Making the Mundane Memorable

Readers can gain insight on who your characters are based on how they tackle everyday chores like washing the dishes or doing their laundry. It sounds boring on its own, but with what I’m about to share with you can either be a fun exercise you keep to yourself to get a sense of your characters, or let it become a full scene in your story that provides that insight for your readers.

Some of the most common writing advice writers are given is to leave out the minutiae of everyday life in their stories. Now while I do think it makes logical sense, because you want to get to the meaty dramatic parts of a story that much sooner to keep readers engaged, I think adding a little bit of mundane everyday life can actually enrich the experience. After all;

“How you do anything is how you do everything.” – Harve Eker.

Readers can gain insight on who your characters are based on how they tackle everyday chores like washing the dishes or doing their laundry. It sounds boring on its own, but with what I’m about to share with you can either be a fun exercise you keep to yourself to get a sense of your characters, or let it become a full scene in your story that provides that insight for your readers.

The Meaningfully Mundane

So what am I talking about? How can one possibly make the mundane memorable? How do you even start?

You start by understanding your character’s temperament and how well or how poorly they take on the boring chores of everyday life. Do they brush their teeth only enough to get the taste of morning breath out of their mouth, or do they meticulously brush every single tooth from every nook and cranny? Do they hop in the shower for less than a minute or do they make it a meditative practice of feeling the warmth of the water wash them of their worries of the day?

What you want to do is invoke your character’s personality in how they take on these everyday tasks. Depending on what point you’re at in the plot and what has happened so far, how they take on daily tasks can also become part of the symbology of your story. That is of course, if you want that particular task to be repeated more than once in the story to symbolize your character’s state of mind.

Therapeutic Routines

Let’s take for example a therapist named Linus. He is everything you’d expect from a therapist; someone who has his life together who helps others get their lives together as well. He starts the story off with having healthy hearty breakfasts in the morning, listening attentively to his patients at work, and then coming home to relax by keeping the place tidy and habitable.

But then somewhere down the line, he is confronted by hardship. Linus is given a client named Damon that is so down in the dumps and desperate that despite Linus’ years of experience, he can’t seem to help Damon open up about his life or take any positive action to improve it. Linus prides himself on being an effective therapist, but that pride holds no weight now because he begins to feel like a failure due to not being able to help this downtrodden man.

Now Linus is rattled about himself and all his years spent studying psychology in university. His goal was to help people, but he feels insecure about his capacity to do so. He is lost and mere routine is no longer enough to keep himself stable and capable of being the therapist he knows how to be.

Taking a second look at his daily routine further in the story, it would then devolve compared to how mindfully and meaningfully he once approached it. Instead of taking the time to fry up some eggs and bacon, toast some bread, and brew himself a mug of coffee, he starts settling for a granola bar and drinking an entire pot of coffee to force himself to get through the day.

He goes to work barely listening to any of his patients because he’s obsessed with how and why he can’t help Damon, and he barely has the energy and motivation to keep his place tidy when he gets home from work. A once spotless kitchen now sports unwashed dishes, trash bags that have yet to be taken out, and a dining table cluttered with unopened mail.

For Linus, taking care of his home and his patients was his own personal therapy. It’s what gave him a sense of purpose and joy in his life, but it has been disrupted by one challenging patient he can’t seem to help. Maintaining his home routine and doing well at work go hand in hand, one affecting the other. Maybe now what he needs is a break in his routine and actual therapy himself from a trusted mentor.

Whatever the case may be, how he approaches mundane tasks like preparing breakfast and tidying his home have changed because his mental state and life circumstance has changed as well.

Micro and Macro Triumph

In my example story about Linus the Therapist, he starts off with a solid routine that he falls off from when he’s confronted with conflict at work. It is through self reflection and growth that he must return to wholeness by disciplining himself to take care of himself and his home in order to become an effective therapist again.

Being able to help Damon with his personal life and his daily routines would be the macro triumph and that would be symbolized further with the micro triumph of both men cleaning up their homes and their selves in order to act properly in the world, which would be the macro triumph.

Each man doing tiny things in their private lives would greatly impact how they present themselves to the world and operate in it because the way they handle their micro responsibilities greatly affects how they tackle their macro challenges in life.


