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Character Development 3: The Joker as a Third Way Villain

Actor Anthony Perkins (1932-1992) as Norman Bates in Hitchcock's Psycho(1960). Image Source: IMDB.
Modern stories conflate villainy with mental illness because psychiatrists and psychologists have replaced the clergy as society's listening post. Psychological development has supplanted religious faith. This modern rationalization of mental experiences outside the ordinary has provided solutions where organized religions have fallen short.

Old Diagnoses, New Diagnoses

But for each modern answer, an older insight was lost and returned back to the realm of mystery. There is a price for each gain made, paid through some renewed blindness. For the extreme mental illness of psychopathy, a modern mental health professional would use the Hare Psychopathy Checklist as follows:
Do you sense you are someone extremely important?Would you say you need constant stimulation?Do you find pleasure in manipulating people?Would you lie in order to get your own way?Do you never say sorry?Are you know…

The Phases of Disaster Recovery

Image Source: Concept Central.

This month, I am participating in NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, an annual event in which writers meet in public places to write a novel, or at least 50,000 words, in thirty days. I won't be doing that, rather am participating in order to finish existing projects. NaNo is slightly less harrowing than the Canadian literary event in which people attempt to write a novel in one weekend, the 3-Day Novel Contest.

As part of NaNo this year, I will be writing posts here to reflect on the marathon.

One of my stories, 'Dream of Flying,' was partly inspired by Malaysian Airlines Flight 370. During the March 2014 news coverage of the airplane's initial disappearance, a commentator stated that there are four stages in the psychological response to a major disaster. The first stage is the Heroic Phase. This is followed by the Honeymoon Phase, the Disillusionment Phase and the Reconstruction Phase.

Prayers for a miracle as the fate of missing Malaysia Airlines jet baffles the experts (11 March 2014). Video Source: Youtube.

MH370: Praying for miracle with candlelights (11 March 2014). Video Source: Youtube.

MH370 "island" conspiracy theory doesn't die (8 April 2014). Video Source: Youtube.

Conspiracy theories surrounding MH370 | 60 Minutes Australia (14 May 2018). Video Source: Youtube.

In this case in the Heroic Phase, the public was engrossed in the mystery and speculating on what had happened to the missing passengers. The tragic catalyst event led to mass story-telling and extravagant narrative building. Officials dismissed these "nonsense ideas" and conspiracy theories.

The phases of disaster recovery predict that the public will return to a normal frame of mind and gradually lose interest. This is the mundane stance most people occupy every day; no longer caught up in fantasy, they return to routine. Only a tiny percentage of people continued to follow the MH370 case for months or even years.

I felt that the period when the public was immersed in explaining the mystery resembled the writer's experience with story-telling. The writer stands with one foot in daily reality and one foot outside of it. He or she is both an engaged participant and an observer, disconnected from catalyst events and source inspirations. Standing back allows the writer to imagine different narratives and possibilities about the norm, the mainstream, or 'official' version of reality.

While the public will lapse out of story-telling mode quickly, writers stay in that frame of mind all the time. They go off script and challenge the consensus account of reality.

Going off script is one path to the creative impulse. Coincidentally, going off script is also considered to be a way of resolving karma. If you do something you would not normally do, or think in a manner different from your entrenched beliefs, or if you break your social conditioning, you gain the ability to heal spiritual injuries from the past. Instead of tripping over the same rock over and over in blind obedience to the dictates of an unhealed subconscious self, the story-telling impulse allows the writer to dissolve and disperse psychological and spiritual blocks within the writer's psyche and in the writer's world.


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