The Outsider

In my opinion, most novels (and films) needs an Outsider. When I say Outsider, I mean a character who is an outsider to the world the adventure takes place in. For example, Harry Potter is an Outsider to the Wizarding world, and Elizabeth Swann (Pirates  of the Caribbean) is a Outsider in the pirate world.

Why are Outsiders important? Because the reader is an Outsider as well. The reader doesn’t know all the things in the world they’re visiting. The reader doesn’t know what certain things, what certain terms are. Except, the reader can’t ask. They can’t ask the other character in the book what  things means, what things are. That’s where the Outsider comes in. The Outsider is the representative for the reader inside the story. The Outsider character has the ability to ask the other characters what things are, what the terms mean.

Take Harry Potter for example. Harry doesn’t know much about the Wizarding world, other than what he’s been told. As readers, we don’t know a lot about the world either. Harry has the power to ask the other character all the things he doesn’t know about magic, which is what we don’t know either.
Another example is Bella Swan from Twilight. She doesn’t know about Vampires. The nomads. We, the readers don’t either.

You might be thinking that Outsiders are only needed in books that don’t take place here, on Earth. I disagree. There can be many different world here, on Earth. The world of law, the world of hospitals. There must be many more. These worlds are all on Earth, but they’re different. And if you’re not a lawyer, or a doctor, you don’t belong to the world, and you don’t know all the rules and terminology, then you’re an Outsider.

The book I’m reading at the moment is called ‘Plea of Insanity’, by Jilliane Hoffman. It takes place in the world of law. All the characters are lawyers. The problem I have with this book, is that there isn’t any Outsiders. No one to ask about terms, or procedures. Which means that the only way for the author to bring readers into her world, is by putting in long paragraphs, which explains what the terms/procedures mean, and are for. I don’t like that, because it takes me from the story.

So, Outsiders are very important to the stories we write. And if we don’t include those characters into our work, then the character feels left out, unincluded, and may eventually stop reading. Do you have an Outsider?

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3 Responses to The Outsider

  1. Iapetus999 says:

    This is a good point. One of my POV characters is an “insider” so it’s hard to do much world-building since he already knows everything. But he hangs out with an outsider who’s clueless and needs explanations.

  2. K.M. Weiland says:

    Great point. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that *all* stories require an outsider, but having one definitely provokes interest, not just because of the parallels with the reader himself, but also because it adds conflict due to the character’s discomfort in an unfamiliar setting.

  3. SaintAsh says:

    What I really find fascinating is when an insider becomes an outsider by way of having some core idea about the world or way they live stripped away. Their perspective is shattered, and they begin to notice things as if for the first time. To be honest, I find it much more interesting than another version of the wide-eyed innocent stumbling into a new world, a la Bella Swan.

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