On Writing: Drawing on Weird

One thing many writers may not appreciate enough is the fact that each and every one of us is a one in a billions chance. Where you were born, when you were born, what heritage you have, what culture and ways you’d defend to your dying breath – each of us in all the world, is the only one of us there is. We are unique.

And we are all weird.

Which means we are all interesting. No, really. Maybe your job is a Standard Boring Office Job, or maybe you come from Cliché Family Trauma. Even then, there’s something in your life, and what you love and hate, that’s going to be unique to you. And that you can use to make your characters, your world, draw in more committed readers.

Because here’s the paradox; we are all unique, yet we are all human. Which means every reader has a lot in common with us. They just don’t know it yet. What they do usually know is how they are weird. Or their relatives, friends, enemies, or even just That One Guy down the lane.

So if you put bits of how you are weird into a story, readers will sit up and take notice. “Wow, really, a robber fell down the laundry chute in the hotel while Hero X was staying there? Hit every floor, groaning like a ghost, and people kept reporting it to the cops but no one could find him until the next morning? Hey, I heard something like that happen to a guy my uncle knew….”

Or take biological weirdness; because our bodies are evolutionary jury-rigs, and sometimes it seems the jury was out to lunch. Stereotypical wizards are frail, while fighters are buff? It might not just be sitting around as a bookworm. There’s all kinds of neurological weirdness that can leave a person either physically weak or slow to react, and that might tie into, “can you do magic”? For example, one classic sign of impending wizardry is someone who sees auras, or Things Other People Can’t See.

Well, here’s something in that line.


Headaches. Insomnia. Depression. Migraines. Reactions to bright light that might better fit a vampire, in some cases. This could be a classic “someone who might be a weak but powerful wizard”.

Think of some of the weirdest things in your life, and how they might translate in your world. Even if you don’t directly use them, I guarantee, it’ll make your story more real.


15 thoughts on “On Writing: Drawing on Weird

  1. The C.S. Lewis principle: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one!”

    We’re all weird. “Normal” is, at best, an average. There’s always someone somewhere who doesn’t quite fit to the projected image of normal, and even average is pretty darn limited after a point. That doesn’t mean there is no objective right or wrong, as I think some people tend to imply when they ask, “What is normal?” but it certainly falls in line with “no two humans are exactly alike – yet they’re still human, and thus are still capable of connecting with others of their species somehow.”

    Thanks for the excellent post, Vathara! 😀

    Liked by 5 people

  2. One of the implied neurology of wizards in a lot of settings is synesthesia.

    After all, they can see/hear/smell magic or spirits or whatever, but they aren’t light or vibrations or molecules in the air, they are something else mapping to your brain in odd ways.

    So imagine the difference between people that can see magic vs hear magic.

    One does a better job of sorting out complex combinations, the other does a better job noticing something new while distracted.

    Liked by 5 people

  3. Had a world where the ability to do magic was the side effect of a disease. Which also tended to kill people.

    If you got it, and survived it, there ew as possibility that you would end up with some degree of access to magic, but it wasn’t tightly correlated to how bad your case of it was.

    Also it was a fairly slowly mutating bug so if you survived it, you wouldn’t get it again. Think smallpox.

    Had a lot of fun dynamics to it from a story standpoint.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Does having natural red hair count? I’ve had so many comments about it. And not just the ‘your hair is so pretty’ types either. Notable examples:

    When I was a kid, people asked if my parents dyed it for me. That was in Southern California, but I was around ten when we moved.

    Somebody once asked if I was planning to marry a redhead to make sure I had redheaded children.

    We were talking about Nazi Germany in class, and my teacher looked at me and said something about how they’d probably accept me, even though my hair was more strawberry than true blond. I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about this one.

    Liked by 4 people

      1. I forgot to mention that I was a white girl with blue eyes and strawberry blond hair. Apparently, he figured that was close enough.

        Liked by 3 people

    1. That’s a teacher that needs to grow the freak up– I’m guessing the motivation was “make it so that they understand the impact.”

      The result was “teacher just implied a kid under her care is a Nazi for having red hair.”

      Liked by 2 people

      1. There is a small t tradition that associates Moabites with red hair, and hence with Ruth and David having had red hair (as well as Mary Magdalene and Judas Iscariot, in Christian tradition).

        So you see both the positive and negative sides of this idea in European folklore, and probably this was aided by theater tropes. Redheaded Judas was often a thing, although I don’t know how much it came into paintings.

        Btw, the new Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken movie apparently has an evil version of Ariel as the antagonist mean girl, and she is shown as a white redhead (bucking Hollywood’s ginger erasure, I guess).

        Liked by 2 people

      2. “has an evil version of Ariel as the antagonist mean girl, and she is shown as a white redhead (bucking Hollywood’s ginger erasure, I guess).”

        It’s okay to have Nordic and Teutonic phenotypes as villains. Expected even.

        Because it would be racist to show anyone darker than that as evil.


        Liked by 2 people

  5. If that’s the case, I wonder what the early development of cataracts might mean…

    Because, yes, that does happen. And I know that my mind had been called a steel trap for information before!

    Perhaps that’s something I can use, but I’m not sure how.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Remember to concentrate the weird where you want the attention.

    I’ve seen some nice art where it’s all black and white except for one thing, which draws the eye where the artist wants it.

    Liked by 4 people

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