Y is for “You’re not from around here, are you?”
I love science fiction and fantasy for the contrast, for the way these genres can show us ourselves through a different set of eyes. One way this can happen is through characters who are ‘not from around here’ — characters from other planets, other worlds, or other times. Another way this can happen is through characters who are like the reader or viewer, experiencing other places or times the way an ‘ordinary human’ would. Either way, there’s a risk that the majority of characters in the setting will notice that someone amongst them is, well, not from there.
I said it before: I like characters with secrets. Secrets make for such wonderful plot complications, not to mention the dramatic irony. Being from the universe next door would most definitely count as a secret, wouldn’t it? Or being (mostly) human, but from some other planet? Or being almost immortal and thus somewhat displaced in time?
(I could blather on for several paragraphs about my favorite works of fiction, both written and on screen, that employ this trope to one degree or another, but honestly, discussing it in detail makes me uncomfortable. Long story. Literally.)
Another cool thing about science fiction or fantasy with characters ‘not from around here’ is how sometimes, the normal people in such stories find out and they’re okay with it. Not in a way that makes the reader think, What was the point of even having this subplot if no one has any reaction at all? but more like, This normal-person character is great because he/she knows the truth and isn’t freaked out by it and is still friends with the other character. (Wow, that almost segued into the periphery of tomorrow’s topic. Sorry.)