Give Your Characters Meaningful Mundane Routines

Now obviously you don’t want to bore your readers with excess detail on mundane day to day tasks, but choosing a particular daily routine for your character to symbolize their current state of mind in the story is a sure fire way to making the mundane meaningful, as well as flesh out the plot and characters further.

What I’ve described in this hypothetical story about Linus the Therapist was very bare bones and basic for the sake of simplicity, but for your own work, it could be much more complex than breakfast, work, and keeping a tidy home. The goal would be to emphasize in enough detail how one can approach a daily routine with their heart and soul when things are going well in their lives and then neglecting that kind of discipline later on in the story because of the challenges they face, only to return back to order or something better when they’ve overcome their personal struggles.

Or even have your character start off in a state of absolute chaos and disorder either in how they maintain their homes or selves. Grooming could be a good one too where you have an unkept character not brushing their hair, barely showering on a regular basis, and wearing dirty clothing. Consider a man who wants to find the love of his life, but is constantly rejected because despite his efforts to pick up women because he’s not well groomed and all it would take is basic grooming and self care to begin appearing attractive to not only women, but also friends, family, and potential employers.

Whichever way you slice it, there is more to mundane everyday life than often noted if you take in account how much our daily routines actually affect how we appear and operate in the world.

What are some mundane daily tasks you take pride in excelling at?

Are you a great cook? Do you have a pristine home? How about a well disciplined workout routine?

Whatever you’ve got going for you, let me know if this helps you consider the importance of mundane daily routines in your life and/or the fictional characters you are writing about!

Own Your Interests, but Don’t Let Them Own You

Having interests in anything like art, sports, and any other hobbies you can think of is a way to enrich our lives and add meaning to them. As humans with a limited lifespan, we need things to preoccupy our minds with or we risk staring straight into the abyss, filled with the inherent anxiety that comes with mortality.

What interests you the most? Are these hobbies you engage with alone and/or with others? Has anyone ever given you any trouble for having these interests? And on the flip side, have you ever been so dumbfounded by someone else’s interests that you couldn’t wrap your head around how one could be so obsessed with something you simply don’t understand?

Interests and You

Having interests in anything like art, sports, and any other hobbies you can think of is a way to enrich our lives and add meaning to them. As humans with a limited lifespan, we need things to preoccupy our minds with or we risk staring straight into the abyss, filled with the inherent anxiety that comes with mortality.

I don’t mean to sound so bleak, but when you stop to really think about it, we really are just distracting ourselves before death, and in my humble opinion, there is a right way to distract yourself and a wrong way to distract yourself. The right way to engage in these distractions is to be so immersed in the experience that the concept of time becomes irrelevant, while the wrong way is using interests to fill your ego and avoid connection with yourself and others.

Interests are a highly personal thing and may mean different things to one person than it does for another. For example, my lifelong interest in video games holds with different motives than it does for others. For a lot of people it’s just a way to relax, turn their brains off, and have a good time. And that’s perfectly fine, I won’t judge them for it.

It’s just that for me, on top of those things I mentioned above, video games are also experienced I like immersing myself in to appreciate the amalgamation of art that they contain. From the graphical aesthetics, the mechanical design, and right down to the music and writing all add up to a cacophony of pleasure, meaning, and inspiration for me. Additionally, I also enjoy them because they are a way to test my capacity for skill development.

Now while there is an argument to be made that skills learned in video games are not transferable to real life, I would normally beg to differ, but for the sake of brevity I want to emphasize the more meta concept of skill development. If not the development of skills, it’s the accumulation of knowledge that comes with learning and researching different interests.

For you it might be a TV show that you’re in love with for a myriad of reasons. Maybe it hits all the right emotional beats you like or it has all the interesting concepts that fire up your imagination. Whatever it is, it is through your interests that you learn a lot about yourself. You learn what matters to you based on what aspects you pay attention to. You also end up sharpening different aspects of yourself through these interests depending on what kind of skills they require to become proficient in.

