Monday, April 21, 2014

Lessons from Twisted World

Just this past month I was a guest at The Twisted World: Vixens and Villains. Fantastic three day event, this year located in Valley Forge.

During the event, I found myself on a pair of panels, and I wanted to point out an interesting thing they had in common. The first panel, on alternative lifestyles; and the second, on antiheroes, villains, and how to kill characters, might not sound similar at first, but bear with me.

Gypsy from Karnevil dominated the first panel; we didn't have a moderator so she sort of took over. Not surprising given how much she's on stage, and it also gave me a chance to throw cookies to the audience. Don't give me that look, you'll have to pay attention and come see me in person if you want cookies. Anyhow, after an hour of spirited discussion and audience participation, what all of us on the panel agreed to is that no matter what lifestyle you're leading, making relationships work is a matter of rules, trust, and honest communication. Now, that doesn't mean blurting out every detail of everything that happens, but it does mean everyone involved trusts everyone else to tell them anything important, and trusts everyone else to follow the rules.

The other panel, remarkably, was less coherent even if we had a moderator. No less fun or informative, but the group of us on that panel were a bit more rambunctious, and we refused to stick to topic. At the same time, we did get the questions answered, albeit without nearly as much coherence. The thing that struck me afterward was that again, the difference came down to rules (both anti-heroes and villains break them), trust (we sort-of trust anti-heroes, we don't trust villains), and honest communication (the levels of which are why we sort-of trust anti-heroes, but not villains).

Finally, the second part of the panel, about killing characters, really pushed things home. We talked a lot about how to do it right, which deaths we liked, which deaths we hated, and why. Again, we rambled, but it turned out the ones people liked least were those where the authors broke some of the fundamental rules of writing. In doing so they lost the trust of their readers, and often weren't honest about killing the character off. I'm not just talking about the 'no, I'm not dead!' dishonesty, I'm also referring to the ones where you can tell it wasn't driven by the story or any kind of character development, but by the author's need to have that character dead.

So... rules, trust, and communication. Interesting theme when talking about Villains and Vixens, really. No stinger or zinger, this time, I'm afraid. Just had a moment of satori and introspection and wanted to share.

No comments: