We Can’t All Be Great

You’re walking out to your car after a late day at work. Its about 7:30. The suns making its way down under the horizon and you can see long shadows forming on the sidewalk. Its not that you’re scared – why would you be? You live in a safe part of town – but you are surprised when you hear footsteps approaching from around the corner.

The boss had you lock up, so when the men appear at the edge of the adjacent brick building, you know that you have no one to call to.

And they look like this.

After you bolt – after you get far far away – who is it you call? Is it the President, or is it the Police? Is it the Major of Gotham, or Batman?

In a book, its important to monitor how many “Great” people you are following. Gauge how many Kings, Dukes, and Majors are in your book based on the loftiness of the plot-line. If they are supposed to be duking it out with criminals on the street, you might have picked someone a little too high up the social ladder. The president shouldn’t be doing the job of the police, anymore than the major should be doing the job of Batman.

The author George R.R. Martin does this very well in his book series, Song of Ice and Fire. While he juggles characters who are undeniably lordly, he also has a cast of characters that are of a low caste. Characters that are deposed. These are the characters who are able to get in the muddy conflict on the street while the posh lordlings are battling with their minds in the castles.

You’ll notice that many characters are shamed, dethroned, or that their royal status is more of a joke and no one (save for themselves) recognizes it.

Seems presumptuous.

Seems presumptuous.

Its a great way to get some variety in a novel’s plot, so that the types of conflicts the author tackles doesn’t become stale. If you are writing a book and you feel like you might just be writing the same kind of scenes over and over again, try this out. It doesn’t hurt to shake up the social castes a bit.


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