Monday, November 30, 2015

The Journey of the Outsider

            Something I’ve noticed is that a lot of stories – especially in fantasy – are about outsiders. The main characters tend to come from places where they’ve been cloistered off from the rest of the world, if not from an entirely different world all together.

            I’ve realized that at least part of the reason the reason these outsiders make such good main characters is because of how much it helps the author display the world. It limits the character’s knowledge and, as a result, allows the reader to learn about the world as the character does. That farmer living in a secluded village has a lot more to learn than a well educated scholar who is already immersed in the world.

            As readers, we are more forgiving to be told about a world if we’re learning along with the character. We don’t like the story being interrupted so we can be lectured about the world. If it’s the character who is learning, it’s then part of the story. We’re also more willing to accept mistakes the character may make out of ignorance, because we know everything that they know. It doesn’t matter if it’s common knowledge in the world – we didn’t learn it, so it is acceptable that the character also lacks this knowledge.

            Imagine how different the story would have been if Harry Potter had been raised within the wizarding world instead of with muggles. Or if Ron or any other wizard born character had the lead role. All the things that had our imaginations staring around in wonder and delight would have been every hay hum-drum to the main character. Instead of rubbernecking his way along Diagon Alley, pointing out all the wondrous shops, it would have been like a stroll in the shopping mall. We would have been lucky to have our attention drawn to the Nimbus 2000. All the magic would have been sapped out of the world because it was so normal to the character.

            Would Narnia had been so fantastic to someone who grew up there? Would a journey across Middle Earth have been so incredible if hobbits weren’t so reclusive?

            The reader is an adventurer, traipsing into an unknown world. Were we going there ourselves, we would want an experienced guide who knew the place. We aren’t, though. We are following along the experiences of our guide. If we want to experience the new world for ourselves, we need our guide to look upon it with the same wide-eyed wonder as we would.


            The journey of the outsider brings a new level of depth to a story. It’s no wonder we see so much of it.



Click here to find the charity anthology containing a couple of my short stories.

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If there's any subject you'd like to see me ramble on about, feel free to leave a comment asking me to do so.

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