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Friday, September 07, 2007

Dead Beat Hands Out Homework

Now, nothing particularly nice about this legend, I suppose.

Black Jack Ketchum.

A legend, nevertheless.

Before becoming Black Jack Ketchum of course, he was simply Thomas Edward Ketchum.

For us writers, all of this is paramount.

Homework for today: What is the difference between a myth and a legend?

How does a person assume legendary status?

How does all of this affect your writing?

Twenty lashes of the birch for all who do not complete this assignment.


Anonymous said...

Your assignment is not as easy as you or I thought might be. I might have risked the lashing of a birch, but it just so happens that lately I too have been thinking a great deal about myths and legends. August seems to be the month for death anniversaries of people who seem to have become legends created by the media.

A myth is a fictional story that teaches, explains, or shapes who we are, our values, and our beliefs. The Adam and Eve story is a perfect example of a myth or traditional story. A legend is a story thought to be historical that endures in our imagination and inspires us. In truth, the words may be interchangeable depending on their usage.

What makes people legends? August seems to be the month of myths and legends as we have the mystery of Marilyn Monroe’s death on August 5th, Elvis Presley’s departure (?) on August 16th, and lingering questions surrounding Princess Diana’s fatal car crash on August 31st. Their deaths were filled with mystery, and their lives were shaped by media magic, facts transformed into fiction, and unanswered possibilities that left us hanging on and craving more. They had tragic or humble beginning and their deaths came when they were in full bloom, or just as they were about to bloom again. They were said to have talents or capabilities that were in some way unique. They were just too beautiful and the gods became angry. They climbed too high and were burned by the sun. Their lives were soap operas, and people became hooked because of the lack of human connectedness in their own lives. Little wonder why some people refuse to believe Elvis is dead. Unfortunately, our media created legends are more like drugs that cover a deeper craving. They are driven by greed and destroyed by greed.

Our legends today cannot satisfy us as legends did before because there is an important ingredient missing. That is inspiration. What are we inspired to with these legends?

How does this affect our writing? We could create characters with these elements in their lives, but add the ingredient of inspiration. However, we must create characters that come form our own experiences, that carry our own longing, tragedies and needs, talents and beliefs, and that inspire us. There has to be at least this much truth in fiction or it is not believable or worth writing. I believe that is why J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter was such a phenomenal success. She created a character that felt what she felt, powerless, and she let him do what she longed to do.

Okay. At least I escaped the lashings.

Dead Beat said...

Dead Beat appreciates your thoughts - thanks