Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Kill the dog

It’s one of the best advices I can offer when it comes to writing fiction.

How often haven’t we seen a family in peril with the following scenario: There is a fire or an imminent explosion. The family of four, one boy and a girl has escaped from the house, and they’ve forgotten their dog. The boy or the girl, usually the youngest child cries out: «What about Charlie? We’ve forgotten Charlie». And then they see the dog in the flames. One of two things happens: Either the dog makes it through a long stretch of flames on its own, or the father rushes in through the hungry fire and rescue the poor mutt, either totally unrealistic. Then the fire make the building collapse or the bomb or gas thank go off.

The youngest child walks off with the dog in his or her hands, surrounded by the family, and all is well with the world.

In Clive Barker’s story The Forbidden a baby dies. In the otherwise excellent film version, called The Candyman it’s saved from a giant bonfire. Bah!

There are countless, way too many to be counted examples, all of horrible storytelling, of greed, taboos and intolerance ruining a potentially great story. Theaters won’t show such films, stores won’t sell such books and family friendly pressure groups or similar will do their utmost to keep them from being showcased.

No, I don’t object to the dog or the child or whatever being saved occasionally. I object to the sheer numbers of it.

Don’t make or write a «family friendly» story at all. They suck. All potential in such stories has been removed in a mire of internal and external censorship and lack of daring.

There should be far more stories that are thought-provoking, controversial and confrontational. Killing the dog, transgression should be the norm, not the rare exception.

The story so far:

True artistic freedom - stage 4

Author's word - Night on Earth

Author's word - The Slaves

Celebration mighty and true


Author's word - Your Own Fate

True artistic freedom - stage 3

True independence


Modern slavery

The Storyteller

True Artistic Freedom (II)

Reading it again

The chores of an independent author/artist

My fifty cents

True artistic freedom

Labeling and genre writing

Alarums of reality

The difficulties in describing a complex storyline

Other links:

Firewind - my stories, art and poems on the Web

My writer «CV»

The Janus Clan


Louise Broadbent said...

Here here! Or, the dad could run in after the dog and burn with it - leaving the little girl to deal with the guilt of effectively killing her dad for the rest of her life. Ooh I like it - dibs on that story.

Amos Keppler said...

A great prospect.

Addley C. Fannin said...

Mm, but killing the dog for the sake of making your work "thought-provoking, controversial and confrontational" is just as bad as *not* killing it for the sake of being family-friendly. Stirring up a hornet's nest without a point is just childish.

It's one thing if you've got a thematic or meaningful reason to kill the dog - like say, a commentary on the finality of death, or the loss of childhood innocence, or because the dog's eaten an important clue which they find within his charred remains. Otherwise? Killing the dog is pointless, and if you do it just to get a reaction from people, it's really no better than being an internet troll.

Amos Keppler said...

I disagree completely, of course. As I showed in the article, not killing the dog has become such a nuisance that killing it has become its own reward.

Asphodelia said...

Great post. I'll probably get flamed for saying this but I don't mind if the child/baby dies in the film/story (hell, it's only a story), it's the dog that gets me...the dog never dies in Hollywood, and that's probably because of people like me who would break down into a sobbing mess....

Great post though.

Amos Keppler said...

Thank you.

I would say you're right on target. Most current movie watchers would care far more about the dog than the baby...