If you want to write something truly unique, I have a great idea for you: Write about the people that everyone forgets. By this I mean, take the sort of people who are usually side characters and make them the heroes and heroines of the story. Imagine what the story must be like from their perspective.
Low on ideas? Here are a few:
A Female Dwarf
Have you ever read a story with dwarves in it and wondered, “Why are dwarves always male? Aren’t there female dwarves too?” I decided to answer this question in my early teens by writing a story about a female dwarf. She had a pleasantly round face, a brisk walk, and knowledge of all the most secret underground caverns. Her name was Passage. My story went absolutely nowhere (I don’t even think I finished it) but working with a female dwarf was so new and unusual that I would like to try again sometime. It would be neat if someone else gave it a shot in the meantime.
A Heroic Nurse
Perhaps you have watched a movie in which a nurse has reared a young princess while the royal parents were concerned with affairs of state. Traditionally, the story always follows the life of the princess, but the inquisitive author should wonder about the life of the nurse. Historically, nurses often had children of their own, children perhaps who grew up as both playmates and servants of the royal child. In some cases, nurses came to feel about the royal children as strongly as they felt about their own children. What must it be like to be a nurse to a royal child?
Other Forgotten Characters
What if the stable boy really isn’t a long-lost prince, but simply a stable boy? What would make him worthy of being a hero, despite his common status?
What if the real heroes of the grand adventure story are not the children, but the parents?
What if the ever-expendable babysitter turns out to be not so expendable after all?
What is the appeal of the forgotten character? Simply this: Readers love unexpected heroes.
The Lord of the Rings has a certain appeal because of the epic battles with athletic men and beautiful elves, but the real appeal is in the fact that the primary heroes are short and decidedly un-warrior-like. A hobbit would rather eat a second breakfast than go on an adventure, and could not hold a sword if he tried. We like that. It’s unusual, it presents problems that must be solved, and it makes their courage all the more endearing. So we root for the unexpected hero.
Kung Fu Panda (one of my favorite movies) also plays off of the unexpected. Who would have expected a “big, fat panda” with more expertise in chewing than kung fu to become the fearsome Dragon Warrior? We love Po because he is not the usual athletic, insanely-skilled gorgeous warrior of most martial-arts movies. He’s fat, lazy, and utterly unsuited for his role.
When you read stories or watch movies, pay special attention to the types of characters who are always ignored. Then write a story about the last person that readers will ever expect.
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