The Everyman Situation

The Word:  An ordinary individual with whom the audience or reader is supposed to be able to identify easily, and who is often placed in extraordinary circumstances [Wikipedia].

The Sell:  The everyman is a neutral character with neutral abilities, neutral ideas, neutral everything.  Designed to fit into any situation and give an objective opinion on the matter.  They are very human, like the reader, and as such the reader can envision themselves in the everyman’s role, dealing with both the ordinary and the extraordinary problems they face.

The Lesser Problem:  The everyman is a safe character; too safe.  They push no envelopes and break no boundaries, so as not to alienate the reader and their perceived vision of the character.  Thus, as presented, they are boring.  There is no reason to like them, nor a reason to hate them; there is no reason to feel anything for them other than they are the protagonist, the stand-in for the reader.

The Greater Problem:  When the everyman finds themselves dropped into the “extraordinary circumstance”, it is all too easy for them to cease to be the everyman, and become the hero.  They become part of a prophecy or a destiny; they find hidden and unique powers no other character has.  They must save the world, because the world needs saving and they’re the only one who can.  And all this undermines who they once were.  An everyman is not defined by what qualities they have, but by what qualities they lack, and the more qualities they are given, whether inherent to their bodies or by proxy due to their surroundings, the less relatable they become.

The Solution:  A character does not need to be neutral to be relatable.  But what they must be is human.  They must show weaknesses, and flaws.  They must be allowed to fail.  They must be allowed to be unimportant.  They must be allowed to be imperfect and incomplete, and not have all the answers.  Throughout a human’s life, they are always travelling, but never arriving; always turning a page, but never closing the book.  No matter what may happen to the everyman, humanity is the core of their being.  They must act as a human would act, not a hero.  A human may at times act heroic.  But a hero is larger than life, created to be an ideal to look up to, while the everyman is life, created to be looked at.

{I feel like this is missing something big, something that I can see in my mind but can’t get down on paper.  Thought I have a feeling it might have something to do with the fact that the everyman is not exactly a good character archetype.}

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