Posts Tagged ‘meme’

If you’ve been on the Internet lately, you’ve probably heard of Momo and seen the photo associated with her/it. For those who haven’t, Momo is an Internet urban legend that, like Slender Man before her, has gained a sort of life on and off the Internet. Supposedly, she’s a woman or entity you contact or she contacts you online and threatens you and taunts you, predicting your death and encouraging you to do increasingly dangerous tasks and dares, including committing suicide (this latter part is known as the Momo Challenge). Most photos that pop up when you search her are of a woman with bug eyes, long stringy hair and a beaklike mouth. This is actually a 2016 statue from a Japanese artist named Keisuke Aisawa depicting an ubume, or the spirit of a woman who died in childbirth.

Over the past several months, normal people and YouTube personalities have said to have found Momo’s contact information for apps like WhatsApp and posted videos/screenshots of their conversations (not sure if those are faked, though they are creepy). Parents have also reported their children coming across videos of/about Momo on YouTube and YouTube Kids, traumatizing them and causing YouTube a lot of trouble (this is what happens when you have imperfect algorithms and AI that can’t actually examine video content for appropriateness or guideline violations). And rumors of deaths around the world supposedly caused by Momo (though no official police statements have definitively named Momo in any way to the case). This caused parent groups, celebrities, and Internet safety organizations to warn the public about Momo, saying she could pose a real threat to children and teens, and encouraging Internet safety.

Nowadays, any numbers/accounts associated with Momo are reported inactive and people are starting to realize this is just another Internet monster going around and getting a lot of attention. In other words, more hoax than horror (unless people are posing as Momo online, in which case I hope they can be traced and turned into the police). Still, parents and many others are concerned, and it’s not hard to see why.

So what made Momo so popular?

Well, a couple of factors. Like Slender Man before her, Momo is a modern, Internet incarnation of the boogeyman figures and demons that have haunted humanity’s dreams since the cave dwellings. She is an entity, a witch or demon who tempts or influences people, particularly vulnerable children, to harm. We’ve seen this before with Lilith and succubi, various demons across different cultures, and Krampus, among others. As time and technology have changed, so have our fears and the forms and ways our demons target us, the Internet being the newest way, both as a way to reach people and as a way to spread the word.

There’s also the photo of Momo, which as I said is a statue of Japanese artist Keisuke Aisawa’s conception of an ubume. However the photo itself got associated with the Momo character, it fulfills a lot of the same visual requirements to make it an effective creepypasta image. For one thing, it’s human-like, but distinctly inhuman. This matches up with the theory of the uncanny valley, which states that the further something moves away from being human, the less we are able to identify it as human. At a certain point between human and inhuman, images or objects will enter the “uncanny valley,” where we can’t identify it as human or inhuman and we react with anxiety. Momo’s exaggerated features put her squarely in that valley.

That, and she’s very meme-able. In the time she’s entered the public consciousness, Momo videos, images, artwork, and stories have popped up all over the Internet, ranging from the creepy to the funny. Hell, I even made some Momo imagery. Look.

Like it? It’s me using a filter on my phone. And it was easy to make. So imagine how easy it is for other people to take Momo’s iconic look and put their own spin on it. As I said, instantly meme-able.

But there’s one more reason why Momo’s become so popular, and in this way she’s out-paced Slender Man. You see, Slender Man is specified as an impersonal entity who mainly sticks to forests. Outside of the movie, he doesn’t really rely on the Internet to do what he does to people (though the Internet has been great for his career). Momo on the other hand, while her exact nature is up for debate, is much more human than Slender Man. Her picture has features, she uses the human tool of the Internet, and she attacks us in a personal, psychological way.

Even worse, she can be anyone, and we sense that on some level. We get that beyond the inhuman picture, there’s a human intelligence trying to traumatize and harm us. It could be the elementary school teacher, the kid delivering newspapers to the neighborhood, your local politician, your neighbor, the PTA mom, the college student looking for a thrill that doesn’t come from a needle. She’s the avatar of how you really can’t trust anyone on the Internet and can never really know what their intentions are with you. And isn’t being unable to trust your fellow humans the scariest thing of all?

Obviously, I condemn anyone using the Momo persona to cause harm to others. And I would remind everyone that Momo is a fictional character birthed on the Internet, and shouldn’t be taken seriously.

Momo has given me an idea for a story. I look forward to getting it written.

But all that being said, it’s no wonder she went viral like she did. She embodies several types of fears in one persona and image, horrifying and fascinating us all at once. It’s fascinated me to the point that I’ve been inspired to write a story. Not about Momo, but a character like her, one born on the Internet that becomes so viral it takes on a life of its own. I think Slender Man and Momo are only the first of a long line of these sort of entities, and I would like to give my own thoughts on the character type through the best medium at my disposal. I hope it turns out well.

