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Angst, Black Capes and the Dark Side: Why do we love bad stuff?

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction and Writing Resource' started by furrylittlebantha, Feb 20, 2007.

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  1. furrylittlebantha

    furrylittlebantha Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Dec 2, 2005
    Tonight I was having a *ahem* heated discussion with my mother over fictional tragedy. It stemmed from a somewhat dreary essay I wrote about Angela?s Ashes. Mom disliked the stance I took, being a fan of the book herself. I frankly told her I disliked the book, and she frankly told me she disliked Moulin Rouge, one of my favorite movies, and I frankly?*ducks to avoid figurative flying plate* Well, suffice it to say that it?s a very old argument. Old as time, probably?the archetypal parent figure, the archetypal child figure, the archetypal figurative flying plate. The archetypal battle: Real Life Bad Stuff v. Fake Fictional Bad Stuff.

    Archetypal Parent Figure (henceforth abbreviated as APF) Why do you want to read a story where the author kills off the main characters and generally puts everyone through a state of suffering? Isn?t that kind of sick or something? At least read about real suffering if you want suffering; there?s plenty of it in this world.
    ACF (a convenient abbreviation of Archetypal Child Figure): Well, APF, I have a very good, sane reason?*scratches head*?well, now, come to mention it?

    Well, here we are, a forum stuffed with angst-lovers of dubious mental health. Friends, Romans?er?fanfictionmen, lend me your eloquence! Are we crazy or what? What is it about darkness, despair, general misery, and the odd black cape that fascinates us? Obviously we don?t want it to happen to us. If I read/wrote what I wanted to happen to me personally, my mind would be a gooey slab of Luke mush. It?s not, though. It?s a frozen wasteland of Luke angst peppered here and there with mush.

    So?What say you? Why do you think we're not all loony as the moon? Archetypal loons, that is.

     
  2. Persephone_Kore

    Persephone_Kore Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jan 19, 2006
    *drive-by posting*

    When people write in fanfic what they would want to happen to them, they get yelled at for Mary Sues. ;)

    There is the thing about having to have conflict in a story for it to work. (I am aware of this -- not that I don't like the occasional totally conflictless piece, but it is hard to carry off a conflictless plot.)

    There is the whole idea of catharsis.

    There is the idea that people want stories to make them feel, and I think it is easier to bring someone into feeling pain than joy. (Despite the claim -- who was it, Tolstoy? -- that all happy families are the same but all unhappy families are unhappy in their own way, there's also an argument to be made that you can pick out some things that will pretty reliably hurt, but one person's bliss might be another's nightmare.)

    I could start getting into details of what I like and don't, but I'd end up spending more time on it than I really want to right now, so I'm going to fling generic theories wildly about and flee as they float to the ground. *sprints out*
     
  3. Jade_Max

    Jade_Max Jedi Master star 5

    Registered:
    Jun 28, 2002
    awesome discussion topic :D [face_peace]

    I've a really simple answer as to why I like conflict and angst in my stories:

    1) They're reflective of my mood or emotional state. The more in turmoil I am, the harder, and more angsty the pieces I write.

    2) I like knowing that I'm writing or reading about fictional characters and that, no matter whatever suffering I put them through I can always, always give them a happy ending if I so choose.

    3) The knowledge that the characters are fictional is implanted firmly in my brain. no matter how real or evocative the imagry or feelings presented, it's nice to know that even if they're suffering, they're not real and so I can justify making them suffer more.


    I don't like reading about real suffering as I find it depressing - I like reading about real stories of hope that deal with that suffering.

    Fanfiction, or other fiction, is easier to stomach because I know that the person feeling it is little more than a character built of pen and ink regardless of how real they seem in my brain.