Sharing Your Interests With Others

The beauty of having your own personal reasons for liking something is finding people with similar interests to share your passions with. If they have different reasons than you, then it only enriches your experience further because they can point you toward other aspects of that interest that you wouldn’t have noticed on your own.

Taking another example from my life, I also like to make music and while I can humbly admit that I’m an adept songwriter, I can even more humbly admit that I have 0 clue what I’m doing production wise. I can write songs with diverse song structures, catchy hooks, and meaningful lyrics, but when I recorded my first EP this past summer, I literally had no clue how to sound engineer it to make it sound professional.

I shared a song with a music producer friend of mine and gave me some pretty good feedback on how to improve it. Little things like recording a second take for my vocals and rhythm guitar could thicken the sound of the production and make it sound less empty in terms of its sonic spacing. Couple that with another friend of mine who has insights on how to equalize the different instruments to make them pop more in the mix, these were all things I didn’t pay much mind to because I’m so hyper focused on the songwriting itself.

For those of you who don’t know much about music, I am hoping I still retained your interest because another beautiful thing about having your own unique approach to your interests is sharing it with others who don’t initially have much knowledge on your interests until you share it with them.

As a friend to diverse group of people, one of my mantras is “your pleasure is my pleasure.” If you have an interest I have no clue about like gardening or bodybuilding, because you are my friend, you can share the things you are passionate about with me because I’m interested in learning more about what inspires you and what matters to you. I’m always equipped with an endless array of questions to get a better understanding of how other hobbies function that I may or may not get into myself.

Likewise when you share you interests with friends who support your divergent passions, sharing those interests with them also helps you understand your interests better because you are forced to describe things to people who are not “in the know” about them. Not only does it help them feel more connected to you–because they get a better understanding of what matters to you and the details you are attuned to–but you also end up developing a greater understanding of your interests because you may not have initially been conscious of what you like about them until you’ve conceptualized them in conversation.

Your Interests vs the Disinterest of Others

Unfortunately not everybody is willing to understand you to the fullest and may even find reason to dissuade you from your interests. Or worse, some people have interests that are so esoteric that it’s almost as if they have them just to affirm that no one understands them. This is quite the pickle because my focus is uniting people of similar and divergent interests, and sometimes there are just people out there who will either hate on you for liking a certain thing, or regard their own interests as something that makes them better than you.

This is where today’s title comes in handy: own your interests, but don’t let them own you.

What I mean by this is while it’s good to have interests your passionate about, you can’t let them consume you and turn into your entire identity. Because otherwise you risk losing yourself in a heap of unnecessary opposition.

For instance, I love listening to Metal and K-Pop. They are the top two genres I listen to and while the music itself is fun and enjoyable, there is something to be said about fans on either spectrum that rubs me the wrong way. I’m talking, of course, about metal elitists and die hard K-Poppers. They are basically two sides of the same coin for me. Metal elitists have it in their heads that only certain types of metal and certain bands can be considered “metal,” and for die hard K-Poppers, you’re not a true fan unless you have nothing but unconditional love for your “idols.”

In either case, it’s unnecessary gatekeeping that can prevent people from the outside get into either genre, let alone accept them as things that people enjoy. Throughout my life I’ve been bashed for liking bands that weren’t heavy enough to others, as well as being called a fake fan because I don’t like a few songs by one of my favorite K-Pop groups.

It’s basic tribalism at its core. So while it is nice to find a group of people who share your interests, be wary of those who might put up certain barriers as to how and why you’re a “real fan” or not because this could be dangerous. This could cost you that interest if you’re around people who soil it with their hyper criticism and self appointed authority on that interest. Some people may know more than you and have more experience than you, and can put forth how and why you should like something, but in the end it is always entirely up to you how you engage in an interest.

If anything, avoid these people at all costs.

Avoid the kind of people who think you’re weird and unacceptable because people from your fandom, so to speak, generally give that interest a negative impression to those on the outside. Avoid the kind of people who are on the “inside” as well, if they are the type to try and dissuade you from liking something the way you want to. They may have more knowledge and experience as to what makes that hobby fun and interesting, but in the end it’s entirely up to you how and why you engage in it in the first place.

