1. Ettina
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    Ettina Active Member

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    Culture-dependent interpretations of insanity

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Ettina, Dec 8, 2011.

    OK, in one story, I'm trying to write good guys who worship an Eldritch Abomination god. Basically, they appease it and convince it not to devour their world, and the contact with it warps their minds but also gives them magical powers. These people, called monks, are basically the elite of their society. Only certain people can become monks as most people would simply die if they had too much contact with this god, and the features that make someone monk material are mostly genetic. So the families that have a lot of monk relatives become the powerful families that run their society.

    Anyway, most monks have significant issues, similar to the features of real life mental illness mixed with brain injury. They have a range of functioning, since every individual differs in how well they can cope with the transformation. But most of them have some degree of hallucinations, find that they have involuntary movements as well as inability to do certain movements voluntarily, and other issues. As a result, it's standard for monks to have assistants following them everywhere to help them cope.

    The protagonists are a set of fraternal twins from a desperately poor family. The one boy passed the test to become a monk, the first one in his family to do so in ages. His brother has been hired to be his assistant (it's common for monks to pick someone they're close to, because it's believed they deal with the transformation better if a loved one is with them). They're sort of going through culture shock, because even though they live in the same society they've had very little to do with monks before due to the vast class divide between their family and typical monks. I'm sort of using them as stand-ins for our society in some ways, because they have far more personal experience with disabled people (eg 'kicked in the head by a horse', that sort of thing) than with monks, and they never realized monks have similar issues, such as the fact that some monks wear diapers. I'll be showing this from both the trainee monk's perspective and from his brother's perspective.

    Anyway, I'm wondering how much of the typical emotional process of dealing with a loved one changing so much would be affected by society's view that this change is a good thing. The protagonists have befriended some kids who were raised for the roles of monk and assistant from childhood, and these two will find the process much less upsetting than the protagonists do. But I don't think it would be a completely smooth adjustment even for them once they're dealing with the reality of monk life. Any ideas?
     
  2. Froggy
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    Froggy Member

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    I can't speak as to how this kind of change would 'normally' be observed, but i have a few questions that might be worth looking at to clarify the situation a bit....

    - does he want to be a monk? why?
    - is the brother jealous?
    - did they have a choice?
    - is there class prejudice and different treatment by the monks, or automatic acceptance?
    - how come the other brother didn't pass the test?


    - are you seriously planning on making one of them insane and the other has to watch?
    having a twin myself, i absolutely hate the idea ----> am not going to read your story unless they learn what they can and then go on to escape and overthrow the entire religious structure. oh, and without going completely insane thankyouverymuch.
     
  3. Ettina
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    Ettina Active Member

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    No, he's terrified of the idea, but it could help his family so much that refusing the chance would be like a person on welfare winning the lottery and refusing to take the money.

    No, he's just as freaked out by the idea of being a monk as his brother is. He feels lucky and guilty that it's his brother instead of him doing it.

    Technically, yes. But given their economic situation, there was only one choice really acceptable to him.

    There is some class prejudice. Not in the sense of being mean to the twins, but more in the sense of seeing them as a curiosity and not really understanding them. Like William Shatner's song Common People. Some of the rich characters say hurtful things, but not meaning them to be hurtful - they just have so little understanding of poor people that they don't realize how offensive they're being.

    They are fraternal twins. The one brother basically won the genetic lottery, so to speak. Given his ancestry, it's about one in a million that he'd get the right mix of genes to be a monk, and his brother got a different mix of genes.

    Then I guess my story isn't for you.

    They're not going to overthrow the system. Although it's not pretty, if there weren't monks their god would eat their world (it still will eventually, but they've convinced it to wait by constantly giving it offerings).

    And not having the one boy go insane would take away all the fun of writing the story. But don't worry, he and his brother will find a way to cope. Being insane isn't all bad, after all. Kind of one of the most important themes of this story.
     
  4. Froggy
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    Froggy Member

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    Well, I hope you let some good stuff happen to them too ;)

    Just a thought, if the monks are technically insane, could it be their assistants wielding the actual power in society?
     

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