do remember Robert E Howard's glossiness. I'll probably end up just fiddling around with various scenes and see how I should write them.
     
  12. Gigi_GNR
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    Gigi_GNR Guys, come on. WAFFLE-O. Contributor

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    I love what Link said. You can write them eating or at a family dinner or something, but maybe something happens during that dinner or they're thinking a lot during it.
     
  13. skeloboy_97
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    skeloboy_97 Senior Member

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    Write it if you must, and, if needed, remove or trim down in editing stage. :)
     
  14. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    .... in other words, don't put any mundane boring things in your story if you are not using it for useful purpose, like, to move the story/plot forward, or reveal a character.
     
  15. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you need to write about the mundane, you can use it for characterisation. A compulsive character may do the dishes very systematically and thoroughly. Another character may cheat and try to gloss over stains to get it done quicker. Another character may think about her ex-husband while doing it and handle the plates and cups very violently. And so on.
     
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  16. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Good point. I use the every day stuff in the beginning to show the relationships between the characters, and their own personality, plus to foreboding issues that will come up later, problems that will arise when these issues can no longer be ignored. ex: in the story in question I'm using the daily routine between a married couple to show how he takes her for granted and treats her like a servant, and when someone is hinting that it's time they should have children you can pretty much understand from her reaction what she thinks of it. And all this while she's going about doing her usual stuff. normal routine can be great for this purpose because there is nothing that distracts the reader from what you're trying to show them. In an action packed scene maybe that message would be lost because the readers focus would be on what is actually happening.
     
  17. JackElliott
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    JackElliott Senior Member

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    Seems kind of like stopping to take note of the nearby roses in the middle of a fist-fight.

    Let your waning interest be a guide as to what not to write about.
     

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