Thursday, March 3, 2011

Themes, Moods, and Examples

So as another exercise of the mind, I've generated a list of possible themes and moods (obviously not a complete list - that would be impossible) and I figured it might be worth doing an exercise which looks at bringing a theme and a mood to life. I'm going to use the Urban Fantasy sub-genre with a focus on Vampires as they're rather popular these days. I rolled some dice to figure out which theme and mood from the list I would be using.

The theme will be A Choice Between Two Evils and the mood will be Bittersweet. Yeah, yeah, I know. Not exactly a hard theme / mood for the subject matter but, in my defence, I settled on the subject well before I rolled the dice. The dice decided the rest. Go blame the dice.

Let's imagine the vampires are gathering, as they do, in typical vampire fashion to be all cold and callously political. I could run with some sort of kill 5 people to save 100 dilemma or perhaps have someone choose between two other creatures - perhaps a werewolf and a demon - but neither of them seem very bittersweet and moral dilemmas tend to fall a bit flat with blood-sucking creatures of the night. So, let's go with a trial.

The trial involves two vampire brothers murdering another vampire but claiming they are both innocent of the act. The vampires wish them both dead but for the prince, after weeks of deliberation, is prepared to make a settlement: If one of the brothers points the finger and tells the court who truly killed the vampire, the murderer will die and the other one be spared. After all, the prince can't have such a display of solidarity between vampires go unpunished.

The prince and all the other vampires expect the two to fall upon each other and claim the other did it. Instead, one simply stands shocked. The other brother steps forward and claims that he felled the final blow and that his colleague is innocent. That vampire is summarily executed and the other allowed to go free and continue his immortal existence. A bittersweet ending as the survivor gained what he wished for (freedom) but at a terrible price (his own loyal compatriot).

So that's the theme fully engaged through the plot itself. The choice between two evils is a choice between suicide and mutual destruction. Neither are good choices. So how about the mood?

The bittersweet mood can be reinforced through recollections of better nights, conversation between the two accused, and signs of nostalgia in the area such as grandfather clocks. The court room should be elegant and opulent, the vampires dressed in finery, with most vampires looking both beautiful and young to emphasise the benefits of the vampire race. Richness, opulent surrounds, power, and ever-lasting youth are so often wished for. Also underscore the subtle disconnects between alleged allies, discreet blood stains around the lips, deathly lack of movement in the older and more powerful vampires, glimpses of fangs and inhumanity, a layer of dust over parts of the court room that hasn't been updated since 1800 - each showing the unforseen consequences of being forever dead monsters. Thus the bittersweet mood of gaining something one wished for but with a terrible consequence is highlighted through the location alone.

Hmm, this exercise was a bit of fun. Is there any interest in me doing future ones of these or should I look to another writing exercise?

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