Ordinary World

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© R Mitchell

Carrie De Simas

Editor in Chief @ GoneWithTheWord

Ordinary world doesn’t have to be a mortal-to-magic scenario. Sure, it worked great in Harry Potter who went from the small cubby under his aunt and uncle’s staircase in Muggle (non-magical for those of you who live in a cave and haven’t read/seen any of the Harry Potter franchise) to the magical world of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. 

Take another hot franchise right now: The Vampire Diaries. Admittedly, I didn’t watch any of these shows while they were all nouveau rage. I have just recently started watching them because—quite frankly—I got bored and had nothing else that interested me on Netflix.

But that first episode really packed a punch. In this pilot of the series, the heroine doesn’t pack her wardrobe and diary and board a plane, train or automobile off to a distant land where she will encounter the vampire of her dreams (that’s the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyers).

Instead, in The Vampire Diaries, Elena still lives in the same town where she has always lived, with the same people she has always known. Her Ordinary World ends though when her parents are killed in an automobile accident. This changes her entire life, and her whole perspective on this life she once called her own.

Now the crossing of the threshold is in fact the first day of school. No Hogwarts here, this is the same school she attended the year prior with the same students (except, of course, the returned-home vampire). Despite it being the same setting, this is in fact a new world for her. People perceive her differently because she is now an orphan. She perceives herself and them differently. Her world is physically the same, but also completely different.

In the television series Pretty Little Liars, the same scenario applies. The four main stars of the show don’t get ripped out of their carefree life when powerful visitors arrive and whisk them away to the top of the world to unravel mystery and find their missing friend (that’s Phillip Pullman’s Golden Compass series). Instead, a powerful mystery person arrives on scene when their group’s leader goes missing and then turns up dead.

The Golden Compass series shows the traditional way of going from Ordinary World to crossing the threshold into the new adventure world. Pretty Little Liars follows the more contemporary standard of the Ordinary World changing based on a change of circumstances rather than location. The four female stars of Pretty Little Liars never leave the town where they grew up. The change is their friend goes missing, turns up dead, and their secrets are threatened by a mysterious villain with too much intel.

Whichever way you choose to write your book, the catalyst that kicks your protagonist into action must be a profound one that they cannot ignore. Whether this involves a physical change or merely a perception change is in your hands.

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