    Makes sense? :)
     
  4. furrylittlebantha

    furrylittlebantha Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Dec 2, 2005
    Persephone: Generic's okay! :D Although you're welcome to drive by again and go into specifics. Catharsis, huh? Nice word. I like. Sounds so...significant. You're right, it is Tolstoy. I agree with him--sort of. The converse could be true, that one man's misery could be another man's bliss. Case in point: some people find Star Wars torturous. :confused: You're right about necessary conflict. My question is, why is that conflict so satisfying? I'll use the word gratuitous, since it's so popular here these days. [face_batting] :cool: There's a distinct difference between recognizing Darth Vader as a necessary plot catalyst and gushing over his extreme coolness. Which we all do, fess up. Your username, as another example. I was rooting for Hades all along!

    Jade_Max: I don't like reading about real suffering as I find it depressing - I like reading about real stories of hope that deal with that suffering.

    Fanfiction, or other fiction, is easier to stomach because I know that the person feeling it is little more than a character built of pen and ink regardless of how real they seem in my brain.


    Exxxxxcellent point! That's what I feel about real stories--since they're real, please let there be light at the end of the tunnel.

     
  5. 1Yodimus_Prime

    1Yodimus_Prime Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 13, 2004
    I, as well, feel this question requires more than one answer. Seems to be a trend.

    1) Bad Things(tm) and Bad People are, when you get right down to the dirt of it, just plain more interesting. Period. John Milton can say whatever he wants about moral righteousness, but at the end of the day, we all know that when he wrote "Paradise Lost," Satan was his protagonist. From Ebenezer Scrooge to Serg Storms to Hannibal Lecter - evil fascinates us. It's in our nature to want to understand it, and there's no better way to understand it than to befriend it.


    2) As a writer, I fall into this argument on a personal level. "Isn't it a little perverse to be focusing on this? Couldn't you make this or that character just a tad more forgiving; or give that one a tiny bit less horrible a life? What in the name of heaven is wrong with you, treating imaginary people this way?!" <--(my thoughts are usually in 2nd person, understand.) But, you see, that's just the thing: there isn't anything wrong with me. I'm writing about Bad Things(tm) and Bad People, because, just like I said above, I want to understand it.

    Someone clever once said, "You can't defeat a powerful enemy unless you understand him completely, and you can't understand him unless you know the desires of his heart, and you can't know the desires of his heart until you truly love him."

    I want to try and reason out this whole terrible mess we seem to claim is called 'Life,' and figure out why it sucks so much for so many people, and what sort of person it might take to rise above all the sludge. Well, that means jumping into the sludge. Because you just can't figure out that sort of question while hiding behind rainbows and puppies. And it would be delusional to think so. Because in the real world, rainbows are illusions and puppies grow up.

     
  6. Arin_Atona

    Arin_Atona Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 10, 2004
    I'm fine with the dubious mental health explanation 8-}
     
  7. MsLanna

    MsLanna Jedi Master star 6

    Registered:
    Jul 8, 2005
    Chiming in with Yodimus here on Milton.
    Everybody who read it, also knows that the parts dealing with God and heaven and everything being perfect! are, lets face it, boredom incernate. The only reason to go through this heavenly torture is to get back to Satan and things happening. It so much more excting than another angel agreeing with God.
    A perfect life might be perfect to live, but boring to read about, IMO.
     
  8. DARTH_MU

    DARTH_MU Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Feb 9, 2005
    I like to have the feeling that fictional characters are suffering more than I am.
    Sick I know.
    I just like them to be with me always.
    I mean, I still like to meet Megan from Agatha Christie's The Moving Finger once in a while, you know, in a new setting.
    But alas.
    I don't know how much gooey lovey I can take though.
    The characters must suffer horendous fates. Maybe dead when they are in the 50's to the 60's ranger or older.
    Rule: NO way should they die while in the 9 to 25 year old range.
    Character 10-25 dies:\
    Mu: NOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Character 25-50 dies:
    Mu: well, she spent a lot of time with me, I guess it's her time.
    Character older:
    Mu: Meh.
    So basically I know they must suffer....
    SUFFER.
    but please don't be dead.
    I just don't think I could bear it if they died.
    sigh.
     