 

And while I still have your attention, I’m still looking for eARC readers for my novel Rose. For those unaware, this is the story of a young woman who starts turning into a plant creature (and that’s just the start of her problems). If you would like to get an advanced electronic copy, send an email to ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com and I’ll put you on the list. All I ask is you consider posting a review on or after the release date. Thanks, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Good night, my Followers of Fear. Pleasant (possibly Momo-filled) nightmares.

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My good friend Kat Impossible from Life and Other Disasters (definitely check her out) tagged me for the 777 Challenge! Normally I don’t get tagged for these things, and when I do, I don’t always have the time for them. However, Kat only tags me for something if she thinks it’s up my alley, and it not only sounded fun to do, but it’s something I’m in a unique position to do because I’m currently working on something and I’m at a stage where I want to showcase something from it. That story, to be a bit more precise, is Rose, whose first chapter I just finished editing the other day (20 more to go!).

So what does one do when they are tagged for the 777 Challenge? Well, simple enough: share 7 lines from the 7th page of your WIP! They can be completely random if you want, it’s your story. Also, you can use a fun little graphic, like the one I created up above (it’ a skull made of shoes! How could I not use that?), but I’m pretty sure that’s optional.

So without further ado, here are some random lines from Rose, currently in its third draft:

  1. There’s another angry pulse, but that’s all that happens.
  2. My nails are turning a deep shade of pink as I stare at them, while the skin around them is turning light green, the skin tingling where it changes color.
  3. I blink, my eyes itching, and I know without having to look that they’ve turned green as well.
  4. “What the hell are these?” says the man, drawing my attention back to him.
  5. Maybe he’s just as scared as I am.
  6. Soon everything below the shoulders feels like it’s buzzing with electricity, until the green coloring climbs up my neck and spreads over my face.
  7. I wonder if whatever’s happening is over.

What did you think of that?

So now I have to tag some others and pass the challenge along. And I know just which three authors to challenge:

Check out their websites, because they’re awesome. Also make sure to link back to me if you decide to do the challenge, guys. I’d appreciate it.

That’s all for now. I hope you liked what you read and I hope my friends are willing to try this out. Until next time!

Hey Followers of Fear. I actually have some bad news to dispense today. Yeah, I know, bad news. That’s not something I usually put out on this blog. I prefer to keep things upbeat and kind of funny here, because I’m a naturally upbeat and kind of funny guy. But occasionally I have to dispense with some bad news, and this is one of those times.

The fact of the matter is (this is not the bad news. That comes later), I’m writing slower than I used to. And I mean much slower: I started working on the third draft of Rose back in June. It’s August, and I’m still working through Chapter Five! Usually at this point of a draft I should be finishing up the edits, but I’m still in the early stages!

What’s to cause this slow-down of work? Well, the main reason is that I’m working a full-time job now, and that’s pretty time-consuming in itself. And unlike other jobs I’ve held in the past, there aren’t as many moments where there’s not a lot to do and I can sit back and write. Even Germany had more than a few of those moments. But in my current position, there’s always plenty to do, so I don’t exactly have that many moments to get out the laptop and work on a manuscript.

And when I get home, I don’t exactly have that much time either. I have to eat dinner, take a shower, make my lunch for tomorrow, and go to sleep at an earlier time so that I can get up early and be at work on time. That leaves only a few hours to write in the evening. Sometimes less, if I have errands to run after work.

With that in mind, I’m cutting a few things out of my life to make more time for writing. I’m cutting out the number of shows I watch so that when the fall television season starts, I’m not spending hours and hours streaming what I missed (I don’t have a TV or Cable yet). I’m also cutting back on the amount of time I spend on YouTube, because as fun as those videos can be, some of them can be pretty time-consuming (especially those videos of gamers playing horror games that I like so much). And–and here’s where the bad news really comes in–starting in September, I’m cutting myself back to two blog posts a month.

Now, I’m sure one or two of you are saying, “But Rami, we like seeing at least two blog posts a week from you!” Well, I like blogging around 2-3 times a week as well. But blogging also takes up time. Depending on the post, it can take quite a bit of time to write. Time I could spend getting through whatever story I happen to be writing or editing. I’m taking up time just writing this post! And because of that, I feel that I need to spend less time on this blog and more on the stories that I love writing and I love people reading.

So, unless something special comes up–a new review or interview, an important update on the projects I’m doing, or I’m pissed off at a recent tragedy in the world and need to vent my frustrations–you’ll be seeing much fewer posts here than before. This also means that I’ll stop doing #FirstLineFriday after August 26th. Not permanently, I may do one or two on occasion for an upcoming book or some other special occasion. But I won’t be doing one week after week. It’s just too time-consuming. I may try to come up with some other tag or meme where I do something similar to #FirstLineFriday (I know a lot of you enjoy those posts, and I do too), but at the moment I really can’t afford to keep doing this week in and week out if I want to get more writing and editing done.

