Literary Perspective - Characters of the Mind

Supenatural Fiction (Chapman and Hall)
Credit: Chapman and Hall
(Wikimedia Commons)

Characters of the Mind

Aliens, ghosts, and monsters make a regular appearance in science fiction and horror stories. Interest will not wane as otherworldly entities manifest themselves. What makes creators of paranormal plots successful?

Their secret lies in the ability to frighten and enlighten. Excursions into unknown recesses of the brain form the basis for intelligent literature in all periods. Excitement the adult experiences when watching a horror movie may not be suitable for children, but ironically, subject matter that educated censors consider inappropriate in a cinema may be praised in an English classroom.

At the end of a film, the viewer realizes the tale was mere entertainment and shrugs off uncomfortable and unfamiliar concepts, yet at the end of a literature course, the student walks away with changed beliefs about this world and other realms that may exist, even if this controversial place is only a figment of the imagination. Characters of the mind reside within this elusive psychological setting, symbols of repressed emotions and buried needs.

This rift between drama and literature has been present for centuries. In the early days of stage performances, the church frowned on deviant attitudes presented in plays before the masses. The condemnation resulted in suppression of creativity, a futile shot at thought control. Ingenious writers found allegorical and euphemistic ways around state and clerical restrictions.

In contemporary society, authors exercise freedom of expression, even if the process of conception scares someone. A hidden message emerges from every unexpected, illusory visitor. Attempts at smothering feelings such as fear, and refusing to acknowledge forbidden desire, lead to a stronger manifestation of the emerging character.

The protagonist struggles with an unrecognized problem, wish, or belief. A supernatural being wins the battle and makes an appearance. An astute writer demonstrates ability to reach the heart of the disturbance.