  9. Charlemagne19

    Charlemagne19 Chosen One star 8

    Registered:
    Jul 30, 2000
    Well, here we are, a forum stuffed with angst-lovers of dubious mental health. Friends, Romans?er?fanfictionmen, lend me your eloquence! Are we crazy or what? What is it about darkness, despair, general misery, and the odd black cape that fascinates us? Obviously we don?t want it to happen to us. If I read/wrote what I wanted to happen to me personally, my mind would be a gooey slab of Luke mush. It?s not, though. It?s a frozen wasteland of Luke angst peppered here and there with mush.

    Tolstoy said it best "Every happy family is the same."

    Angst is easy drama.
     
  10. General_Kenobi_66

    General_Kenobi_66 Jedi Knight star 3

    Registered:
    Oct 18, 2006
    I prefer Fiction angst to RL angst. Why? because it's fictional. I think that we all enjoy angst because everybody has a bit of a 'darkside' so to speak.

    I also think that when real experiences inspire it, it makes the story more authentic in a way. Makes it seem less flat. but, then again, I think that there are also plenty of authors who can write just complete fiction.

    Anyway, this is a great topic; thanks for starting it :D

     
  11. Jade_Pilot

    Jade_Pilot Jedi Master star 5

    Registered:
    Dec 10, 2005
    Great topic furry!

    I can only speak to the "angst" section of this thread. The whole Dark Side and evil sith lords may fascinate, but I cannot get into the character unless there is some spark of goodness deep inside, ie: Vader.

    I just recently checked out "Darth Bane" from the library and only got a third of the way through until I realized I couldn't read any more. There was no one in this tomb that I liked. Every character was evil and I just couldn't work up any empathy for them.

    As for angst...I think this emotion brings to mind the extremely strong feelings of the teen years. The first crush, the first kiss, the unrequited love of late adolescence. I am a major angst afficiando and when done well, these fics are my favorite genre.

    But to quote a good ole' southern girl from Steel Magnolias, "laughter through tears is my favorite emotion."
     
  12. SithGirl132

    SithGirl132 Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Dec 6, 2005
    Hello furrylittlebantha! Yay- you started a great discussion!
    I like dark stuff just because it is so annoying when the good guys win all the time every time. the bad guys have to win at least sometimes. From the way my latest story is going, looks like the bad guys are gonna win...
    Seriously though, it is fascinating. We can write angst just because we can identify with indecision, backstabbing, things no going the way we want it to, and we translate that into something larger. It gets boring when everything is nice and happy all the time, doesn't it? [face_devil]
     
  13. Jedi Trace

    Jedi Trace SouthEast RSA star 6 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Dec 15, 1999
    I am not a fan of ?angst? as a genre. I know it can be a necessary component of drama, but I can only stomach it in small doses. (I see enough suffering the real world that I don?t feel compelled to read it in fiction. Occupational hazard.)


    Black capes and Dark Side, on the other hand ? now you?re talking! I like my bad guys bad and I don?t want them sitting around wondering if they should be good. :p Bring on the cape swishing, Force choking, lightwhip wielding baddies who make NO apologies for their actions. [face_devil]

    Why? Mae West said it best: ?When I'm good, I'm very good. But when I'm bad, I'm better.? [face_mischief]



     
  14. The_Face

    The_Face Ex-Manager star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Feb 22, 2003
    Because the villains get to wear black capes, and those are just darn cool. :p

    It's been said already that a good story should probably have conflict.

    Furthermore, many contend that a hero is only as good as his/her villains. Evil characters are fascinating, as others have already brought up. Really good antagonists provide foils for our heroes to make them face aspects of themselves, and maybe address some deep themes. Or at least blow stuff up.

    Flawed characters are so much more relatable than perfect, and dark stuff has the most flawed of all. How much fun is it to read a story consisting of absolute angels? Give me folks with bad backgrounds, poor impulse control, caustic wit, traitorous leanings, trust issues, and - sometimes - vast homicidal tendencies. That motley mix will provide so many more possibilities as they interact with one another.