And last but not least, avoid the people who have esoteric interests that either have a high bar for entry and/or the people who have simple interests that they approach in a very esoteric way. Like art snobs, basically. People who approach their interests in the most abstract and esoteric way that even they can’t comprehend or conceptualize what they enjoy in a way that entices you.

I have the nagging suspicion that a lot of people out there have “unique” interests not because of their genuine enjoyment of them, but rather the sense of individuality it gives them above others. The kind of people who if you ask them about their interests, they can’t even give you a straight answer to your questions or describe them to you in a way that intentionally alienates either of you from feeling any sense of connection.


How Many Times Did I Say Interest in This Post?

In conclusion, hobbies and interests are a good way to learn about ourselves and connect with others. If you’re not developing your skills or expanding your knowledge with them–or at bare minimum feeling a sense of immersion with them–then be wary of whether you’re taking up a certain hobby to feel like you belong or feel better than others. And likewise be wary of those who may show signs of this intentional misunderstanding that could lead from sharing divergent interests with others.

But all in all, our passions should be the result of our genuine fascination with them, not a desire to be a certain kind of person because that’s seeking a false sense of status and superiority over others. These are things that can give us insights on how we operate and how others operate, and in turn make the world a better place.

To harken back to my seemingly bleak outlook at the beginning of this post, being interested in a variety of things throughout our lives is one of the many ways to stave off the abyss. Have your interests, but be careful not to let them accelerate your descent into the abyss. They are meant to strengthen and unite individuals, not alienate and demean them.

What is your relationship to your interests?

Have you benefited from connecting with individuals who share the same interests as you?

Make sure to like this post, follow Your Write to Live, and answer these questions and more in the comments below!

Dialogue Drafting

One of the quickest ways to smashing writer’s block out of the way is by pre-writing the dialogue for your upcoming chapter. Focusing solely on what your characters will say to each other cuts away all the time and energy it takes to set up the scene in terms of describing the environment and the actions the characters will take during their conversations. Stories only move forward because of character interactions and so it’s important to learn to how to do some Dialogue Drafting.

Talking Heads Build the Body

Common writing advice warns writers against turning characters into a bunch of talking heads that exist in a vacuum without non-verbal communication or relation to the environment they converse in. However, for the sake of Dialogue Drafting, the point is to write nothing but the dialogue with little to no “stage direction” that you later turn into narrative.

The point is to have all your characters air out their grievances with each other in whatever stream of consciousness you happen to write if you just focus on what they want to say to each other. A lot of it will inevitably be a bit of small talk before the central themes and conflicts of the story get mentioned, but consider that all as a mere warm up. You will know you’ve hit your stride once you get emotionally invested in their conversations, even if it’s not a heated argument, but nonetheless a critical conversation they must have with each other.

When you’re not concerned about writing any narrative description and let them speak in rapid succession with each other, several things can emerge from this free flow form of writing. You need to free yourself from the expectation to maintain descriptions of the setting, your casts’ physical appearance, and the actions they take within their environment while they have these conversations

Dialogue Drafting can help you:

  1. Discover your characters’ voices.
  2. Reveal what’s truly at stake for each character.
  3. Organically evolve their relationships to each other.

Giving Your Characters Some Singing Lessons

Dialogue Drafting can help you learn how to make your characters talk more uniquely from each other. When all you have is a bunch of talking heads clutter a page or five, you will easily get bored by how similarly your characters speak if dialogue isn’t your forte. Soon you’ll find yourself trying to create different speech patterns for each character to make them stand out more.

Just like singing, dialogue in fiction requires refreshing rhythms and “melodies” in order to maintain reader retention. How you do this is by deciding how much or how little characters speak. For instance, a verbose character contrasted by one who values brevity and concision will react and speak in a drastically different way from one another.

Couple that with the kind of vocabulary each character is equipped with, you can bring your characters’ dialogue to life much more with this in consideration. Do they use big words or simple words? Do they speak too much or too little? Do they speak loudly or quietly? These are all the things to consider when you are crafting a character.

Try and think of it musically: each character is a different instrument in a song. Each instrument, in a well written piece, will do their job in laying the foundation of the song and maybe sometimes get their spotlight moments the way a sweet guitar solo does before letting the rest of the instruments breathe and say what they need to say.

