Posts Tagged ‘friendship’

“The Power of Friendship!” as symbolized in Yu-Gi-Oh’s famous hand smiley face.

So yesterday I watched a YouTube video about a common trope in fiction (you can check it out HERE), which is (say it in your heads with a big, echo-y voice) “The Power of Friendship!” Now, if you aren’t familiar with the trope and you didn’t have time to watch the video, “The Power of Friendship” is a trope in which the bonds of friends is so powerful, it becomes a power in and of itself, capable of cosmic-like acts such as giving heroes power ups, stopping psychic mind readings, snapping people out of brainwashed states, and occasionally even defying gods. This power shows up in a ton of popular media, including a ton of anime and manga (the Fairy Tail series  practically is nicknamed “The Power of Friendship” manga).

Now the video I linked to goes into much more detail about the various intricacies of this trope (go watch it if you do have the time, the channel that produced it is awesome), but I wanted to focus on one particular aspect of “The Power of Friendship” trope that the video didn’t go into: how it surfaces in the horror genre. Or rather, how it doesn’t surface in the horror genre. At least, not all that much.

So if you didn’t watch the video (and you’re missing out!), the trope works like this: you have friends, and those friends can help you out of a bad situation, whether that be isolation or a powerful demon overlord is about to destroy the Earth and your power alone is not enough to destroy the demon’s power. It can be a metaphorical power to help a character out during a bad patch, like the former situation, or it can be a literal power and the equivalent of taking one of those mushrooms in a Mario game, like the latter situation. Thus, “The Power of Friendship!” And you can kind of see why it shows up so much: we all wish we have that power, or believe our relationships are that powerful.

But horror doesn’t feature this power as much as other genres, and there’s a reason for that. Horror is horror. It incorporates the darker aspects of the world around us and sometimes amplifies them for maximum effect. And in real life, friendships aren’t as powerful and as lovely as in fiction. In the stories, friendship is powerful and unyielding. It can overcome all sorts of obstacles, and the more you try to destroy it, the more it bounces back and kicks bad guys in the ass. But in reality, friendships grow, cool, and break all the time. It can take only a little bit to destroy a friendship, and a lot to repair it once it’s broken. Horror writers not only recognize that, but incorporate that into their stories. And it’s such a well-known fact about life, writers don’t draw attention to it, because it’s so well known among readers.

That’s not to say that “The Power of Friendship!” doesn’t show up in horror fiction at all. For example, Stephen King’s It pretty much says that the friendship of the seven main characters is what allows them to fight the malevolent entity in their town.* It just doesn’t say it as loudly as other media does, and also tells the reader that the characters’ friendship, while powerful, can be broken or is less effective if they aren’t all in sync or allow their fear to divide them. This is what leads to that one infamous scene in the novel, and is also shown in the new movie after the first fight with It.

Weirdly enough, the power of love or family is shown more than the power of friendship in horror, and I’m not quite sure why. Perhaps it’s because love and family, unlike friendship, has a more powerful evolutionary purpose, and therefore is given more power in fiction in general. If you’re willing to do more to save your perfect partner for creating offspring or the lives of your offspring, it’s going to show up more in stories than the grouping of creatures of the same species to ensure survival.** Hell, a lot more of my stories revolve around romance and family than friendship. One of my stories even involves a friendship gone bad, but that’s about it.

If “The Power of Friendship!” can be portrayed as it was in It, you can include it in horror stories more effectively.

That doesn’t mean we can’t include “The Power of Friendship” in horror stories. It can be used, but it’s more effective if used as it was in It: not overstated and a bit more realistic.  Showing a friendship form, grow, and overcome obstacles in a story, without drawing too much attention to it and showing how fragile the friendship can be under certain pressures, will work fine for the horror audience. If you go for overblown storytelling and basically say, “The Power of Friendship can overcome anything,” it will take the audience out of the story. Let the friendship’s strength demonstrate itself, rather than shoving it in through dialogue or just outright stating it. In other words, show, don’t tell.

While still not that common a trope in horror, “The Power of Friendship” can be part of horror. It may require being handled differently than in other genres, and with a bit more realism (weird for “realism” to show up in horror, but there you go), but it’s not impossible. You just need the right touch, and “The Power of Friendship” can best even shapeshifting entities that take the form of clowns.