    When your characters get comfortable, they get stagnant. You can have a happy ending to send them off comfortably, but the story is over at that point, and it's time to move on to more depressed people. ;)

    Specifically within fanfiction, the GFFA is full of crappy happenings, and fanfic should represent that. It's called Star Wars because those people are constantly embroiled in another bloody (no pun intended) conflict. Anakin, Padme, the Purges, Alderaan, we are writing within a milieu with a lot of tragedy. Of course, I am an OC writer so I craft my own horrible things to do to my characters, but the point stands that I am following the tradition and "feel" of the fandom in doing so.

    Remember...
    If there had never been a Death Star, Luke couldn't have saved the galaxy from it. If there weren't a civil war, how would Han Solo have developed out of his selfish smuggler role? We put our characters through these things because they're trials by fire. The story of a good man from a good environment who never had anything but nice things happen to him doesn't affect us. Not the way hope for the good of humanity emerging from immense adversity does.
     
  15. VaderLVR64

    VaderLVR64 Manager Emeritus star 8 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Feb 5, 2004
    Sometimes I like to wallow in angst. I admit it. :p But only if the story is good. I'm not a fan of angst, per se, just a well written story. And some of the best stories happen to be angst. So when I read a great angst story, I tend to wallow in it, revel in it, and get REALLY sad.

    But I'm not stuck there. I love a light-hearted fluffy piece just as much. Just well written, please. :D

    I've got different moods and different types of stories appeal to those moods. Sometimes I want to watch Harold and Kumar Go to Whitecastle and sometimes I want to watch Legends of the Fall. I love them both, but only when I'm in the mood for them. :p

    Writing is the same way, I go in phases. I go in character phases and genre phases. I've just learned to go with the flow. [face_batting]
     
  16. Jedi-Ant

    Jedi-Ant Jedi Padawan star 4

    Registered:
    Jan 3, 2007
    Jedi Trance:

    Mae West said it best: ?When I'm good, I'm very good. But when I'm bad, I'm better.?

    [face_laugh] That is perfect!!!

    I love a good black cape swishing, red lightsaber weilding baddie...give me Sithly Jacen any day!!! *sighs* [face_love]

    I think I love angst and evil characters (particularly in the SW universe), because it gives the story, and the characters, depth. Look at how cardboard boring Jacen was before he turned Sith! Now he's one of my favourite characters!!! :D

    Because of my love of fictional angst, I tend to write a lot myself...I wouldn't EVER want to be my charactes in RL...I tend to put them through the wringer about 50 gazillion times!!!

    I hope that made sense 8-}

    Ant.
    ]-}
     
  17. The_Face

    The_Face Ex-Manager star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Feb 22, 2003
    I posted quickly so as to toss in my ten cents before my ideas were snatched up in the discussion, and then came up with a nickel more after hitting post. [face_doh]

    Really, even the most saccharine tales must include some amount of darkness. Heck, Pooh is a bit of a dimwit; Rabbit is an uptight snob; and Eeyore is nearly suicidal. Where do you draw the line when it?s suddenly too much?

    In the latest issue of Writer?s Digest, they interview Janet Fitch, who battled with depression while writing her new novel that details the aftermath of an artist?s suicide (that?s dark, bad, and angsty? no black capes, but three out of four ain?t bad). Anyway, the question is ?When you?re in this depressed state, does it help or hurt your creative abilities? She says:

    You need all of it.

    Regarding the end of my last post, I was a fool to think I could say it any better than Samwise Gamgee:

    But even in those stories that are utterly bleak and cynical, in which the sun doesn?t ever shine out, it is for a reason. And those stories are so often challenging to the reader/viewer, making you think about the world you live in. Because we live in a world of Bad Stuff, and fiction that wants to take any kind of picture of that world needs to include that.

    Okay, now I think I'm done. ;)
     
  18. GraySaberFreque

    GraySaberFreque Jedi Padawan star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 23, 2006
    You know what.

    If all the classical stories,fairy tales, classical fantasy books, and modern books ended angstly, I would love happy mushy endings mosy likely.