Likewise with your characters, some will have to hang back and not say much before they step in and say their piece especially when a certain point of contention in the conversation means more to them than it does for the others, which brings me to the next point.

Revealing Character Motivations

When you do this dance of inhabiting all of your characters’ voices in rapid succession, they begin to reveal things to you that they truly wanted. Especially things you may not have originally outlined for their GMC’s or for the chapter as a whole. This is because when you’re not concerned with the setting or physical movement of characters, you are actually constantly shifting between their minds and letting them speak for you.

It is an odd thing to consider that these fictional characters we create having a life of their own, sometimes separate from what we intend for them, let alone display in our manuscripts, but nonetheless I believe this is true at some psychological level. After all, the characters we create are simply amalgamations of ourselves and other people we have met, so while they may or may not closely resemble us or the people we have (hopefully) loosely based them on, what stands eternal is the behavior.

What this means is that people may have certain mix of thought patterns and behaviors unique to them, but thought patterns and behaviors in general exist in a universal realm regardless of time and person exhibiting them. There are commonalities among all people, and so the characters we create may not be “real” in a sense, but they are hyper real because they represent various modes of beings human undertake.

I apologize if that’s a little too heady, so a simple way to put it is this:

No matter how many new people enter the world and how different they may be in appearance, they will still inevitably embody common human behaviors. Or even simpler; we may look different from each other, but we’re all almost inevitably the same.

Keeping that in mind when you write a Dialogue Draft, you may start to learn that your characters share common goals, but go about them in a different way, or maybe they have different goals, but approach them in the same way–along with every other combination in the book.

Whatever the case, Dialogue Drafting will reveal the fundamental differences and similarities between your characters, for better or for worse. Sometimes those similarities are due to the lack of individuating them from each other, and other times they’re good story serving similarities that they need to learn and discover along the way.

In doing so, they get to experience the following:

Ever Evolving Relationships

While there is much to be said what people, and characters do to each other and for each other, what relationships all come down to is verbal communication. Your word is bond. What you say to others and how you communicate with them create an implicit promise of interacting that way unless stated otherwise.

If you’re kind and generous then it is implied that people can come to expect more of that from you. If you’re mean and cold hearted then it is implied that people can come to expect more of that from you as well. Until of course the other party says something that is either suspicious of the former and/or opposed to the latter.

We may all have almost the same needs and desires, but how we communicate them and how we mix and match our own values are what’s unique to each of us. What generosity means to me might mean something entirely different for you because we most likely have different ways to measure how generous we want to be respectively.

So that said, another thing you learn from Dialogue Drafting is how your characters communicate the same needs differently, as well as what that could mean for the future of their relationships if they so choose to maintain it. We’re all social creatures and we need each other to survive, but that doesn’t mean we have to get along with every single person on the planet. That would actually be counter productive because you can’t please everybody and not everybody can and will like you.

Again, while behaviors might be universal, how we measure our personal values will be unique across individuals, and it’s in that fundamental difference that creates conflict, as well as pave the way toward relationships that either end up stronger, strained, or severed.

If you’ve mapped out your own Interpersonal Economy for your ensemble of characters, every cost and benefit you’ve outlined between individuals will become more pronounced when you write a Dialogue Draft. It’s through our words that we express our values and it’s through our relationships that we either affirm or deny them depending on any new information that may get us to rethink our positions.

And in the end that’s what all dialogue is really about: characters stating their positions and arguing why their needs should trump the needs of others, or at the very least be taken into account equally if they aren’t already.

Piecing it All Together

Now of course once you’re done Dialogue Drafting, you can’t keep your characters bodiless and nothing but mere heads floating in a vacuum of nothingness. But thanks to the dialogue you have pre-written for your chapter, you are even better equipped to fill in the blanks in regards to the environment and the physical actions they may take in between certain lines.

You will almost always have way more dialogue than you can actually include in your manuscript so this is the part where you will have to trust your instincts and see which lines are worth keeping and which ones need to be discarded. Some lines of dialogue might turn into internal narrative for a first person book, or side insights for a 3rd person one. Some may not even make the cut.

