|Delivering the eulogy at LJM's wake.|
Photo: Amanda Navasero
I also wrote in the Philippine Daily Inquirer about her profound influence on my writing (I was one of the Inquirer's two reporters when it started as a weekly, then when it turned into a daily, I became a desk editor). When the article came out on Boxing Day, it amused me that though I haven't used my maiden name 'Quimpo' for 27 years, my former Inquirer colleagues inserted it into my by-line: 'Candy Quimpo Gourlay'.
This visit brought me back to the world that I left behind since I became a writer of novels: a world of intense deadlines, cigarette smoke, clackety typewriters, too much coffee, and the everlasting hunt for a good angle.
|The Inquirer newsroom pauses to remember LJM at a final remembrance service . I'm so glad I happened to be in the Philippines.|
It occurred to me that in story terms, this was the Ordinary World that I left behind, the way Luke Skywalker left the moisture farm in Tatooine for adventure, Dorothy left behind black and white Kansas for technicolor Oz, and Harry Potter left behind the cupboard under the stairs for magical Hogwarts.
The Ordinary World is the first stage of the Hero's Journey, first articulated by Joseph Campbell in The Hero With a Thousand Faces, and later revised by Christopher Vogler, in a famous seven-page memo he wrote while working for Disney. The Ordinary World introduces the hero's world before he or she goes on an adventure.
The hero's ordinary world is essential to the reader's understanding of the story because it provides the circumstances upon which the hero's adventure can be enjoyed and understood.
One of the reasons for my current trip to the Philippines is to visit the setting of my next novel --
an isolated community in the Cordillera mountains. I came thinking that the task at hand was to feel, to smell, to see, to make the place I'd set my novel in more believable.
|The rice terraces of the Cordilleras at sunrise.|
|Walking through mountains carved into rice paddies. The tubes are to deliver water from mountain springs to the lower paddies.|
JUST BECAUSE THE ORDINARY WORLD INVOLVES SETTING DOESN'T MEAN IT'S ABOUT GEOGRAPHYThe Ordinary World is often defined as setting ... the place where a character begins an adventure. But it would be a mistake to focus on it as a bit of geography or a bit of background information.
The Ordinary World is more than geography and backstory. The Ordinary World is context.
One cannot craft the hero's Ordinary World without knowing the fate that lies in store for your character. The tediousness of the desert planet Tatooine and the colourlessness of Kansas provide a sharp contrast to the vivid adventures that Luke Skywalker and Dorothy are about to experience. Without a feel for what these characters' lives were like before, the reader cannot appreciate the amazing change in their circumstances.
THE ORDINARY WORLD PLAYS TO THE ASPIRATIONS OF THE READERThe reader's own aspirations -- the need for adventure, the need for entertainment -- are what compel them to read on.
In The Incredibles, Mister Incredible wants to leave his dead end job. In Little Women, Jo March wants to become an author. In The Lightning Thief, Percy Jackson just wants his dad to notice him. In One Thousand and One Nights, Sheherazade tells stories just to survive.
|Sheherezade tells stories to survive.|
THE ORDINARY WORLD LAYS DOWN THE RULES FOR THE REST OF THE STORYThe reader needs to know the rules of the world before the story can proceed. What the reader knows contributes to the thrill of the story's pay-off.
In The Hunger Games, the rules of the games are made clear from the very beginning. Armed with this knowledge, the reader experiences thrills and spills as Katniss Everdeen takes every opportunity to rebel against what is expected of her.
|The Hunger Games is made delicious by the rules that |
THE ORDINARY WORLD MAKES A PROMISE THAT THE AUTHOR MUST KEEPI recently watched a TV series that began in a most excellent fashion with amazing actors and deep characterisation. It led me to expect a strong character-led drama. Imagine my disappointment when the series suddenly became a complicated conspiracy-thriller.
Setting out the story's Ordinary World, the author is making a promise. This is going to be a romance. This is going to be a mystery. This is going to be an adventure story.
It is crucial that the promise is kept. If The Hunger Games turned into a comedy at the last minute, would you read on? If The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, having established its magical credentials, suddenly turned into a crime thriller, wouldn't you be a little bit disappointed?
ULTIMATELY, THE ORDINARY WORLD IS ABOUT CHARACTERThe Ordinary World isn't description. It isn't information. It isn't explanation.
What matters is how the Ordinary World defines your character before he or she sets off on an adventure.
Ultimately, the question we must ask ourselves is: am I merely explaining my character's ordinary world or is he living it?