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Archive for the tag “Stephen King”

Violent Movies, Violent Minds?

Does watching violent movies inspire violence in the real world?

Really, the question boils down to how susceptible people are to cultural factors.

I’m a big fan of horror. Stephen King is my homeboy. I, like most people, am exposed to violent images on a daily basis. I watch Criminal Minds, I play Grand Theft Auto, I get my Pokémon to beat up other Pokémon. Strangely, I’ve never killed anyone.

Certainly, a person is influenced by their culture. Popular culture influences what we wear, listen to and read about in trashy magazines. And certainly, we attempt to duplicate it on some level. That’s how culture works. If Jennifer Lawrence is swanning about in platform sneakers and a velour tracksuit, and you want to be cool, then by gosh you better go out and rustle up some platform sneakers and a velour tracksuit. (Please don’t do this! Fashion begs you!) But this doesn’t cause much harm (except to fashion!).

So can the media influence us to do things we wouldn’t usually? Like hurt somebody else? Let’s have a personal example. I was watching Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation recently. I would advise you not to do so. It was terrible. Afterwards I wanted to erase the experience from my memory. what I didn’t do was pull out my chainsaw and go to town on my neighbours. For violence in movies to inspire violence in yourself, I think you need to be predisposed towards violence. I doubt it encourages us to re-enact violence. But I think it may desensitise us to violence. If violence saturates the media then it becomes just another everyday occurrence and, to an extent, normalised. I think that perhaps violence in the media influences our reaction to violence: over-exposure leads us to view violent acts as less shocking than they really are. But I don’t think it causes us to be violent. To say so would be to believe humans have no agency of their own.

To put the blame solely on violent movies or video games neglects the influence other social factors have on us, such as family, friends, education and religion. If violent media does influence violent tendencies, then it is simply one part of a bigger problem; indicative of a society that tolerates violence.

Well that’s what I think. This post was inspired by a Daily Post challenge. If you want, read what others are saying, or add your own thoughts in a comment or blog post of your own. But why do that when you can just read what I think?! A hardy-ha-ha. ‘Til next time!

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How Horror Works

The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock on the door…

– ‘Knock’, Frederick Brown

 

It’s fun to be scared. Haunted Houses, Halloween, scary movies and Stephen King: all terrifying (Ok, perhaps not Stephen King himself, I’m talking about his books.) and all gloriously entertaining.

Horror novels aren’t considered ‘high art’ by literary critics, more of a cheap thrill. And what’s wrong with that? But I think there’s more to the horror novel than cheap thrills. Something is going on that accounts for its enduring popularity. (Something sinister? Dun dun dunnn!!)

They evoke this very powerful, very visceral and primal emotion of fear. Fear is universal: everyone experiences it. What is so terrifying about a set of pointed fangs, glowing red eyes and sunken pale skin that they are able to evoke such a fear in people regardless of age or ethnicity?

There is a certain exhilaration that fear brings. It’s like adrenalin. When you feel fear your instinct kicks in. Fear raises your senses: you’re suddenly attuned to every infinitesimal detail of your surroundings. A sudden movement or noise captures your undivided attention.

Compare it to why people enjoy rollercoasters so much, and why they love to scream the whole way through it. Like a rollercoaster, the horror novel provides a safe fear: one we’re in control of. We choose to take it on and we feel that rush throughout and then come out the other end exhilarated that we’ve conquered the fear.

I think that’s why we love horror novels so much. They test us. Test our limits. Just when we think we can’t handle anymore, there comes a far more terrifying scene. We’re terrified, and yet we get through it. We haven’t let the fear overwhelm us. We’ve experienced it and overcome it.

Not so scary after all, is it?

He Said, She Interpolated

It’s a debate for the ages: is ‘he/she said’ enough or is there room for alternate speech tags?

There is some heated discussion over this question and most people seem to have a very firm belief about which is correct. As I’ve shown before I believe all rules should be used as a guideline; there is always room for interpretation and it usually comes down to a writer’s individual assessment of the particular situation.

Personally, ‘said’ will usually be enough to get by on. Due to its commonality ‘said’ is almost like a punctuation mark: readers instinctively know how to read it and it doesn’t distract from the story. This is essentially what the debate boils down to. A reader is interested in the story, not how many variants of ‘said’ you know, and they will respect you for your commitment to the story over the showing of your eloquence.

There are variants of ‘said’; however, that are appropriate in the proper context and are actually more appropriate than ‘said’ in these contexts. ‘Asked’, ‘exclaimed’, ‘shouted’, ‘whispered’, ‘laughed’ and ‘interrupted’ are all useful, suitable replacements for ‘said’ that are clearer and less conspicuous where appropriate.

It is easier to read:

‘What’s that?’ she asked.    than

‘What’s that?’ she said.

Similarly,

‘There’s something I need to tell you’, he whispered.     and

‘Don’t go in there!’ she shouted.    easily convey a tone of voice that mightn’t be apparent with ‘said’.

So common variants of ‘said’ are fine to use where the situation calls for them but lesser-known speech tags can create confusion and distract from the story, especially when a reader doesn’t know what the word means. Therefore it’s probably best to stay away from tags such as ‘enunciated’ when you mean ‘said’, ‘tittered’ when you mean ‘laughed’ or ‘elucidated’ when you mean ‘explained’.

But what about adverbs? Is it alright to spice up plain old ‘said’ with a few modifiers like ‘she said: softly, harshly, quickly, quietly or hesitantly’. Some might say it’s unnecessary and that what a character says should make it clear how they said it but I still believe adverbs can be used, as long as they are used properly, effectively and sparingly. A few adverbs can make apparent exactly how somebody spoke when ‘said’ just doesn’t cut it but, like anything else in writing, if they’re covering the page it soon becomes distracting for the reader.

Remember also that sometimes a speech tag isn’t needed at all. In brief conversations or when there is only one or two people speaking, the reader is able to determine who is talking without the use of a speech tag every time somebody speaks.

Like Stephen King once said, ‘I didn’t say that!’

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