    Most authors don't kill off main characters characters,write depressing stories etc. so I see it unique to write dark writings.

    Also, I love the drama, but I hate romance, angst is the next best thing.
     
  19. Valairy Scot

    Valairy Scot Manager Emeritus star 6 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Sep 16, 2005
    Writing "bad" as opposed to "evil" is also a way to exorcise our own demons :eek:.

    Without going into detail (want pages of stuff? no?), Anakin is a co-worker of mine. One reason the co-worker drives me crazy is that I see a little of what drives me crazy in myself. Now, my co-worker will never obsess to the point of killing anyone, but the negative traits I see in Anakin I see in him and in, sigh, myself.

    I can explore Anakin's ego, arrogance, impatience, whatever trait and see why I might drive someone else crazy (and I do, believe me, I do).

    Since we're focusing on bad, not good, it's fun to let one's hair down so to speak and explore "bad" without really experiencing it, real life tears resulting regardless.

     
  20. 1Yodimus_Prime

    1Yodimus_Prime Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 13, 2004
    I'd like to note that while classical fairy tales and fantasies did end happily, a lot of really horrible, dark stuff happened in the middle parts. Since such stories never delved much into the psyches of their characters, it's impossible to call any of it "angst," true, but the darkness is unmistakable. The step sisters really were desperate enough to cut off pieces of their feet to try and fit into a glass shoe. There's a certain, identifiable tragedy to that. Don't dismiss fairy tales too quickly. They're greyer than you think.

    "Anakin is a co-worker of mine. One reason the co-worker drives me crazy is that I see a little of what drives me crazy in myself. Now, my co-worker will never obsess to the point of killing anyone, but the negative traits I see in Anakin I see in him and in, sigh, myself.

    Oh, you have one of those too? :p Mine doesn't quite have the same pychological traits as Anakin, but the intensity and danger is there. He's super over-sensitive, and principled to the point of near-absurdity. He stands so strongly behind his convictions, you almost want to agree with him and defend him...until you take a step back and go "Whoa whoa, what am I doing? He's insane. Stop listening." He's the essence of the Tragic Flaw: you want to identify with him, you want to say, "this is a good person. This is what good people should be like." But he takes it too far, to places no one wants to follow.

    On the one hand, it's great to have a resource to pull from like that, when you need a believbly 'evil' character. On the other hand, it means you're basically saying, this guy - whom you know personally - given the right circumstances, the right world, and the right tools, would willing dawn a black cape and singlehandedly commit genocide for the good of the galaxy. That. Is scary.

    Still, great resource, right? :D
     
  21. Valairy Scot

    Valairy Scot Manager Emeritus star 6 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Sep 16, 2005
    On the one hand, it's great to have a resource to pull from like that, when you need a believbly 'evil' character. On the other hand, it means you're basically saying, this guy - whom you know personally - given the right circumstances, the right world, and the right tools, would willing dawn a black cape and singlehandedly commit genocide for the good of the galaxy. That. Is scary.

    Mine: I doubt he'd be evil. He's argumentative, whiny, self- absorbed, lazy (sorta, in some ways on some things), defensive, self-focused - all the negative stuff I see in Anakin that drives me crazy, but is not necessarily evil.

    The absolute parallel that drives me bonkers: refusal to listen to one's betters (Anakin to Obi-Wan, mine to me and yes, I was responsible for trying to beat his job into his brain but failed miserably and was told to cut him loose and now he's the fair-haired boy).

    Now me, the paradigm of virtue [face_talk_hand], I'm argumentative, get defensive, have been known to whine and pout on rare ;) occasions. If I have better's (don't we all), I usually (hah!) listen to them.

    But I can take those traits, amplify them, add a dose of something, stir and voila! Sith lord.
     
  22. Alley_Skywalker

    Alley_Skywalker Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Sep 27, 2005
    I think, for me, a story is no fun unless there is conflict and drama. Don?t get me wrong, I?m all up for the humor fics/vigs and the occasional fluffy/mushy romance/cuddle fic with my fave paring/characters but stuff?s gottoa happen.

