Wright’s Writing Corner: Beat of a Different Drum

Recently, I was speaking with my son and I said: “You don’t just march to a different drummer, you have your entire own band!” This is completely true, though I should add that his is a good band. Still, it does not even play the same kind of music as anyone else’s.
But this got me thinking. Has anyone else noticed that nearly every character in every book marches to his or her own drum? It seems like it is the first thing established about nearly any character, that they are out there marching on their own, doing their own thing, not fitting in, the black sheep of their family.

So, my question is:

Is this because everyone secretly feels this way in their heart—as if they are the one different person standing out from the rest—and therefore people want to read about people like themselves.
Or do the people who march to the same drum as their neighbors just not read?

It is kind of a scary thought, really—that if you share a drummer, you just do not care about stories. I don’t have any evidence for it. I do notice that some folks do not read. Some read only books that take place in a very real, every day situation.

I am not sure those books star folks who have engaged their own drummer. I have never read many of those book. The few I have read starred folks that marched to their own drum, the one oddball uninterested in glitter among their shiny super rich community, or something like that.

Does anyone write stories about people who just want to be like the next guy?

Now, I know what you are probably thinking: it would be hard to write a story about a character who did not stand out. True. Most people who so try write boring books.

Still. You think someone would write about the exceptional person who was not awkward? Or the competent person who got things done.


Could it even be done?

Let us take a look at one of the most successful own-drum-marchers of our day: Harry Potter. Harry is clearly out in marching to his own beat land. He may have his own entire orchestra.

But, if you told the story from Ron’s, Hermione’s, Luna’s, or Neville’s point of view—or even Malfoy—you would still have a solitary marcher…just not as solitary as Harry.
Could you tell the story from Oliver Wood’s point of view? From Digory’s point of view? What about Percy Weasley. He would definitely feel as if he stood out from his family, but is that the same thing…if you’re the one guy hears the drummer when everyone else around you is off the beat, stumbling around and knocking into things?

Is anyone in the Harry Potter universe normal—by which I mean, in this context: a person who doesn’t stand out as different from everyone else?

In a fantasy about a chosen one, one expects a guy with his own orchestra. But where it puzzles me is in romance novels. Romance novels are read by housewives, right? (Or people like me who read them secretly and pretend that we reading something else.) So why do all romance heroines have to be the one bookish type in her family? The one awkward person among the glitzy elite?

One would think that romance readers would connect with someone who went with the crowd. (More romance books are sold than any other kind of fiction. If you are reading romance, Lady, face it! You are in the crowd!) But no, most romance heroines are weirdoes, too.

So…why is this?

Does it have to do with the nature of storytelling? That stories work better when the heroine stands out?

Is it because even romance readers are in fact all secretly weirdoes, too? (Too, as in: like fantasy and science fiction readers?)

Or does it have more to do with the nature of writers? Authors—even those who write love stories—all march to their own bongo beat. Heck, some even march to a jaw harp. Is it just the author’s self image dripping onto the page?

Inquiring minds want to know.