My Collection of Misfits
Weirdness is a Universal Feeling
I’ve never been normal.
It’s such a cliché statement because nobody thinks they’re normal. Even the most well-adjusted people you know can feel out of place or different in some way. We think we’re weird because of the things we like, the way we look and act, and the things we think and say.
When we feel self-conscious about our quirks, we hide them from certain people, or even all people. And when they’re uncovered, we laugh them off as a joke or try to explain their presence in our lives, hoping to avoid judgment, teasing, or even insults.
“I know I’m weird,” we say as we dip their potato chips in mustard.
“My parents made me do it,” we confess when someone finds a picture of us in an Eagle Scout uniform.
“It was a gift. I never wear it,” we nervously laugh when someone finds a crazy costume in our closet.
“I’ve been meaning to take that down,” we explain when a friend discovers a Disney poster displayed behind our bedroom door.
“How did that get on there?” we gulp when an embarrassing song from our playlist comes on in the car.
Deny It and Hide It
Explaining away an embarrassing preference or behavior is a defense mechanism that I have come to know well. Usually, though, I guard myself by not putting my strange obsessions on display and only revealing my interests that I think are socially acceptable. It’s what keeps me from buying certain clothes, checking out particular books from the library, and sharing certain hobbies, habits, and tics.
But when one of my interests is revealed, I feel the need to defend or explain it. Not only do I want to protect these interests, but I want to protect myself from being made to feel different because of my interests. And the thing is, nothing that I hide is controversial or criminal in any way. It just exposes too much of my personality to the world, and it opens me up to criticism or taunting.
Why am I like this? Probably because I’m a quiet person, I have a history of being bullied, and I’ve never felt like I’ve completely fit in anywhere. Those lessons that we learn early on about blending in and not being too different stick with you well into adulthood. As much as we want to be ourselves, it’s not always easy to do so. The target on our back is too large to risk revealing it to potential shooters.
We wish we could be revered just for being ourselves. Many historical and fictional figures have been raised to star status because of their quirkiness rather than in spite of it. It’s usually not without some ridicule, but at the end of the day, everyone loves these unique characters. They were just brave enough to be themselves, and the masses accepted them for it.
Fictional Misfit Heroes
I’ve always gravitated towards outcasts, particularly fictional ones. I feel like one of The Goonies every time I watched them hunt for One-Eyed Willie’s treasure because they are a team of misfits. I spent my high school years posting on Tim Burton movie forums because those people understood that those films weren’t just about oddly-shaped sets and black and white stripes but about quirky characters who lived in their own worlds because this one just didn’t make sense to them.
While reading The Catcher in the Rye in the 10th grade, Holden Caulfield’s observations resonated with me in a way that no other narration had before. But my ultimate fictional hero was, and still is, Charlie Brown. I admire him for his ability to unwittingly mess up every social situation he encounters and endure constant ridicule in the process, yet he keeps trying, hoping that one day things will go right for him.
Then, of course, there are my beloved superheroes, the outcasts who can do amazing things, save lives, and yet feel estranged from the society that they constantly protect. Whether it’s Batman, the traumatized billionaire orphan turned vigilante, the X-Men who basically represent those fighting for equal rights, or even the Avengers, most of whom don’t hide behind secret identities but still come from unorthodox origins and rarely venture outside of their established group or missions, they all have a history of feeling like they don’t belong.
Superheroes are so mainstream that they seem to inspire all types of people, but none more so than the geeky fans who grew up reading their comic books, playing with their action figures, and watching their cartoons and never stopped. Those are the ones these heroes have truly saved by giving them a safe space in which to identify with their own social and personal struggles.
My Misfit Creations
To me, being a writer means creating stories from my worldview and getting to explore the topics, settings, and characters that interest me most. Creativity through art and writing has been a secure sandbox for me to play in, and misfit characters have always been my muse. They are the prism through which I have built my ideologies, character designs, and story ideas.
All of my novels are written for a middle grade audience, probably because the stories that most appeal for me would appeal to this age group. I was never happier than when I was between the ages of 8-11. It’s when I felt the least out of place. Adolescence came and swept that all away, but it did leave me with an island of happy memories on which to construct my novels.
Every time I write a novel, I ask myself, “What do I want to say to my audience?” My first book, The Stable House, is about transitioning from elementary school to middle school, from being a kid to being a pre-teen, and all of the confusion that comes with it. I didn’t want readers to be caught off guard when junior high happened to them the way I was when it happened to me.
