The World of Our Story

View of Earth From SpaceIn his book, The Writer’s Journey(third edition), Christopher Vogler writes, “The Ordinary World in one sense is the place you came from last. In life we pass through a succession of Special Worlds which slowly become ordinary as we get used to them.”

As writers, we often talk about creating story worlds. In reality, we create two. There is our hero’s ordinary story world, the world she lives in before the inciting incident launches her into her story. Once launched, she enters the Special World of the story we are writing.

Interestingly, in many novels, the worlds may be exactly the same in terms of geography, time, economics, politics, and a myriad of other details. The world moves from Ordinary to England 1Special when our hero decides to embark on the journey to solve the story problem or answer the story question.

Then, even if she continues to live in the same house, work the same job, go to the same church, her world becomes Special. She is now on an adventure to resolve the story problem. And that story problem transforms her world from Ordinary to Special, whether it’s solving a murder, dealing with an unwanted pregnancy, or losing her spouse.

town 4Think of the world of our lives. Everything is going along fine and then something happens. We lose a job or we get a promotion to a more challenging position, a loved one dies or a prodigal returns home, a car accident, a medical problem, a windfall. We win the lottery or we spend all our pay on lottery tickets and miss by one number.

Whatever it is, our Ordinary world becomes Special while we live through the changes until the Special World becomes Ordinary once again.

Can you think of a time when your own Ordinary World became Special? How can you use that experience to write a Special World for your characters?

6 Replies to “The World of Our Story”

  1. I like the Christopher Vogler quote and how he uses the word “special” to describe the the changes characters face in life. Next time my world changes for the better, or, ahem, worse, I’m going to try and look at it as a “special” time and remember I will adjust. Whether it’s a character in a book or something in our lives, the best part of experiencing change is what it can do in us to make us stronger. This year began with the loss of two wonderful influences in my life: a grandmother and a dear friend. Those changes and the emotions that followed have helped me write about grief and moving forward in my character’s lives as well as my own.

    1. Hi Tina,
      Thanks for sharing. It’s hard sometimes to see the opportunity for growth and change in the hard times. You’re right–whatever the change, how can it make us stronger?
      Great to hear from you,

  2. It is encouraging when a character is able to connect with their world in a profound way. It always comes about unexpectedly, at least when I’m writing. Too often, the world a character occupies is merely a backdrop.

    1. Hi Susan,
      Thanks for commenting. It took me a while to see the story world as a character in its own right. I’ve enjoyed exploring this more and using it to show more of my characters.

  3. Although I was in a special world while working as a missionary in India, I did something I thought was good, but it turned out the opposite way I had intended. Time (the ordinary world) resolved the issue, but that incident inspired a scene in my novel. Thank you for this thought-provoking post.

    1. Hi Amy,
      Thanks for stopping by and sharing. It’s good to hear from you. Looking forward to reading your novel. It’s interesting how much of our real lives end up in our stories.

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