Wednesday, 15 April 2015

A to Z Challenge 2015 - Emotions & Reactions - M is for Madness (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.

madness
madness: the state of having a serious mental illness / extremely foolish behaviour / a state of wild or chaotic activity.

As is clear from the definition above, there are many states of being we call madness. All of them appear in literature.

There is the madness of Miss Haversham in Great Expectations, obsessed with rejection, isolated, alone and determined to destroy all the love that she finds. That is a lonely type of emotion, developed from betrayal and an unwillingness to let go. Miss Haversham is a very selfish, self-centred character - if she hadn't been that way, maybe she could have moved on.

I've already spoken about folly, in a way another sense of madness, where we lose perspective and maybe do something silly, but something that, in TV anyway, leads to success. I'm not going to dwell on this one, but adrenaline junkies know what I'm talking about ;P.

Then there is the wild type of madness where, to the outside, a person can appear possessed. One cause could be the mania of manic depression, where the person feels like they can beat the world, that everything is possible and has to be done there and then. This is a very real condition, which can be followed by horrible dives into inactivity and depression. It is not the only reason for wild madness, though. This can come about through great joy, or obsession, how often have we seen the montage in TV and film of the protagonist working all night, possessed by the need to finish a creation, or get to the bottom of their research.

I think Emmet Brown from Back to the Future had a few of these episodes. He also falls into another category of 'madness' - the oddball eccentric. In the wrong conditions, no money, on the streets, this type of oddness can be seen as insanity, the bag lady muttering to herself as she ambles along the street, but when coddled by status, it's a safe, vaguely amusing thing. The best example of this I can recall off the top of my head is Aunt Imogen in Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland (played by Frances de la Tour), who is obsessed with the fiance who will never come. She's hopeful, she's focused, she's in denial, but her oddness is tolerated/ignored by a snootily embarrassed family.

And, of course, let's not forget the most famous nutter of them all, The Mad Hatter.

So, mad can be dangerous, laughable, inspiring and disturbing in equal measure and it doesn't always mean insanity. It's a tricky one, because it does cover such a large group of reactions, some brought about by a character's will and desires, others are rooted in true mental illness, and we do sometimes mix one with the other too freely causing stigma and misunderstanding. So, consider carefully what you mean when you say 'mad'.

QUESTION: Who's your favourite oddball eccentric - real, or fictional?

~

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28 comments:

  1. I have a habit of using mad in this way, and when I go back to edit, I usually remove it because I'm not sure how many other Americans would get the definition I'm using and be confused because they think mad = angry.

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    1. That's a good point - it's one of those words with multiple meanings, but some are more common than others in English usage :)

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  2. Now following your blog.

    Madness holds so many great possibilities for literature. As to a favorite oddball eccentric, I liked the way Johnny Depp portrayed Ed Wood in the movie of the same title. The guy was pretty weird according to the film's depiction of him.

    Arlee Bird
    A to Z Challenge Co-host
    Tossing It Out

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    1. I'd say Johnny Depp makes most of his living playing oddballs - everyone from Ed Wood to Jack Sparrow :)

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  3. Oddball eccentrics are some of the most interesting people in the world today!

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  4. Gene Wilder as Willa Wonka was a bit eccentric :)

    betty

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    1. I just rewatched that on Sunday, as it was on the telly - I do like his Wonka :)

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  5. Everyone likes an oddball, I think. True mental illness is much more challenging to write or read about.

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    1. Yes, true mental illness is a difficult subject to tackle. I would want to do a lot of research before I attempted to write a person with a specific diagnosis.

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  6. I've always been fond of the portrayal of Mozart in Amadeus. Who knows if he was really like that though. Also, pretty much any Tim Burton and Johnny Depp pairing. ;)

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    1. Mozart's image has definitely been shaped by history - I wonder what people will think of Michael Jackson, or Elvis Presley, or Madonna in a couple of hundred years time - will film make any difference, or distort our view of personality even more, I wonder.

      And yes, Tim and Johnny always end up with eccentric characters (on and off screen perhaps) ;P

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  7. Madness of any kind can be challenging to write.

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    1. You have to be very sure of your character to get it right - I think sometimes people forget that even someone acting under a delusion has reasons for what they are doing.

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  8. I'm a Psycn nurse, so there's no end to the madness I've seen. Truly.

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    1. That is an admirable profession - I am very grateful to the nurses in the mental health ward at our local hospital - they were fantastic with my aunt when she was dying from vascular dementia.

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  9. No one ever believes me when I say I think Batman is just as crazy as the Joker... It's just a different kind of crazy :D

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

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  10. My favorite mad character is the Joker. Especially when Heath Ledger played him. Nothing is more mad than that. I also like Jack from The Shinning. Funny how Jack Nicholson played both parts. Jared Leto is playing the Joker now in Suicide Squad. That'll be interesting...

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    1. I do like Jack Nicholson's Joker - I didn't like Heath Ledger's Joker, but then that whole movie didn't sit right with me. ::shrug::

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  11. My favorite is the Mad Man with A Box, The Doctor.
    He is quite eccentric, but cool at the same time.

    --
    Tim Brannan, The Other Side Blog
    2015 A to Z of Vampires
    http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/

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  12. Eccentric people can be very entertaining, whether reading a book or watching them in movies. Gene Wilder is a good example and so is Woody Allen. I love them both.

    Sunni
    http://sunni-survivinglife.blogspot.com/

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  13. There's so many mad characters that I love. For example, I love all the crazy characters in the Kill Bill movies.

    Precious Monsters

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    1. They are a special kind of crazy! ;P

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  14. When someone or character is doing something in front of your face, but then denies it, Then continues to do it causes me the feeling of madness. :)
    http://sytiva.blogspot.com/

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