Friday, June 26, 2009

Scary stories

Lately I've been researching the base elements of story by reading a whole whack of traditional/folk-style scary ones. (no really - research! nothing recreational! ahem.)

There's a reason they recommend these things for boys who aren't interested in books: they are super riveting, appealing to the most basic values we have as human beings. You'd have to be, well, not thinking straight not to be able to relate to somebody trying to escape death, regardless of what form death is taking (like, say, banshees, breath-sucking demons, skeleton ghosts with daggers sticking out of their heads, giant slugs from the grave, and so on) or what part of the world the story comes from.

The storylines boil down to two: Hero/ine strays into lonely territory and is attacked, and Hero/ine doesn't follow instructions and pays the price. Every culture has figured out the important lessons to learn in life - there's safety in numbers, but not in cheating - and how to convey them in the most attention-getting way possible.

Of course, my own part of the world's contribution to the effort includes the urban legend about the couple in the stalled car in the woods near the last reported site of an escaped convicted murderer. You know, the one that tweaks 'safety in numbers' to mean 'cuddle up to the person who's parked on this lonely road to scare the heck out of you with this story for that express purpose'? Ah, we North Americans. So slick.

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