This ordinary life quote by Harvey Pekar is one of those extremely simple, straightforward quotes that manages to be extremely deep and complicated, as well.
“Ordinary life is pretty complex stuff.” — Harvey Pekar
That’s true, right? It feels true, anyway. And (IMHO), that’s the key to realism – complexity. It’s the little everyday details that are easy to forget when writing, things that you do every day but don’t think about. Like brushing your teeth, taking a shower, having clean clothes, cleaning up after the dog, or checking your email.
But the complexity also comes from the unexpected twists of fate (or Murphy’s Law). It’s when you have car troubles the week when you don’t have time to take it to the mechanics or the dog throwing up when you’re already late for work. It’s the job offer you get when you weren’t looking, the sudden illness that wipes out your PTO, or the rainstorm when the forecast was sunny. And it’s the scent of honeysuckle when you’re standing next to your broken down car, the heat of newly printed papers on a cold day, and an unexpected gift from a stranger.
When you’re talking big plot conflicts (like the main one that the protagonist is trying to resolve), these details are little bumps in the road – the sort of events that aren’t even included in the plot summary; however, they’re also the little rich details that build realism.
It’s sad but true. See, we expect a certain amount of synchronicity from books (meaningful coincidences, anyway), and if we don’t get it, we don’t like the book (unless you’re the literary, “Yes! Break those rules!” type.). In life, on the other hand, you can expect synchronicity all you want, but you’re not going to get it. It might even weird you out if you do (“Woah! Déjà vu!”).
Wait a minute! Doesn’t that mean that writers have to make the story complicated and unexpected enough to make it realistic enough but at the same time make it predictable enough to follow? Seriously?
But I guess that’s just another example of how life is “complex stuff.”