Saturday, September 13, 2014

Black and White

   Once again, Rambo and I met on the porch to talk about some random topic which I've been mulling over recently.
   "Okay," I said. "Last time we met we talked about the lack of black-and-white characters in fiction altogether. We basically came to the conclusion that it's not bad to leave the solution up to the readers."
   "We did?" Rambo asked, looking up from licked his hind leg.
   "Yes," I replied. "Don't you remember? Anyway, even though we just talked about it, I'd like to take a slightly different angle: black-and-white characters in children's fiction."
   "Seriously? We're going to talk about this again? Haven't your last four blog posts been on this topic?"
   "Right," said Rambo, obviously not believing me. His tone took that of someone reading a teleprompter: flat and bored. "How does this topic relate to children's fiction?"
   "I'm glad you asked! You see, I've been listening to several fairy-tales and various other children's stories and have noticed that things are more or less clean cut in children's fiction. There's always a good character, an evil character, and the character which has a redemption story. Take, for instance, The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi. In that, the Blue Fairy is always good. She is clearly a positive role-model. The fox and the cat are evil role models, villains. Pinocchio is the guy stuck in between. He wants to do what is right, but he doesn't always do it. Gepetto, interestingly, is the same way. He starts out as a grumpy old man but, after he has a son to take care of, he turns into a good father."
   Rambo looked up at my pause. "What's your point?"
   "My point, I guess, is this: fairy-tales get at the heart of humanity. They show that in this world there us pure evil, but there is also pure good. In between the two is humanity, struggling to choose the right side."
   "That's fine, but what to fairy-tales tell us about cats?"
   "Um... they're hungry a lot?"
   Rambo thought about that for a moment. "Fair enough."

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Idealogies in Storytelling

   I recently finished The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo. It's an interesting story, and a depressing tragedy. In terms of the emotions transmitted by a story, I much preferred Les Miserables. 
   The idea of comedy versus tragedy has been playing through my mind recently. I don't think it is as simple as a happy ending versus a sad ending. I think it is more complicated than that. Essentially, it seems to me that tragedies present an issue and allow the reader to deem it good or ill. Comedies tend to be a bit more heavy-handed, taking the issue and offering a solution.
   Take, for example, Les Miserables. It presents the issue (among many) of poverty. It offers a solution to that issue by showing Jean Valjean being generous. This is set up as the ideal response to the witness of poverty. Miserables gives a solution to the problem.
   Hunchback, however, takes a different road when it presents issues. It presents the view of racism toward the Romani people. It does not really present a solution to this problem. It shows the consequences of racism (death, lots and lots of it), but never really shows a solution.
   That is really the point of tragedy: to show the consequences of evil, even if it must be a bit absurd making sure everyone dies at the end. Comedy, on the other hand, explores how people can more properly live. It is interested in showing a happy ending, so it must offer a solution (however feeble) to the problem at hand.
   Are there some stories which should be tragedies? Absolutely. It depends on the type of story. If the story seeks to show the consequences of sin, then writing a tragedy would be a good means. If the story seeks to explore the theme of grace, then writing a redemption story might be in store. The type of story is important in how you tell it. The themes of the story can be best carried in a certain genre, as well as a certain story type. Also, certain characters are better suited to certain types of stories. What characters are suited to such types? Why don't you tell me! Comment below and tell me of any types of characters (or specific characters) which you feel might fit better in a tragedy than a comedy and vice versa.