On the bright side, I’ll have the opportunity to do more Reflections posts about the writing craft or about my own work. I used to do those quite a lot, and people really enjoyed them. However, I don’t do those much anymore, mostly because they’re the most time-consuming of blog posts. Now though, with hopefully a bit more time, I can write at least one a month and share my thoughts or have interesting discussions on writing and daily life.

I hope no one decides to stop following me because of this (I know some people stop following YouTubers if they don’t constantly put out new videos, so I assume the same can apply for blogs), or that they leave me because #FirstLineFriday was their favorite thing ever. It’s not because of you guys, it’s just hat I need to write, and if I don’t write, nothing gets done, and I get angry at myself. And that’s not something anyone wants.

Have you ever reduced the amount of blogging you do so you could focus on other things? What were the results of that?

Yesterday someone in one of my writers’ groups on Facebook posted about a recent upsetting experience. She’d told her family that her book was coming out later this year in July, and that she had other books on the way too. Apparently her family’s response was entirely negative, telling her that only rich and famous people actually called themselves authors, and that she should keep her head out of the clouds and on the ground because she obviously wasn’t one.

Not only was this reaction just plain horrible (we should be getting tons of love and support from our families for our writing dreams, not criticism and put-downs), but it’s also ignorant. While not all authors become rich and famous, they don’t need to be to be called authors. And even the rich and famous ones, which are rare to begin with, started out as dreamers with a manuscript they wanted to get published. Seriously, every one. JK Rowling was a single mother living on state benefits while writing Harry Potter. Stephen King was a teacher with three kids and not a lot of cash before the paperback rights to Carrie allowed him to move up the economic ladder a little. HP Lovecraft never saw true success in his lifetime, but he’s considered one of the most influential authors in modern-day horror. We all have to start somewhere.

But that’s beside the point. What I’m actually trying to say is that fame or finances are horrible ways to measure whether or not someone should be called an author. Someone could have millions in the bank or have a reality show and a famous spouse and write terrible fiction. No, if you’re going to measure by what right someone has to be called an author, then do it by how passionate someone is about writing, and by how their work resonates with others. If someone is very passionate about writing, about telling stories and sharing them with others, and that person’s work resonates with readers, I really think they deserve to be called an author. And in the case of this particular author, she’s clearly passionate about her writing, and it resonated enough with her publisher that they want to publish it and believe it’ll do well in sales. In my eyes, she definitely deserves to be called an author.

Of course, there are always people who feel they know better, whether or not they’re inside the industry, and there will always be people who just want to put others down just so they can put others down. I run across those people from time to time. I can’t say which kind the family of the author I’ve been talking about it, but I know what response I would give them: Screw you. Those people don’t hold any power unless you allow them to, and your own opinion of yourself and your work is more important than what they have to say. And if they’re only going to say hurtful or denigrating things, then maybe it’s best to put them aside and find people who will give you the support you need. Let them stew in their own negativity.

Or to put things more simply (and humorously):

So let them naysay. It won’t get them anything if we don’t let them have anything from it. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t intend to let any of my detractors (few that I have) say anything bad about me and bring me down. No, I’ll keep on writing, editing, publishing, and marketing, and listen to the voices who will help me along in that.

And in its way, having those supporters is way better than any riches or fame (though those would be nice).

A while back I posted on character tropes and cliches that needed to be retired from literature. Some of my Followers of Fear thought that maybe the trope of “The Chosen One” could stand to be retired. I’ve been thinking about this since I wrote that post, and I thought I’d discuss it in contrast to what I call “Someone Who Grows Into a Hero.” If I had another name for that character trope, something a bit shorter, I would use it. Maybe I’ll think of one in the course of this post. Or maybe you’ll give me one (please?).

So, let’s talk tropes. The Chosen One is, in essence, a character who is basically chosen by some higher power–God, Fate, some powerful wizard, the President, the Force, that kooky neighbor down the street, etc.–to take on some great evil and defeat it. Sometimes this choosing takes place pretty early in life, sometimes years or ages before the Chosen One’s birth. A good example is Harry Potter being chosen to defeat Lord Voldemort (funnily enough, I’ve been listening to Harry Potter audiobooks while I’ve been working lately. Already on Book 3. You can always get something new from these books no matter your age, I find). It’s been used hundreds and hundreds of times throughout history, since possibly before the Greeks and Romans started telling stories involving oracles.