The lines that will make it, though, are the ones you feel strongly resemble what the characters are truly about and actually move the plot along due to the shift and evolution of their relationships from the exchange. Another great benefit to Drafting Dialogue is to get the throwaway dialogue out of the way so it’s much easier for the meaningful dialogue to emerge and be honed in on.

Did you find this Workshop Wednesday tip useful?

Have you done anything similar to Dialogue Drafting before?

Let me know in the comments below, and happy writing, Your Write to Live Lovers!

Movie Montage Motivation

Training montages are a staple for underdog movies like Rocky, which features one of the most epic montages of all time. It’s so epic that I presume it’s the film that popularized training montages in the first place. When Eye of the Tiger queues up and we see Rocky training for his title bout against Apollo Creed, we can’t help but feel hyped up for him because of all the hard work he’s putting into preparation.

Today’s post is all about those long grueling hours of preparation that we put into a moment of time that has a much shorter duration than the actual training itself. And that’s the interesting part about training montages in movies. They condense a huge passage of time into just a couple minutes for however long the hype up song will play for, but when it comes to the main event, that scene is what gets drawn out and dramatized.

Unfortunately, real life works the opposite. UFC fighters can train for months on end only to be KO’d under a minute in the first round. Or even if they do go the distance in a championship match, the 25 minutes they spend fighting in the octagon still does not compare to the endless of hours, weeks, and months of training.

In a montage, all that quick cutting between training activities is super exciting, but if you watch all that in real time without the hype up music backing it up, you would probably get bored real fast. After all, no one has time to spend months in the movie theater watching Rocky jog around Philadelphia for an hour and then go punch a speedbag and some frozen meat, and get punched himself, for several more hours.

So while montages may gloss over all that extensive training time for the sake of retaining viewer retention, you as a person working toward a goal, must actually retain your motivation toward training in whatever field you’re attempting to master. It’s not as fun and exciting as having all your training time summed up in 3 minutes to a hype track, but that’s what makes it even more important.

Real life training is long, hard, and messy.

Motivation can only last so long before resistance and discipline begin to rear their ugly heads. When natural motivation begins to wane, the doubts start pouring in, making you think twice about whether or not you’re on the right track. You hit plateaus in your capacity to learn and retain new things, you mess up on things you thought you’ve mastered, and worst of all, you might even experience imposter syndrome where you can’t even believe you can achieve such great things.

In these times of struggle it is important to take stock when you get stuck. My examples so far have been bleak, considering how Rocky actually ends, along with what I said about a UFC fighter getting KO’d in the first round. To turn things around, I want to posit that even if you “lose” despite of all your training, it really does come down to that cliché where life is all about the journey, not the destination.

Even if you try and fail, at least you’ve developed the discipline to strive for what you want. And while a lot of hard work and persistence may not amount to much in the end result, at least in the final analysis you’ve put your best foot forward and built your life brick by boring brick.

Everybody wants to get on stage and sing their song, but not many people out there are willing to take music lessons, lug their gear around, and commit to endless hours of rehearsals and soundchecks. By dedicating yourself to your craft every day, you are already ahead of the curve. Better yet, removing the unproductive concept of comparing ourselves to others, we are already becoming better than our past selves when we make the decision to develop our skills.

On the brighter side, while I can’t guarantee you succeed in achieving your goals if you dedicate yourself everyday, I can at least say that you are increasing your chances of success tenfold by simply putting the work in. In fact, I’d even argue that the end goal should not be the goal. Rather, the goal should be whatever you have ahead of you for that day in particular.

So say you’re a writer like me and you want to write and publish a novel. It’s a daunting task to say the least, but the thing about goals is that they comprise of a subset of mini goals that lead toward it. While the end goal is to have a novel published, the daily goal could and should be something along the lines of 500-2000 words a day, or whatever amount you’re most comfortable with.

Make the montage, the training, the goal itself. Approach it with all the enthusiasm you can at the beginning, but don’t let the initial loss of motivation stop you because then that’s when you’re being tested as to how well you can adapt these activities into routine habits that you just do as part of your daily life.

Simply put; success is a lifestyle, not an end goal.