Everybody needs a day off, even superheroes. When creating your world, you may want to consider what people do when they’re not busy fending for their lives or reaching for the far ends of the galaxy. Let’s look at a few examples.
Poker night in Star Trek: The Next Generation. From time to time, Captain Picard, Commander Riker, Commander Troi, etc. get together for a game of poker. It’s how they bond and forget that they’re a long, long way from home. In other episodes, we catch a glimpse of Commander Riker playing the trombone for his fellow officers. The familiarity of these activities helps bring people into that world. It also helps make the arcane elements such as the Prime Directive or the physics of warp speed more palatable, and can add a little levity to overly-serious story lines.
Other times, these activities can make for great comedy while maintaining or even adding to the realism. For example, in Monty Python’s Life of Brian, there is a hilarious scene in which a small, sparse crowd attends a “children’s matinee” gladiator competition. After one fight, someone is seen picking up the limbs of the deceased gladiators.
Of course, this scene is supposed to be funny and absurd but, surprisingly, it adds an element of realism. Life of Brian is set in Biblical Israel during Roman rule. When we imagine a gladiator fight, we probably picture a packed stadium with the Caesar present—basically, the championship match. But what about during the regular season? Like poorly attended sporting and theatre events of today, there would likely have been gladiator fights that few people were interested in. From that absurd scene, we also learn something about that society’s mentality: they did not prevent children from seeing deadly fights.
Of course, you can make up your own fictional activities as well. In Harry Potter, for example, we are introduced to Quidditch, the game played with flying broomsticks. In Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, we are introduced to Podracing. The addition of both these sports does more than merely entertain—it also adds depth to their respective worlds. The activity doesn’t need to be elaborate, though. Even something as simple as a hobbits’ drinking song in Lord of the Rings makes the characters more relatable.
Weaving characters’ everyday activities into the main narrative can be tricky but, done right, can make for some of the most memorable scenes.
After graduating from Ryerson University in 2009, Alex spent many years trying to figure out exactly what he wanted to do in life. Eventually he decided to focus on writing. He spends his free time following the latest political news and cheering on the Toronto Blue Jays.