Thursday, July 30, 2009

The truth about the strange and unknown

I have the distinct pleasure of working a few floors down from another author, Imari Jade. I’ve been speaking with Imari for over ten years now (as we both smoke and take the usual siesta at work to talk of our works in progress) and consider her a great friend and confide in her my ideas and developments. It was during one of these smoke breaks that I discussed the idea of writing a tale of a man escaping from hell, but he has to go through [my version has a varying amount of levels, so sue me] before he can escape. Steal the idea if you like, it’s not original – hello Devine Comedy! – but I’ve been told that there are no original ideas anymore, only original ways to tell the story.

Imari asked me if I was up to date on Dante’s work. Now I’ll admit I haven’t attempted to read “The Devine Comedy” since high school, and I really didn’t attempt to read it then either, but the fact remained I didn’t plan to read Dante’ because I have—God forgive me for daring to break from the pack—my own ideas of hell. And that statement spurred our subject, which I share with you, about the stereotypes of “monsters” and the importance of getting it right.

So let’s first discuss stereotypes and my utter hatred for them when writing fiction. Hi, I’m Trent Kinsey. I’m a white male, of said age with brown hair, a beard, blah, blah, blah. I say this because I’m sure my physical characteristics matches some serial killer profile or that of a sex offender. I’m neither, but do you see where I’m going? Each of us matches some profile or some stereotype, but it doesn’t mean we belong to it or that we are it. I strongly believe the same of our loving monsters and paranormal freakies. For example: I say vampire and you say…Hates sunlight…Drinks blood…can change into a bat, mist and in some corners of the world, a wolf...etc. Or how about our friend the werewolf (one of my absolute favorites I might add) and you’d say…Silver bullets…Changes during a full moon….etc.

I can go on like this for pages and pages, but I think the idea is starting to form. We’ve been programmed to believe in the strength and weaknesses of our paranormal figures because it’s what’s been said in every encounter. Movies, books and camp-fire stories all use the same slate when describing our favorite—or most feared—creatures. Why is it such a bother if a vampire can walk in daylight? Or, is it so bad if someone changes to a werewolf during the day?

The answer is no,' but the conundrum of the answer is that the author has to create reasons for why this one creature is different than the stereotypes. Let me say that again so it will sink in and take root—The author has to give reasons why a creature is different than what the reader expects. Now, I’ve never met a vampire and though my friends will disagree with me, I’ve never met, nor am I a werewolf—it’s the beard that throws my friends off. I will admit I’ve seen ghosts, angels and demons, and I still believe I met the devil one night working the grave-yard shift at a convenient store years ago, but I digress. The fact remains that what we discuss are creatures that I doubt others have met and if they did meet said creature, the thing wouldn't tell you how to kill it. So why are we extremely stuck on the stereotypes if none of us really know how to kill a vampire, or when a werewolf changes? Better yet…Who’s really been to hell and came back to tell us not only what it’s like, but how to escape it?

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