That’s all, Followers of Fear. I’m in a bit of a blogging mood right now, so expect more posts from me soon. Until then, pleasant nightmares!

*There’s also some sort of power up thanks to a turtle from another universe, but let’s not get into it, shall we.

**Best explanation I can come up with given my aromantic nature and already jaded worldview.

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From left to right: Joleene, Charles and I in my apartment stairwell.

Last night I had two wonderful visitors come to visit me at my apartment: my friend and fellow writer Joleene Naylor, whom you’ve probably seen around the blog quite a bit, especially in the comments, and her husband Charles, who were passing through Central Ohio on a trip to West Virginia, and made a point to stop by.

I’ve been blogging and Facebooking and tweeting for over six years, so I’ve had plenty of time to make friends with numerous other writers, Joleene among them. Unfortunately, the distance between me and all these other writers often means we’re confined to online interaction. So when an opportunity to visit comes up, I get really excited (and a little nervous) and look forward to meeting them. And last night, I finally got to meet Joleene in person.

Joleene and Charles arrived in my apartment building sometime after eight last night, after having to navigate through a ton of construction on the interstate (don’t you hate it when that happens?). I greeted Joleene with a hug (normally I ask whether or not we should hug or shake hands, but here it felt natural), and shook hands with Charles, whom I’ve occasionally seen tagged on Facebook but never actually seen in photos or in comments before (apparently he’s one of those people who manage to get by without being connected to the Internet most of the day!). I took them inside and served them a homemade dinner of tilapia, garlic bread, and carrots (I like to pull out all the stop when I have guests over if I’m able to. Also, that was my first time making garlic bread, and it turned out very well). We sat down, and started talking and eating.

It was a very enjoyable time. Charles, whom I was worried I wouldn’t get along with, turned out to be very charming and funny. He talked about his job as a welder, as well as his previous experiences working in nursing homes, where he would learn about the cultures of some of the residents and occasionally play hilarious pranks on the nurses. I also learned that prior to living in Iowa, which is where Joleene and Charles were coming from, they lived in Missouri, where I was born and lived till I was two. I don’t remember much about my birth state, so I asked them to tell me about things I could do there besides visit the Arch in St. Louis. Did you know there’s a Titanic Museum in Branson, which is about four hours from St. Louis? Now that sounds like a place I’d like to go!

Of course, we also talked quite a bit about writing (how couldn’t we?). Joleene’s one of my beta readers for Rose, so we talked about what I hoped from the novel and what I hoped she’d find that would help me improve it. We also talked about our own individual writing experiences, including how we both got into writing in the first place (apparently we both link our starts to Harry Potter! What a coincidence), and a funny story involving how Joleene met a fan of hers through Pokemon GO. Joleene and Charles also tried to help me come up with a title for a story I’m developing, and while we didn’t figure one out, it was interesting to talk about this story I’m working on, and what might work as a title.

The bottle of wine Joleene and Charles gave me. I wonder what Purple Cow tastes like.

All in all, it was a great evening, and I was very sad to see them go after we’d finished dessert (pumpkin rolls, so deliciously deadly). I walked them out to the car, giving them some Buckeye candies as a souvenir of passing through Columbus (if you haven’t had them, I recommend them. They’re chocolate and peanut butter treats shaped to look like Buckeye nuts, a symbol of Ohio and Ohio State, and just plain awesome). In return, Joleene and Charles gave me a bottle of wine from a winery in Dubuque. Believe it or not, the wine is called Purple Cow! I’m not sure what that’s supposed to taste like, but the first opportunity I have, I’ll get some friends together and we’ll find out.

Joleene and Charles left then, after I gave some recommendations on which motels to avoid, and they sped off into the night. I returned to my apartment with my new bottle of wine, feeling like I’d had a wonderful evening and hoping I got to experience it again someday.

When relationships start online, you often worry that meeting in person can ruin things. However, Joleene, Charles and I had a wonderful time, which I think proves that people can just get along if they want to. You find common things to talk about, you tell a few jokes, and maybe add in a little bit of good food and wine, and amazing things happen. I’m really glad I finally got to meet them offline, and that we didn’t need to check our phones in order to feel normal or relaxed. And I hope I get to do it again someday.