Heidi Williams is the 11-year-old protagonist of this story. Many of the things that happen to Heidi in the book happened to me throughout my middle school life. She is a quiet loner like me, and she’s emotional and anxious about this new lifestyle made even more foreign to her when a fire destroys her home, and she and her family are forced to move into a temporary house while theirs is being rebuilt. Middle school will turn you on your head, and if you don’t already fit in, you’re in for a rude awakening when you’re thrown in this jungle where judgment is the enemy and acceptance is your lifeline.
Wanting to show a different kind of misfit, my second novel, Saving Hascal’s Horrors, is about 10-year-old Mike Hascal and his love of horror movies, old and new. He’s unapologetic about his obsession, and his main goal in life is to take over his sister’s horror shop one day, the one that their late father started and one which is not doing too well thanks to an unfair restriction that keeps them from bringing in the business that they need to stay afloat.
Mike has a close group of friends who share his love of horror yet not as much as he does. Outside of this group, Mike has little interaction with others. This is apparent when no one but his close friends show up to his birthday party. Sometimes your obsessions can take over your life, and you find yourself not having much in common with the outside world who don’t spend every waking moment thinking about or pursuing one particular interest.
He’s also hesitant to welcome the ultimate town outcast, Freddie Nickerman, into their group, despite their mutual love of horror. Freddie is your standard, picked on, nerdy kid who is so used to getting bullied that he snaps at anyone who tries to talk to him. It takes them a long time to warm up to each other, but once they do, Freddie becomes an integral part of the group and the events that follow. I love when outcast characters are able to break out of their mold and their reputations to be seen as a crucial friend and even a hero as this story shows.
When an old friend suggested I write a book about our summers playing at the local playground with our neighborhood gang, the result was my third book, The Castle Park Kids. This book features a diverse group of characters, from older athletic boys to nerdy bookworm girls and every type of kid in between.
The main character, Jamie, is an outcast only because she is new to the neighborhood. She and her family move into their new house at the start of the novel, and it doesn’t take long for them to get acclimated to their surroundings, especially since a playground wraps around their horseshoe-shaped street. Like our misfit gang did growing up, the novel’s gang welcomes all types of people, creating an oasis for any outcast looking for a friend, showing readers that you don’t necessarily have to have anything in common in order to be friends.
Molly Bright and Company
My latest project is a trilogy of novels featuring a group of girls who love superheroes, and over the course of a year, they experience becoming real superheroes. The first novel in the series features Molly Bright, a girl who is bullied after losing her eyesight in one eye after accidentally spilling cleaning chemicals into it.
As she learns to deal with her new disability and the teasing that follows, she begins to notice how other characters in her life experience bullying as well. Her sister, B.C., is bullied by her track coach, her best friend, Aimee, is bullied for being biracial, and her cousin, Tobey, is beaten up for being gay.
Then, Molly gets superpowers, and she uses it to help her friends, family, and any underdog she encounters with their problems. When a real threat emerges, and her superhero skills are put to the test, Molly relies on her group of fellow misfits to support her in her mission.
Embracing Your Differences
The thing about being a misfit is that you never outgrow it. You may find a comfort zone or even become comfortable with who you are, but you will always feel somewhat displaced from society. It’s something I’m always working on myself, and I don’t know if I’ll ever be fully comfortable in my own skin. But I know how to cope, and I know what I like, whether I broadcast it to the world or keep it to myself.
Hopefully, you’ve accumulated your collection of misfits, real or imagined, and they have become your safe place in which to be yourself. If you haven’t, keep searching. This world has something and someone for everyone.
Laura Smith is an author and blogger from Pittsburgh, PA. She has self-published three middle grade novels: The Stable House, Saving Hascal’s Horrors, and The Castle Park Kids. Since 2014, she has published over 200 articles on HubPages. In January 2019, she started her own blog, Laura’s Books and Blogs, where she posts essays, reviews, giveaways, writing tools and tips, and guest posts from other bloggers. Her work has also appeared on several other blogs including The Blook’s The Thing, author Leonard Tillerman’s blog, author Elizabeth S. Craig’s blog, ProWriting Aid, Listosaur, and Support for Indie Authors. She also volunteers as an editor and book reviewer for LitPick Student Book Reviews.