Monday, 11 June 2007

A Spider Theory 2 (Out of Control)

There's this vibrant fellow named David Bridger and he would like to know what scares you.
I read somewhere that we are born with two fears: the fear of falling and the fear of loud noises. Indeed, fear is an emotion and is classified as an innate defense mechanism.

As stalwart maggot farmers will know, I'm more interested in anticipation/suspense which I believe lies at the heart of fear: it's what we believe will happen, either rationally or irrationally, that frightens us. In this way, fear affords us the preemptive strike and it is such an expectancy that propels narrative.
Jiddu Krishnamurti went a little further and suggested that thinking is the root of all fear: We fear the repetition of something unpleasant, and we fear the removal of something pleasant (or, at least, we fear that something good we have experienced will never be recaptured).
In the 1830s, John Jefferson preached: 'Health cannot be calculated upon for a moment; friends may be suddenly snatched from our embrace; riches "make themselves wings and fly away"; the deepest reverses, and the greatest elevations, are occurring in the daily history of men; and "in the midst of life, we are in death".'

It has been interesting reading some of the responses to David's question. Many confess to a fear of spiders (and one woman goes so far as to put this down to the spider's movements). Many confess to a fear of losing loved ones, or of death itself. There are fears, too, of not achieving or fulfilling one's goals.
So let's take a look at the idea of control, and of losing it.

In Stephen King's Misery, we find the protagonist at the mercy of the natural environment (Paul Sheldon is snowbound) and of the man-made environment (Paul is locked in a room) and of the frailties of the body (Paul is wheelchair-bound) and of the human antagonist (Paul poops his pants each time Annie Wilkes enters). And when the Sheriff comes to the rescue, he is promptly despatched (removal of aid = removal of that which will restore control).
Further to this, Paul has been stripped of his clothes and dressed by Annie. Vulnerability often appears in dreams as nakedness. I like to strip down my characters to emphasize their vulnerability: not necessarily down to their birthday suit, but perhaps losing a jacket or a pair of sandals. You only need to consider Hitchcock's shower scene in Psycho to see this vulnerability in action. When detecting lies, Paul McKenna looks, in part, for those miniscule facial expressions that form involuntarily as a response to guilt. Every culture has its form of conditioning - an overpowering sense of right and wrong, acceptable and unacceptable, indoctrinated at an early age. For many cultures, nudity falls under this category.

This lack of control can be manifested in many forms.
One poster confessed to having a fear of not being able to accomplish everything that she wanted to. The inability to control people - to make them accept or love oneself - is very likely a common fear.
Similarly, several respondents to David's question confessed their fear of dying, or of losing a loved one. Here we see multiple factors: change (the unknown/losing control of one's environment and one's preparedness, even temporarily), strong emotional responses (loneliness, sadness, anger, etc which can be considered as losing control of one's emotional state and maybe even leading to losing control of one's mind), and a strong reminder of our mortality (having no control over Death's impending icy touch).

When creating relationships between characters, I am always conscious of who is in control (and who is not). As Margie will tell you, it is easy to forge these dynamic relationships through dialogue, through body language, and through a myriad of invisible, subliminal signifiers.
Who is steering the conversation? Who is moving closer and who is moving away? Who is speaking slowly and deliberately, and who is struggling to string a sentence together? Who is unhurried and who is flustered? Who is standing and who is sitting?

Who is tied to the chair and who is cutting off the ear?

Control and its removal are powerful emotive tools. And given that we deal in conflicts, our ability to control control is of earnest importance.

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