If you’d like to check Joleene’s blog, click HERE! If you’d like to read about the other time I met one of my author friends offline, click HERE! And I hope you had a good time reading about my visit from Joleene and Charles.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear. Pleasant nightmares.

Pat Bertram with her famous blue 1972 Volkswagon.

Pat Bertram with her famous blue 1972 Volkswagon.

Earlier this week I had a most pleasant surprise: my friend and fellow novelist Pat Bertram came to Ohio to visit.

Now, through the powers of the Internet, I’ve had the opportunity to meet a variety of authors and editors and just plain lovers of literature. I’ve read hundreds upon hundreds of their blog posts, reading about their new books or their thoughts on the Craft of Writing, reviews on books or movies, milestones in their careers or lives or whatever. And through podcasts or videos, I’ve even been able to hear their voices.

Never had the opportunity to meet them though. Distance in real life has made that difficult. Until yesterday, that was.

Now, if you’re not familiar with Pat Bertram, let me introduce her to you. She’s a writer out of Colorado who has written four suspense novels and one memoir on grief. She’s a very smart woman whose posts focus on her life and the strange things that happen in it, as well as writing and reflections on the many experiences she’s had. For the past couple of months, Pat’s been travelling across the country, seeing new sites, hiking and camping and staying with friends. And when I found out she was going on this big trip, I asked if she wouldn’t mind visiting me in good ol’ Ohio.

Not only did Pat say she would, she ended up staying overnight at my place (which is also my dad’s place, considering that I’m staying with him until I move into a place of my own).

Honestly, I was a little nervous. This was the first time I got to meet one of my online friends in person. Without the context of a blog and all the commonalities that we as bloggers have, would we get along? Pat was also staying overnight, so would it be a pleasant stay or would things go south at some point?

Me with Pat's car.

Me with Pat’s car.

Turns out, it was an unnecessary worry. From the moment we met, we had plenty to talk about. I was so curious to hear about Pat’s adventures, from her camping trip to some of the strange people she met (she told me one story about a family in the Blue Ridge Mountains she stayed with who could be the basis for a horror story someday). And Pat was really interested in my family’s Passover traditions, which I (and later my dad) were all too happy to explain. And that wasn’t the full range of our conversations: we talked about writing, childhood experiences, how you never know what will go viral, my family’s complicated structure (ask about me about why I have three mothers, but only two live in Columbus. I dare you!), where we hoped we might go in our lives from here, ballet, Tarot, and more subjects than I can remember, let alone list. We talked late into the night and quite a bit of the morning when we met for breakfast. We were talking even while we were taking photos and while I was helping her load up her car. We were talking right before she drove away!

As you can probably tell, this was a really fun experience for me. And it also made me realize something. Part of my worry was that Pat and I are such different people. I’m an eccentric young adult who still doesn’t have a car and, while well-traveled for someone of my age and means, still has a lot to experience in this world. Pat, on the other hand, is a much more reserved and introspective person who has been driving the same car since she got it over forty years ago and has had a lot more experiences in her life than I have. Without our blogs or Facebook as buffers, I feared we couldn’t connect to each other in the real world because of those differences.

The reality is, we’re both human beings. And that’s really all that matters. We’re both human beings, and human beings have endless ways to connect. Even without a blog or computers to act as connections. Heck, sometimes you just need to meet someone and you can connect with them: my dad met Pat, after only finding out a few hours beforehand that she was coming over to stay, and they immediately got to talking. You’d think they were older friends than I was with her, the way they got on!

Like I said, I had a great time. And so did Pat, even if she didn’t get a T-shirt that said “I SURVIVED A NIGHT WITH THE UNGAR FAMILY.” I was very sad to see her go, but I’m glad we had this chance to connect with each other in the real world. I hope that we get to meet again someday, and that all my future meetings with online and author friends in the real world go just as well.” Because in the end, I think we can all make a connection, no matter what our experiences in

Selfie with Pat/

Selfie with Pat.

life have been. And those connections can lead to the most wonderful memories being made.

And if you’d like to meet Pat for yourself, check out her blog here. Trust me, she’s having some really interesting adventures, and you’ll want to keep up with her on them.

*Just remember that before we meet I know who you are and I feel cool with us meeting. Otherwise it could get creepy very fast. And not in a way I like.