Now, this trope has a good reason for being used so much. The character who is the Chosen One–usually the protagonist–is usually a good person, selfless, kind, somewhat charismatic. They’re often presented with insurmountable odds, but through their own ingenuity, goodness, and the help of their allies they overcome and become victorious. We want to be that person, who is good and destined to be great as well, to save everyone and to have the best group of friends around them. To be a messianic or godlike figure.

However, there are some problems with this trope. For one, it’s been used so much that we know it by heart. Harry Potter, Eragon, Mila Kunis’s character in Jupiter Ascending, Gregor the Overlander, Emma Swan, Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader (with Luke’s help, I guess), Neo, Buffy, Po the Panda, Thomas from The Maze Runner and many, many more. These characters are everywhere. And they seem to all have similar personal stories. They grow up in simple circumstances–programmer, abused nephew, farmer, teenage girl, etc.–but are thrust into extraordinary circumstances that change their lives and center events on them. They’re told they’re special, that there are things that only they can do. At first they might be reluctant, or not have the confidence to do what they are told to do. But as time goes on and they somehow make it through the most dire circumstances, they become confident and settled in their roles, and they do end up destroying the ultimate evil (except if you’re the Slayer, in which case it never ends) once all is said and done.

trelawney 1

These sort of stories also say something about how the universe works, namely fate vs. free will. In some circumstances, the way these stories work is that no matter what, the Chosen One is to win against the ultimate evil. So personal choice isn’t a factor. The universe must work to get the Chosen One to win. Remember when I said I was listening to the HP audiobooks? In the 2nd, when Harry stabs the diary, and I remember this clearly, Harry doesn’t think when he sees the fang and the diary. He just acts. Perhaps the universe intervened so that Harry could someday take on the full mantle of his destiny? And in the case of Buffy, no matter how much she tries, the duties of a Slayer force her back into the world of darkness and away from anything resembling a normal life. The universe (or the writers) seem to have no care for Buffy’s choices, apparently.

So the problems of this trope is not only that it’s overused, but that it’s predictable, and that it takes the freedom of choice out of the equation to a great extent, sometimes even totally. There are ways to change up the trope, but it’s rarely done. Katniss Everdeen could be considered a slight variation on the theme, as she kind of stumbled into the role of Chosen One by an act of defiance, but from that point on her life is controlled by others. Heck, even Peeta manipulates her by forcing her into the relationship and pregnancy ruses. Still, I’ve been open about my disdain for the Hunger Games trilogy, so I’ll say it’s not the best example. I’m trying to think up a better one, even if I write it myself, so I’ll let you know if I think of (or write) something.

The other trope is the Accidental Hero trope (I did find another title for this trope). This is one I like a bit more, because you can do so much more with it and there’s a growing number of examples of this kind of character. This is a character who, rather than by fate, is made a hero through circumstances and their own choices. They may not be hero material, they may not want to be heroes, they may rather go home, but they rise to become heroes by their own merits. For example, Nathaniel from the Bartimaeus books wasn’t chosen to be a hero, and never set out to be a hero. In the first book, he was seeking revenge for personal reasons, the second book he did it because of his job and because of political reasons. In the third book he does it after a lot of self examination and because he’s scared of the demon uprising.

one does not simply 1

Another example is Teen Wolf (the awesome TV series, not the very bad 80’s movie). Scott McCall became a werewolf by accident, and because of the threats to his family, friends and his town, he has to rise to become a hero and save the day. No fate, no gods, no prophecies. He becomes a hero (and later a very special form of werewolf) because his personality, the events in his town, and his love for the people close to him mold him into a hero.

And there are many more examples. Chuck from the titular series never asked for the Intersect, and he wasn’t supposed to have it. It could’ve been taken out ages ago. But he chose to keep it, use it for his friends, and save the people he cared about. Through that he becomes a spy and a hero. In Doctor Who, the Doctor only wanted to travel and see the universe. He is a hero of his own choice. Lelouch Lamperouge from the anime Code Geass received his powers through luck, and later chose to use them for his own ends and to get his revenge (more antihero I guess, but whatever). It’s a trope with a lot of wriggle room in it, and even better, it’s still underused, unlike the Chosen One trope. So perhaps many more authors should write less Chosen One stories and more Accidental Hero stories.

Of course, there’s no way that this post will cause less Chosen One stories to be written. For better or worse, that trope is popular and will stick around for a long while. Still, I’m hoping for more Accidental Hero stories. I figure most of my stories will feature them. Reborn City and Snake‘s protagonists become heroes (or in the latter’s case, antiheroes) through choice and circumstance. Heck, I might try and find ways to subvert the Chosen One trope while writing Accidental Heroes. We’ll see what I can do.

Which trope do you prefer? What’s your favorite example?

What is a way that one could change either trope so that either one could be a bit more original?