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TGR, Gutenberg, Rubric

March 2015

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TGR, Gutenberg, Rubric

The Mundane May Lead to the Extraordinary

This is a great lesson for budding authors to learn. When does a normal, mundane act or event take on dimensions that change the course of a character’s life? When does taking picking up the wrong backpack in a hurry suddenly mean you don’t have any of the tools or anchors to reality that you depend on—no money, no map, no cell phone, no food? When does deciding to take 2nd Avenue instead of 1st Avenue on your way home mean you end up in a hospital, the victim of a senseless attack? When does being stuck in typical rush hour traffic mean that you miss the plane that is hijacked by terrorists? When does the mundane become the extraordinary.

I ask this without any profound insights to offer, but rather because my day today is filled with mundane tasks as I get ready for The Gutenberg Rubric roadtrip. I need to mount the press, print up a batch of bookmarks to have as spares while I’m on the road, do my laundry, clean my bathroom so it isn’t a mess when I get home on September 30—mundane tasks that from my current perspective have no extraordinary significance beyond the obvious. But any one of those tasks could result in an extraordinary event. I could be loading my laundry in the dryer when the gas leak finally reaches critical mass and blows up in my face. I could be overwhelmed by bleach fumes in the bathroom, pass out and crack my head on the tile putting a sudden end to my plans for the next month and opening up a dreamworld in which I am transported to an alternate universe as an out-of-place hero whose prophetic appearance results in the downfall of a tyrant as I lead a medieval army of elves and dwarves in rebellion.

As authors, we are constantly struggling to find the unexpected catalyst that has extraordinary repercussions. Unfortunately, we often find ourselves trying to connect a butterfly effect that winds in so many directions that the entire tale becomes too improbable to believe. After all, the difference between fiction and real life is that fiction has to make sense. We can’t afford to go so deep into a mundane cause that the effect makes no sense. Therefore, mundane details can’t be sprinkled so liberally through our stories that we can’t tell what has significance.

Contrast this with the typical Twitter post. We are inundated with the mundane. While Twitter is undeniably the first line of information for many people (take yesterday’s earthquake in Virginia as a case-in-point), it is often impossible to separate meaningful information from the vast quantity of cyberbabble. As authors, we can’t afford to do that. While a small sprinkling of “red herrings” might be appropriate, we can’t laden the reader with so much extraneous information that they don’t get the point.

There’s no question that I faced this challenge more than once in writing The Gutenberg Rubric. Sometimes it surprised me. Who knew that when he nudged her ever-present locket out of the way so he could kiss a particular freckle on her neck, he was touching something that would haunt him for the duration of the book—just out of sight.

Well, I won’t tell you anymore about that. After all, I have laundry to do and a bathroom to clean!

By the way, I’ve cross-posted this to <a href=”http://www.gutenbergrubric.com/blog”>The Rubricant</a>, my daily blog leading up to and including my cross-country author tour in September. I won’t always be posting what I write here on LJ or Facebook. Please stop by The Rubricant and bookmark it or subscribe and share it with your friends. We’re going to have an extraordinary journey in September!

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