    Even a humor fic has to have some sort of plot. Amidalachick has a fic going called ?It Takes Two.? Its humor all the way but there?s a problem for the characters to solve (Obi and Ani getting literally tied to each other). My own fic ?Facades? has a several gags in pretty much every chapter (or at least its suppose to) but there?s lots of conflicts between characters. And really what?s a fic without conflicts or problems for the characters to solve? Sure A/P and H/L fluff can be very welcome but unless something happens you don?t have much more then a vig length to work with really.

    Now some fics take the more lighthearted approach (humor fics more notably) but when you?re going for something long and with a genre other then humor wouldn?t it be better to well...consider writing about some serious problem? It surely gives more room to work with character and plot development.

    Now I also stand by the opinion that fics are much more interesting when they reflect RL in one way or another. RL or RL type issues, emotions, and people/personalities. If you think about it crap happens a lot more then wonderful happy things. And how many people are actually perfect?

    I personally dislike the perfect characters/heroes. To me, I want to see someone with actual flaws and weaknesses. A good man who has to battle his own demons before he can really take on everyone else?s. My favorite type of character, actually, is the tragic here whose tragic flaw is the excess of a good quality (loyalty, compassion, honestly, w/e). Maybe this is why I like Anakin so much.

    Our mistakes, weaknesses, fears, deep secret desires, surrounding/environment/situations, among other things are what drive the interesting RL stories, and so it can be expected of fiction as well.

    When there?s drama, there?s angst. When there?s love/a relationship there is plenty of angst too (just like in RL). For a dynamic character there has to be something that?ll make them change. This usually involves an antagonist who will oppose the character and present problems before him/her (which will cause some sort of angst). Angst will be induced, or at least should be, seeing as how some minor everyday problem isn?t going to make a person change. The angst can me minimal but It?ll have to be there in some form and on some level.

    Ok?I really wish that I could pull this together in a few neat bullet points but its late and my thoughts are all over the place at the moment?.


    EDIT: V_S mentioned an interesting thing about seeing things in Anakin that she sees in herself, as well as her Co (though I admit I don?t agree with her characterization of him :p). Someone, I don?t remember whose quote it is, has once said that we hate people because we something of ourselves in them (supposedly things we don?t like). I have recently realized and admitted, to my own horror, that a trait I despise in Obi-Wan is very similar to a trait I dislike in myself. Maybe this is why I?m drawn to writing Obi-Wan angst (mainly post-ROTS) and why I have been told that I?m good at it. Maybe it?s my own way of venting, in a slightly warped way, albeit, some of my own regrets.
     
  23. furrylittlebantha

    furrylittlebantha Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Dec 2, 2005
    Hey, guys, this is great stuff. Great cannon fodder. :D I'll call it Herd Insanity...with everybody all the same, we are by default sane! I wish I could stay and respond in more depth, but I'm trying to iron out some school and scholarship stuff and won't be around for a while. Anyways, thanks for your logical, intelligent ideas! TTFN.:)
     
  24. 1Yodimus_Prime

    1Yodimus_Prime Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 13, 2004
    Mine: I doubt he'd be evil. He's argumentative, whiny, self- absorbed, lazy (sorta, in some ways on some things), defensive, self-focused - all the negative stuff I see in Anakin that drives me crazy, but is not necessarily evil.


    Keep in mind: neither was Anakin. Evil is too simple a word to have anything to do with living beings. It's best saved for describing morally reprehensible actions and objects, than describing people. Since, even morally reprehensible people are good sometimes, and probably aren't doing morally reprehensible things because they enjoy it (and even if they do, they probably hate themselves for it anyway, so there'd really be nothing worse we could possibly add to darken their already ruined self-image...or they're insane, which also makes labeling them 'evil' pointless).

    Something to think about: What's the difference between Darth Vader and a harmless, whiny, self-absorbed, defensive, self-focused bratt?

    Opportunity.
     
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