Hurt

I’ve said before that a big part of writing is observing the behavior of people.  This observation enables authors to be guided toward more realistic characters.  One observation that has become very apparent in recent years is hurt.  So many people appear to be defined by the past and the pain that was inflicted upon them.

We are emotional, sensitive beings, even people who care very little for others are still sensitive, particularly when it comes to their own feelings.  I do not pretend to know about every type of pain and how to overcome it.  I do not know what it is like to be a veteran with PTSD or to give birth to a child.  I have not felt the pain of going days without food, or the hurt of being divorced.  One thing I am certain of, if you are human you have been hurt.

Pain is as much of the human experience as pleasure.  We have all felt it, and not only have we all felt it, we have our own personalized version of it.  I know from my own experiences that there are things nearly impossible to get past.  My wife too has endured pain and suffering few know about, and she has shown such a level of grace that it seems inhuman to me.

We each know pain, but not all of us are familiar with the same type of pain that may plague another person.  That being said, no pain is too great to overcome.  Yes, there are hurts that are beyond what humans were ever meant to endure.  I do acknowledge that, but at what point do we become stuck and defined by our pain?  There seems to be so many people that this scenario applies to.  This is seen heavily in identity politics, groups of all shapes and sizes coming out of the woodwork screaming “What about me?!  I have been wronged!”  Yes, yes you have been.  You know what?  So have the people you think are against you.

If we identify ourselves only by pain and gather with those who shared similar hurt, then how can we grow?  If we continually shout, “what about me?” when someone voices a concern.  If we utilize a person’s race, religion, philosophy, or nationality to say they do not understand pain, what are we accomplishing?  Nothing, nothing but more hurt and more division.  There is no glory in victimhood, and ultimately it will lead to shallowness and loneliness.  If we think our pain to be so great that we can in turn shout down someone else then that reflects more on us than anyone else, even if our pain is legitimate.

Quick thought on cliches

I have written about avoiding clichés, and even pointing out clichés that aren’t discussed often.  Something else came to my attention recently.  Most stories have clichés, in fact I cannot think of a single book, movie, or TV show that completely avoids clichés.  Perhaps there is something out there that doesn’t utilize an overused trope in its story, but I do not believe I encountered one.

The issue is how often do clichés appear and how they are utilized.  There are common threads that bind genres together, obviously, that is what makes them genres.  Yet, when something like a magical weapon that must be found, or destroyed in order to destroy the big bad is used, we automatically think of Tolkien.  In fact, that cliché is so overused in the fantasy genre that a story guilty of using this type of plot will be accused of being a Lord of the Rings rip-off.  However, lesser-used clichés, like a character finding what he needs in the middle of the book will be less obnoxious and more forgivable.

Stories that have noticeably less clichés and strive to be their own tale, instead of a repackage of their inspiration are what authors strive for.  In the search for originality, it is easy to loop back around into the territory of cliché once again.  Us writers should always intend to avoid things that are over used, but sometimes it is inevitable.  Just like in the real world, things repeat.  It is simply important to know when and where to use them and to be careful.

The Horror!

This may be blasphemy to the Horror genre, but I hate what it is anymore. The classical horror of the Victorian era let the imagination of the reader fill in the blanks allowing for more “horror” than bombarding people with gore. Yes, I know, death is a part of the genre, but in recent decades, death and gore isn’t a consequence, but the point of the story instead. In fact, story takes a back seat to gore and death for much of horror. I would like to challenge people to see the beauty in classical horror.

The setting is a rarely traveled part of the world, perhaps the woods, and there is either a killer or monster lurking. Unfortunately, a group of stupid college students go in that region and get picked off one by one in terrible and gruesome ways. This is the sort of thing that passes as horror anymore, with few exceptions. I enjoy tales of werewolves, in fact my upcoming book will include them, but gaining inspiration was pretty challenging because there are very few quality werewolf stories out there.

I enjoy stories that are based around suspense and unknown with supernatural elements. This is what horror used to be. It isn’t just horror that has changed, fantasy has grown darker and grittier. Dark and gritty isn’t inherently, bad but both modern fantasy and horror have grown incredibly cynical in their messages. In horror most of the time everyone dies brutally, life is cheep, and it seems fantasy is adopting that approach as well. Why is that? Storytelling tends to follow cultural trends, have some genre fiction stories gotten darker, horror much earlier than others, due to an increasingly cynical outlook on life? Is it due to changing tastes that accompany an evolving culture? What if storytellers focused on plot and character development over pushing boundaries instead? At this point it is hard to imagine any boundary that hasn’t been pushed anyway, perhaps all of us who craft stories need to examine why we write them and what is their purpose.