CREATING MONSTERS

It’s been going on for years and years that authors turn a situation or person from the real world into a monster in one of their stories. Creatures of all shapes and sizes are used as metaphors for any and all eventualities and can provide a level of depth to what’s being written which may not have been as easily accessible without the outside influence.

I’m a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the different monsters which rumble across the screen each episode represent a different issue that may creep up in the real world. The use or overuse of magic is discussed as thinly veiled disguise for the same issues with drugs. A boyfriend giving a girl the brush off after they’ve got down and dirty together gets redeployed as Angel losing his soul and turning evil.

Now I’ve spoken previously about ways that writers can use their words as a catharsis to cast away pain and trauma but I’ve recently found a great example of an actor doing just that when creating his portrayal of a role.

While filming The Princess Bride, Mandy Patinkin was coming to terms with the death of his father to cancer and found himself able to place the brutal disease as the six fingered man so when he delivered the line, “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die,” he was able to fight the very thing that robbed him of his father.

I’m doing the same thing in my head at the moment. I’ve managed to start some work on a handful of ideas for short stories and in all of them I find myself putting the death of my own father into different elements to try and work through the grief.

I can only hope that mine are even partially as successful a Mandy Patinkin’s delivery. Thanks to YouTube, here’s the clip for you.

You have to watch to the very end and I can’t echo the feeling enough.

 

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COOL?

I myself, am not cool.

I can happily admit that I’ve never been cool. Well, I can happily admit it now, as a middle aged old duffer anyway.

Cool is a concept far beyond the nature of a description of temperature. It’s a way of being. It represents to so many that which is the nebulous goal we should all be struggling for. Have a watch at the way Xander Harris in Buffy the Vampire Slayer debates the question.

To be cool is to be hot in some ways but not in others. But cool is also seen in cases of being very much not hot. But that doesn’t mean cold. And as cool doesn’t last, it also doesn’t mean you’ve become hot if you’re no longer cool. You don’t warm up or cool down.

Clear?

Cool as a relative state changes and grows every day but no-one can truly know what is cool until ‘it’ lands. If you could go back in time and suggest that the term ‘on fleek’ was going to be something which sweeps the world, entering our cultural lexicon as a marker of somethings relative coolness, I’m sure that whoever you spoke with would question your sanity. But nonetheless, here we are with that ridiculous phrase.

Maybe it’s because I don’t understand it that it makes no sense in terms of it’s cool? So if that’s the case, who needs to understand a thing to allow it to be considered for cool?

Cool is very often the focus of the younger of our population and there are armies of people working day and night to give them their fix for cool. But is it? Even as I write, I consider ‘proper’ grown-ups of my age or older and am forced to admit that the cool is there as well, just about different things. Parents seem to perpetually be comparing children. Their abilities, their achievements, anything. Not only will they be showing off that they are better than everyone else but there is that level of prestige which comes from going on the ‘right’ holidays, sending the kids to the ‘right’ schools, and the classic, driving the ‘right’ car. Don’t believe me? Watch the mighty Bruce Campbell and see what you think.

So does this mean that cool is nothing more than a manufactured construct which can be guided by the power brokers of the world by making sure that the right messages are being seen and repeated by the right people?

Yes and no.

Yes, the armies of people working on the next One Direction are following a plan of how to create this commodity and the members of the group themselves are a tool as well but on the reverse, aren’t they all labouring under the huge risk that their product isn’t deemed cool? No matter the amount of time and effort which goes into a project, ticking all the right boxes to make a big splash, there will always be the risk that it just fizzles out. That would leave huge numbers of people at risk, livelihoods crushed, business going under, families at risk.

I write the stories I write, not in an attempt to be cool, to be ‘on fleek’, but to be a writer of those stories. I wanted to read them so I wrote them. I’ve given up hunting down the elusive cool because it just doesn’t make sense.

Shouldn’t we do things because they make us happy rather than just because it’s cool?

OTHER PEOPLE’S TOYS

We went to a quiz last week in Cardiff. We had a great time and came a respectable third. It was a quiz about all things Buffy the Vampire Slayer and we found ourselves in a small-ish venue with standing room only, filled with people of all ages. It was the first time I’d found myself being one of the oldest in a group like that and I swear that the group of people sat next to us were likely only 2 or 3 years old when the program originally aired.

The quiz itself was the usual quiz shaped affair. There were two picture rounds where we all had to identify characters and the usual questions you’d expect in any type of this event but the thing that really set this evening apart from any others was an interactive round in the middle.

We were all given the task of creating a ‘Big Bad’ for a possible next TV season. We all had to think about how these monsters were going to be able to kill, any weaknesses, how it would attack and what it looked like. There was even a need to draw a picture.

I went for it. It was great fun trying to test myself in that short block of time to be able to create something which made sense with all of the strands that were out there within the set Buffy-verse.

When the reveal came, I panicked. I didn’t go first and was treated to several ‘jokey’ villains. Each person that took to the stage treated the rest of us to a short explanation of what they’d done until it was my turn.

I took at least ten minutes to run through what I’d put together and judging by the reactions from the crowd, it wasn’t too bad.

I’d had a great time reaching into someone else’s toy box and playing with their toys. The story of Buffy the Vampire Slayer had specific hand holds to grip so there wasn’t the usual free reign a writer may get to dive into the work and go wherever they want. I had to make sure that what I was writing was starting from a correct position and was obeying the rules of the universe I was writing into. I had to be more thoughtful about how the pieces I was picking up, fit together.

When we pick up someone else’s belongings, we have a duty to treat them with respect and not break them. Think about what it felt like when, as a child, another child broke something of yours. Not a good time. I couldn’t start making people do things that they wouldn’t have been doing up to now without immediately making the characters less believable. Those listening as I’d explained my ideas would have just closed their minds thinking that what I was saying wasn’t up to much.

There are novels aplenty which are written following on from an already established work. Buffy has stacks of novels written by all manner of authors. Star Wars and Star Trek have loads of stories out there and the number of Warhammer 40k books is always growing. All of these stories have to work within the matrix of rules that they start with. There are hard set routes the characters have to follow, how they should behave and if you deviate from it, bang goes the story.

They can make outlandish decisions which they’ve never done before, stories would just be the same without, but they can’t make too many of them and they can’t have them deviate too far from the norm. It’s all about making sure that they fit in.

I’ve written my own books with my own characters but I’d kind of enjoy making up something to fit into the worlds of characters I love. It was kind of fun reading to the crowd as well.

I wonder if someone will ever do something like that for my characters?