Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Anatomy of a Horror Setting #17: Like an Open Book

People put on airs, hide behind facades and are a mix of layers that have varying amounts of transparency, even when "viewed" from the inside. What happens when all of the obfuscation is ripped away? What happens when a complete stranger knows more about a person than the person knows about themselves? There's a quintessential quote that says roughly if we knew what everyone around us was thinking would we go crazy or would we be driven to kill each other. Sort of sounds like go crazy or go crazy. Of course such a simplification doesn't indicate when this obviously involuntary sharing of thoughts occurs and seems to be predicated on this situation's sudden appearance. Even then it's hard to justify the results suggested.

There is fertile horror fodder here to be sure though. Looking back to the previous two articles about breaking the horror with too great a body of evidence and too much information there is something of an inverse situation that is possible without harming the mood and theme of the "story" being told. This inversion does though hinge on its own kind of limitation despite that it is breaking out of the mould of the previous limitations. Not just any character can be allowed the wealth of details. This free reign of facts is best left to a singular antagonist in the setting, a sole villain. Horror beyond the obvious frightening images and the moods of unease, gloom, and darkness is about being overwhelmed, outpaced, desperate, and being on the losing side of the odds.

Enter the villain that knows more about the hero than what the hero will ever know about the villain. The element of surprise is the best weapon in any encounter, but is even more pivotal for turning the tide of an uneven encounter. Beyond knowing the hero's past, what kind of person they are, whom they associate with, and other details of the present, what happens when the villain knows the hero's future, what they will do, when they will do it, and even a hint of the result? This must have a limit too, but it can be pretty open ended. The future is always fluid and no sense of it could ever be infallible. Subtlety is an absolute requirement here, but such a scenario could be plenty horrific. It's another possible important if limited proposition in a psychic versus psychic tale.

Mood: level.
Music: The Reckoning by Iced Earth and Archetype by Fear Factory.

Iced Earth: The Glorious Burden (Ltd Ed)
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Fear Factory: Archetype

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