Month: October 2014

“What creeps you out won’t creep me out”: Characters and their thresholds

Fear: one of the biggest fuels for the antagonist in a plot. Everybody’s afraid of something, and often times what your protagonist – or perhaps the fictional society in general – is afraid of. Conflict between fearsome characters is a common component of fiction – the fire breathing dragon, the abusive uncle, the demonic vampire/undead, the evil genius, internal conflict, loss of identity/sanity – and H.P. Lovecraft once said: “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.”

1. Genres of fear: thriller, gothic and horror

These genres rely on the primitive instincts, thoughts and feelings buried within us. fear, anxiety, dread, suspense and suspicion. What keeps the reader in their toes? Why do we fear certain things like snakes and spiders? What judgements are involved in these fears? Think about the thrill and chill when your blood runs cold and shivers go down your spine.

2. The role of the antagonist

This is a crucial part.The antagonist would know how to push the protagonist’s buttons. Imagine they are the BDSM partner who ignores their partner’s boundaries and safe words; the protagonist secretly enjoys the thrill of adventure that their enemy presents them, and the antagonist takes pleasure in pain.

3. What’s at stake?

What’s at risk here? Will the world end? Will the human race due out? Will humanity be enslaved? Give not only the characters to be worried, but the reader too. Are they biting their nails during the cliffhanger, or worried about the serial killer’s next victim?

4. Character profiles: “is afraid of spiders”

To get to truly know someone – regardless of whether whether they’re a friend, family, etc. – is knowing things such as their hopes and fears. How does fear form our identity? Does it? What role does culture play?

5. Fear and hope are two opposite sides of the same coin

Hope is what we desire/want to happen, and fear is what we dread/don’t want to happen. This will be both a big character and plot drive; character because of the way they act in urgent situations, and plot because of the suspense that builds.

Something to try: character, scenario, location

How about we try putting fear-y into practice? Let’s say we have a small child, at a carnival, and one of the rides breaks down. The place is supposedly haunted by demons. A bunch of eyewitness journalists decide to investigate. Sounds like a plot line off Scooby-doo,right? Well, you could watch an episode of it it you fancy that. Or perhaps you should try reading the paper.

Give it a go, and post in the comments!

Apophrisms: fables, proverbs and Internet memes

We used to have the wise words of people like William Shakespeare and Socrates for our guidance. But since smartphones and tablets have arrived, we have the internet meme. The difference is, these ‘nuggets of wisdom’ are just meant to poke fun at modern life. But what’s caused the change, and is it really just gospel disguised as satire? Have we actually just created another version of ‘universal truth’ through social media?

1. The roots

It all boils down to ancient texts, such as the Bible and Dhammapada. Wise philosophers, poets and teachers have their famous words canonised. This then lead to writers such as the Brothers Grimm and Geoffrey Chaucer creating the classic tales everyone knows and loves.

2. Moving away from absolute knowledge

Great thinkers and writers, such as Karl Marx and George Orwell, think that the world is too heavily by ‘Metanarratives’ (The Bible, Political and royal figures such as Hitler and monarchs, scientists and explorers like Christopher Columbus and Einstein, British Imperialism etc.). Thus, they encourage other people, such as the Modernists and later the Postmodernists,  to move away that there is one version of truth and reality; in fact, there is no ‘real’ world, just perceptions of the world. This means that what was once considered “sage wisdom” from influential texts and people, is now just another voice.

3. What role the author plays

Some people may think older authors like Shakespeare are just another universal metanarative, who everyone sees as great and almost god-like. But others, such as Kurt Vonnegut and T.S. Eliot, twist and distort the supposed ‘mirror’ of reality by using metafiction to draw  attention the fictionality of the text

4. The internet and internet memes

The internet is considered our reality, with smartphones, laptops, tablets and any other device we can access the news, websites, social media and blogs. Instead of reflecting our lives, or perhaps another part of our lives, our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts become our lives. This is because we use social networks and other social media to build our lives with the upload of content. Because of this, captioned images known as memes, are used to parody either films, political figures or events to connect with ordinary people. Often taken from TV shows, films or celebrities, they give the illusion of ‘normalcy’ by supposedly relating to the lives of ordinary people:

 

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Hmm, what could POSSIBLY go wrong here?

If it weren’t for the fact that  this (not-to-be-taken-seriously) image of a sweet  (it’s only a sweet, and just one opinion, right?) was presented in a joking fashion, this could otherwise be a very racist and contentious remark. It’s all too easy to blur the lines between humour and politics, a joke and brainwashing ideology. But what about blurred lines in other ways?

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Another meme or re-hashing?

Do we interpret this is ‘a guiding light’ for modern living? The ‘answer to our prayers’? (quite literally)? Or is it just another self-reflective attempt at challenging the Bible? When do opinions stop being opinions, and start being words you might see engraved on the Emerald Tablet?

Since many celebrities often tweet their thoughts and advice on life, is this just another form of meme? Moreover, will our Twitter accounts be our epitaphs and biographies for what we were known for? Are we being deluded into believing we will have an impact on the world like Charlotte Bronte or Eminem?

Speak your mind, pen-bangers!