Monday, February 27, 2012

Strangers Among Us

As fiction writers, it's our job to make life a little more interesting than it is. Not that life isn't plenty interesting sometimes, but it the span a story would be covered in, there is also a lot of mundane. But there are some twists that make everything a little more interesting. So I thought I'd approach one set of circumstances.

What if we weren't all... you know... ordinary people?

There is a long history of literature related to people with powers or abilities, or even just secrets. Who doesn't dream, as a kid, that they are actually... royalty, or descended from somebody great? There are a lot of options... Magic, psychics, aliens, monsters...

And it's interesting to watch literature change. Is our point of view that of the 'normal' experiencing the strange? Or are we ourselves strange.


What got me thinking about this was Roswell. I watched all three seasons on Netflix recently—really liked it. In fact I just started watching it again. And in some ways the set-up is a lot like the Buffy set-up. There are these high school kids... part of them normal... but there is a giant secret... some portion of them are NOT like the others.

In both cases, there is the normal teen angst and new love relationships. And there is a focus on HIDING this big secret... Nobody can know.


Harry Potter, my favorite series, likewise has a whole society hidden within a society that has laws about secrecy.


But what is it that is so appealing about these stories?

Do we want to BE different? Do we just want to brush up against different? Or is it just that the contrast makes for such a nice story?

What's your favorite story like this? Do you ever write them?

19 comments:

Charmaine Clancy said...

I do love these story lines (especially Buffy), I have been writing one novel that has a hidden world in The Costume Maker and again there is the secret keeper character.

Maybe we already feel different and just want to find other people who actually ARE different so we can relate to them?

Wagging Tales

Ted Cross said...

Yeah, I love these stories, especially Harry Potter. I think perhaps we look around at real life and think, "Is this really it?" It doesn't matter how well we are doing in life, we still wish there was something more to it.

Old Kitty said...

You mean like "V" - where the aliens look like humans but then they're aliens!

Or like The Omen! I mean the boy is like the Devil's Child - but he looks like just a kid and grows up to be a politician! LOL!

Take care
x

Hart Johnson said...

Charmaine-Oh, good way to put it! Maybe there is someone even a little MORE awkward than us!

Ted- I definitely think we crave 'more'.

Jenny-oh good examples. I've only seen V a couple times, but yeah--that idea... Funny that both your examples are the 'evil' side though. Then I guess the vampires in Buffy are mostly rotten, too...

SA Larsenッ said...

Actually, this is what I write. I love exploring 'the different' and inserting it in life as we currently know it. How would they behave? Interact? Dream? Hope?

The questions are endless. I was a Buffy and a Roswell fan.

LTM said...

ooo, great post for where my head's at today. I've never watched Roswell, but I think part of the appeal of super powers is just to make things more interesting... like you said up top. :D

But also secrets are fun, and I think folks like unraveling mysteries. Those are all elements, yes? Fun stuff~ <3

Jan Morrison said...

Yes I do! The first one that springs to mind was from a book I read in high school - The Chrysalids by John Wyndham. He also wrote the Triffids - great book, lousy dumb movie. The Chrysalids is set after an atomic appocolypse. In the community of the story all humans and animals born with defects are killed. There is a small group that can mindread though and the fundamentalist group can't get them. It is a WONDERFUL book. Get it. Read it.

Hart Johnson said...

SA-I wish I could write it! I think I'm not quite a strong enough world builder. I could do pieces of it, but other parts I'd have trouble with.

Leigh-yeah, it lets you play with both sides... desperately keeping a secret hidden, versus trying to unravel a secret.

Jan-interesting! I will have to look for it. That mindreading one is a fun one to play with.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I'd guess it's not that we want to be different, but that we want different to be viewed as normal. Especially teens. I mean, what kid hasn't felt like an alien at some point?

Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...

In my opinion, part of this is the glamour. I mean all of these stories feature physically perfect boys/girls, men/women who aren't judgemental for some reason (all the beautiful people I know seem to be judgemental to fat/ugly people) because they are able to rise above human pettiness to conquer evil. What isn't there to love about that? Everyone working on a common goal, staying focused on a common theme?

Even in my blogging experience I run across bloggers who don't share my same viewpoint (mostly religious people) and it is hard not to offend one another...it's hard to stay "friends" when there is no common interest.

So the fictional world where everyone is on the same page and where everyone agrees that one thing is "Evil" and works to defeat it is a wonderful experience.

Too bad it's fiction :/

Johanna Garth said...

My theory is that we all want to feel different, especially as teenagers. These stories are a way of putting those feelings into visual terms.

Hart Johnson said...

Alex-nicely put... or maybe want some evidence that being different is a sign of being SPECIAL.

Michael-yeah, I would agree that those gorgeous people in real life are more likely to judge or not be nice. And true that some common ground is necessary for the bonding. I can get along with most people, though I probably scare off a certain sect. It is certainly easier though, when views and interests are the same.

Johanna-I think some want to be different, and some want to be the same. I was tall, so always felt different and I really didn't want to be different for other reasons until I was a late teen. But clues different meant special would have reassured me.

vbtremper said...

Great question! Those kinds of stories are so appealing. I think we all like to imagine ourselves as just a little bit special sometimes. I'm revising one of those now.

-Vicki

Sarah Ahiers said...

I'm defintelly partial to stories that involve boarding schools. Love them. Can't get enough of them.
Yet, i have yet to write one. I probably will, some day.

L.G.Smith said...

I think we all want to feel special. It's hard to admit to being ordinary. Who wouldn't want to secretly be someone the world thinks is important instead of just another slob walking down the street? And, well, if we can't have that in real life, we'll get it through fantasy.

Damn, I gotta go write one of those kinds of stories and soon.

Cherie Reich said...

I love things like that. I used to tell people that I had a twin. I don't, but I always wanted one and thought it would be the coolest thing. I guess it's neat to feel special about something. I think that's why I like books like that where there are these big secrets that come out.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I'm always wishing I have paranormal abilities. But I would totally use them for good. :D

Lynda R Young said...

Oh wow, I remember Rosewell. I should watch it again too. My stories often include secrets that no one can know and of course all sorts of terrible things happen when the secrets inevitably come out.

vic caswell (aspiring-x) said...

sorry! i can't find the time to read all the other comments, so someone else might have said this already!

but- i too love these stories.

and i think their are many, many different reasons why they resonate with people- because people are unique which brings me to my first explanation:
1- people already feel very different from those around them- and they strive to look for where they belong. having this kind of story is something they can relate to. sure they may find some others who they can mesh with- but they always will feel set apart and different and simultaneously wrong and superior. especially during adolescence.

2. after people realize that everyone feels this way to some extent, they begin to feel dwarfed by the vast ocean of individuality which is humanity. they strive to create, identify, or realize something- ANYTHING that sets them apart from the hoard of humanity. they question whether there is a such thing as an original idea, they wonder if everything they create-they are is just an amalgamation of all they have been exposed to... originality is the rarest resource on earth and beyond, and they wish wish wish they were the chosen one or from beyond our realm of comprehension or ANYTHING special. so these stories are wish fulfillment...

at least that's some of the reasoning i see for popularity of these storylines...