Friday, 10 April 2015

A to Z Challenge 2015 - Emotions & Reactions - I is for Isolation (writing discussion & fiction)

A to Z Challenge 2015 - Emotions & Reactions









This year for the A to Z Challenge, I'm investigating emotions and reactions and their use to in writing. So, I'll be talking about my first thoughts as a writer when I think about the words we use to describe emotions and my experience of their use in literature.

isolation
isolation: the process or fact of keeping apart, or being kept apart.

'No man is an island.'

John Donne had a point, we are all part of a large whole - humankind has am evolutionary need to co-operate, to live in society, to interact with others. Which is what makes a sense of isolation all the more striking.

Sometimes we seek if out, we need to get away, to feel alone with our thoughts. And sometimes isolation is forced upon us. The childish response of sending someone to Coventry is a naive example of how deliberately ignoring someone, splitting them off from the pack, can be a cruel and effective tool to punish non-conformity. The Amish tradition of shunning is derived from a similar principle and is designed to ensure members of the community live within the rules - those who do not abide by the will of the community are excluded.

Isolation is therefore a strong tool in any writer's arsenal.

I can think of two extreme examples off the top of my head: I Am Legend, the Will Smith movie where he is living alone New York city; Cast Away, where Tom Hanks is stranded on a desert island, a modern-day Robinson Crusoe without any Man Friday to keep him company. In both of these, the isolated characters gain their own eccentricities to survive. Will Smith's character, Dr Robert Neville, has become self-sufficient, but he still interacts with mannequins he has set up. Tom Hanks' Chuck Nolan also interacts with inanimate objects, talking to a football he calls Wilson.In both cases, the character's need for fake companionship gives them a humanity in the face of difficult odds.

Non-physical isolation can be just as soul-destroying, if not more. Lots of things can separate us, and our characters, from our fellow human beings: colour, creed, disposition. In Lord of the Flies, Ralph starts off as leader of the shipwrecked boys, but he ends up totally alone, hunted by those he had called friends. His descent into this lonely, desperate place is frightening and horrifically inevitable as he hangs onto civilisation while the others let it go. What makes this so much more stark is when everything flips back suddenly at the end as rescue arrives and this haunted boy bursts into tears in front of an embarrassed officer.

QUESTION: Do you like being alone?

~

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31 comments:

  1. I'm an introvert and a bit anti-social, so I'm fine with being alone. Current WIP I have a MC who feels quite isolated despite having a close friend who has his back.

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    1. It can happen like that sometimes, feeling alone, even when you aren't :)

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  2. :) Hi Sophie. Happy Thursday. Yes unfortunately I'm a die hard introvert, a homebody, and when I do go out, I'm not always there. Get stuck in daydreaming. Then there are times when I'm completely present and have a ton of fun interacting.
    see you tomorrow!
    http://sytiva.blogspot.com/

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    1. It's always great when you can get lost in your own mind, but it can also lead to odd situations - have you ever been having a conversation with a few friends when you drift off for a moment, inspiration on a plot point, or something, and then suddenly you have no idea what anyone is talking about? :)

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  3. I do enjoy being alone. The quietness of my home beckons to me the minute I step outside the door.

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    1. It is good to have somewhere to go to when the hustle and bustle gets too much.

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  4. With an invalid husband, I find it difficult to be alone long enough to write when I would like to. He's great company, but I would like more time, and next month I am buying a small summer house to place in the garden, my writer's shed. I'm sure he'll be there for frequent coffees. The change of environment might help my writing, and I'm sure we'll have great fun with our new 'seaside hut' in the game of let's pretend.

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    1. I know what you mean about needing alone time to write - I have a study which allows me to close the door sometimes and just concentrate.

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  5. I work from home and it doesn't seem to bother me that I don't have much human interaction. But sometimes I feel like it SHOULD bother me. Does that make sense? There are things that suck about it--not really having a need to buy cute outfits, for instance, since they're only seen when you meet your parents for dinner or go on a date night!

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    1. Yes, I think I do know what you mean. When other people are talking about going out for a drink with work mates, or meeting friends, you wonder if you should be doing that more often too?

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  6. I'm a hard-core introvert, so... yes, yes I do like being alone. One day, I will be the crazy old woman that lives alone and frightens children. I will probably also have cats. ;)

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    1. LOL! I think I already am the crazy lady with the cat - although Tash now outranks me because she has two cats and I only have one!

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    2. Haha! Better get on that. ;)

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  7. You brought up two great examples of isolation with the two movies you listed here. Yes, I do like being alone. I enjoy a quiet house. Since I work at home, I can imagine down the line not ever leaving the house, LOL, as you can get so many things delivered, etc.

    betty

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    1. When I got the chance to work at home full time for a while, it was great and I didn't feel isolated. I only noticed the difference when I had to go back into a work environment with lots of other people - I miss the solitary writing, but I also appreciate the company of work colleagues as well - so I currently have the best of both worlds having part of my time writing and part in an office with other people.

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  8. Yes, I like being alone. However, I wouldn't want to live without my family. ~~~ As far as examples of isolation - Robert Redford is the sole actor in a movie called "All Is Lost." He is a man on his sailboat, lost at sea. The other example I can think of is Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" where a woman is stoned by a community.

    Precious Monsters

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  9. I enjoy being alone - but dislike being lonely. Understanding how to get plenty of the first without the second is my key to happiness. Really interesting post. Enjoy your AtoZ!

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  10. I'm a very social person. I don't think I would handle isolation very well... But it does make for good stories!

    @TarkabarkaHolgy from
    Multicolored Diary - Epics from A to Z
    MopDog - 26 Ways to Die in Medieval Hungary

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    1. I'm a twin, so I know I couldn't hack isolation for very long, I'd be trying to find Tash.

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  11. In one of my unpublished stories, I did explore isolation. Sort of a "I Am Legend" type of isolation because it was set in the future and was post-war. It was neat and while writing it, I felt like I was the one isolated.

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    1. It's strange and magical and a little scary when you get dragged into the feelings of your own story like that :)

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  12. Yes, I enjoy being alone, but with the comfortable knowledge of husband and family coming in and out. My idea of Hell is the seat companion on train or bus who cannot pass more than five minutes without making a comment. Anne Stenhouse, Novels Now

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    1. LOL! I like it when I have the odd conversation on public transport, but that only normally happens when there's a problem, the bus breaks down, or there's a huge traffic jam, or the train is delayed - that's the only time Brits start talking to strangers! ;P

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    2. Maybe you've never been in a bus after closing time, Sophie? Generally, you're in the right, it takes armageddon. Anne

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  13. I like being alone, even in social settings. It's just how my brain is wired, and I feel very comfortable in silence and aloneness. However, there's also the less than happy feeling of being the eternal outsider looking in, like Charlie Chaplin's Little Tramp character.

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    1. Yes, you're right, and maybe that feeling is the difference between being alone, and being isolated?

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  14. I do like being alone, that's my work time and I need the quiet. Total isolation is different and like the movies you mentioned it's pretty interesting to see how that affects a character.

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    1. I think I'd go a little bit strange if I was isolated for too long :)

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Thanks for stopping by - I'd love to hear from you. :)