Comic Talk and General Discussion *

Everyman Characters
PIT_FACE at 4:46AM, April 18, 2018
posts: 2,775
joined: 4-21-2007
What do you think of em?

Do you enjoy stories that involve or focus on everyman characters? Do you write these kinds of characters? Do you hate them? Can they be engaging?

How would you even define one?

usedbooks at 5:32AM, April 18, 2018
posts: 3,341
joined: 2-24-2007
I'm not entirely sure what an everyman character is. Is it a demographics thing (like job status, family, income) or a personality/talent/ability thing? Or does it depend on the audience? Like if your audience are teenagers, would it be a high school student? Vs. a struggling part-timer with a useless degree?

Or are all non-spectacular characters everymen? Like the opposite of “the chosen” trope. If that's the case, they are my favorite, especially in a world of superlatives and “chosen ones.”

I think main characters can go three ways to connect to an audience. One is as wish fulfillment. Those are the “chosen” characters and awesome characters, the he-men and superheroes, and larger-than-lifes. The second is the relatable character, whose life is like the audience's and who reacts to the world with the same hesitations and concerns and probably has more misses than hits in dating, job hunting, and fighting evil. The third is the unlucky/bumbling/inept character that the audience can be grateful is not them but also cheer if they score a rare win. The second type is most relatable, but the others can make for great stories too.
bravo1102 at 6:53AM, April 18, 2018
posts: 5,636
joined: 1-21-2008
The everyman character was popular during the Depression. Think Jimmy Stewart or Gary Cooper. Think Mr. Smith goes to Washington, Meet John Doe and even It's a Wonderful Life. Frank Capra movies.

Bob Hope was an off-shoot of this as the inept everyman character.

The perfect aphorism for this is “Ordinary people in extraordinary situations” How does an ordinary guy do it in this amazing situation? You have Bob Hope in the midst of all these spies. Or you have an ordinary guy who overhears all these spies and has to fight for his life like Hitchcock's The man who Knew Too Much (I prefer the original) or North by Northwest Cary Grant despite his screen persona could do ordinary guys. Under it all he was always Archie Leach the cockney. He could even pull off the inept everyman (see his screwball comedies)

War movies and adventure films are also good places to find the “everyman” again the inept ordinary guy of Bob Hope movies. You identify with him because you say “Could I really do any better?” And then there's a movie with a whole cast of “everymen” like A Walk in the Sun or the Depression classic Grapes of Wrath.

I normally don't do “everyman” because I usually have the character possess some kind of extraordinary talent or skill. I don't do superman, but maybe a Navy SEAL or an athletic woman with martial arts skills. (Belinda Brandon)

And then there's the buddy movie with two or three ordinary guys who find themselves in total insanity. Before there was Indiana Jones there was Gunga Din. Temple of Doom actually references Gunga Din. Three ordinary guys Victor McLaughlin, Douglas Fairbanks jr and Cary Grant (at his cockney best) take on the whole Kali temple.

Then there's Big Red One about the squad of ordinary kids (including Mark “Luke Skywalker” Hamill and Carradine who starred in Revenge of the Nerds!)who become four survivors of the infantry in the ETO. How about To Hell and Back where you have this nebishy little Texan who becomes the most decorated US soldier of World War II.

Then there's Sergeant York with Gary Cooper as the ordinary “aw shucks” American who takes on and beats a whole German army in World War One. There was also a British movie about a squad of ordinary Brits who start out as pretty inept who go on to become the ordinary British Tommie who will lead The Way Ahead to beat the Nazis.

The Russians are also notable for making ordinary everyman Russian peasants who take on the “supermen” of Nazi Germany and beat the piss out of them or lose valiantly. War movies are notorious for the bunch of ordinary guys from all over, everymen who do extraordinary things whether it is at Bataan , The Winter War, Sahara or Battle of El Alamein or Panfilov's 28 Men.

The everyman is the ordinary guy in the extraordinary situation who has to deal with the adversity and either overcomes or fails. But it's how he deals with the extraordinary situation that is the important bit. The ordinary guy sometimes finds something extraordinary inside. Hey, some of us have done it, it's not all that crazy. ;)
last edited on April 18, 2018 7:02AM
Ozoneocean at 8:30AM, April 18, 2018
posts: 28,139
joined: 1-2-2004
These are normal people who you substitute for yourself.
Craig in Bottomless Waitress is that kind of character and you HATE him Pit XD
PIT_FACE at 10:51AM, April 18, 2018
posts: 2,775
joined: 4-21-2007
Fuck Craig.

KimLuster at 11:21AM, April 18, 2018
posts: 795
joined: 5-15-2012
Skilled writers can make any type of character interesting, but I tend to gravitate toward characters that are somehow ‘more’ than your typical ‘everyman’, usually by having extraordinary abilities. But… I love having these special characters engage in normal, everyday, ‘everyman’ type activities, try to fit in the ‘real’ world.

As I've mentioned before, Anne Rice always wrote way over-the-top characters (powerful, wealthy, gorgeous…). She believed that we all really wanted stories about these types of characters (perhaps due to a deep-seated yearning for gods and heroes). She believed we could see the everyman characters anytime we wanted, by going to work, school, looking in the mirror…

I think she takes it waaaaaay too far but I tend to agree with the basic sentiment!
last edited on April 18, 2018 11:22AM
bravo1102 at 11:58AM, April 18, 2018
posts: 5,636
joined: 1-21-2008

Of course an ordinary person with a special skill like … Bicycle Repair Man!
MatthewYoung at 4:59PM, April 22, 2018
posts: 12
joined: 2-5-2018
I typically vastly prefer the everyman in a work a fiction, but I suppose with the exception of what makes said character an everyman in their own environment, rather than our own.
As someone who dabbles in the fantasy genre, it's very easy to write in some all-powerful magical plot ability that sees to the protagonist's victory (i.e. Legendary swords, kill-everything magic, the ability to heal or revive the dead).
But thus far, I've attempted to ground each character's ability to a more human standard, and work on constantly placing the heroes at a clear disadvantage when I can.
This might just meld into a character development category, but I say give your characters more flaws than strengths (physically and mentally), as that is typically what real people are like. That's how I get engrossed into a story's characters. Ironically, to me, the more super a character is to their world's standards, the less interest I start to have in them.

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