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» The Ornery American Forum » Ornery Writers Workshop » "Evil is a Relative" (formerly "Couched") by KE

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Author Topic: "Evil is a Relative" (formerly "Couched") by KE
KnightEnder
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This thread is for the discussion and critique of "Evil is a Relative" by KE.


I have a couple of questions for those of you who read "Couched". First this is just a working title and I am considering others, but I think if I use anything that says Satan it will take away from the story. Any ideas?

"Couched" is a play on words because of the classical psychoanalysis goes on on a 'couch', and the story is about the Devil but 'couched' in modern terms. I hate coming up with titles.

Also, I decided against a couple of paragraphs that would have referenced topical issues:

(When he is discussing working for his dad.)

"Have you considered working in other areas?"

"Well, I dabble in politics, back a few politicians, in fact some of the denser ones even think they are being endorsed by my father."

And there was one that poked fun at the French being 'evil'.

But I think it would 'date' the story. I guess I'm being arrogant but as it is it will still be as relevant in fifty years as it is now. I don't know why that matters to me but it does. What do y'all think?

KE

[ May 17, 2005, 09:45 AM: Message edited by: KnightEnder ]

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KnightEnder
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Special thanks to Dave at Work and Stayne for giving me advice that gave me the impetus to write "Couched".

KE

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stayne
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It's a good setup, but it has only your main political point. You want a _story_ that turns on a political idea, which means you must feed this skeleton. There is SO much fun you can have with this. Don't leave it as _merely_ a political thing: you can make it _propaganda_. [Wink]

Ok, bunch of thoughts in random order, ranging from questions to suggestions:

Even if god _is_ a clod, that does _not_ mean Satan is not still a lying, mean spirited, back stabbing weasel, and people have a lot invested in that myth. He could be more Loki and less Lucifer, but some of the magic goes away if he's really just an ordinary guy.

Kind of similar point, I want something more of the 'diabolical' in there, or I don't feel like I'm getting a real 'story about the devil'. There should be a mysterious brimstone smell in the room. (Perhaps the doctor thinks his patient is passing gas?) and the room should get uncomfortably hot, for example. And IMO, especially since you're trying to have him come off as (at least) a less than _wicked_ figure, you should play hard to the stereotype early on, and peel it back as you go. Maybe he's a real prick to start with, and is crying like a baby at the end? Maybe he thought to come here and get over on the shrink, and ends up getting analyzed despite himself? You could even have him red skinn, horns, and a tail, and later on he admits he only goes around like that because he has a complex and feels like he has to, and he changes into a normal suit.

Is there a reason the doc can't be Freud himself? Then you could have the devil in liederhosen! Liederhosen are very amusing in and of themselves. [Wink] That would also solve your 'dating' problem. If you set it in the past at some identifiable point in history, then it will never 'age' away.

If Satan is so resentful of the 'new family', why is he visiting a human shrink? If he is still a trickster, if not outright malicious, he might have something up his sleeve. Like perhaps influencing the next patient on the good doctor's list? Perhaps you could build toward that, revealing at the end that this Doctor also treats some very powerful people like George Bush, or Putin? [Wink] But that conflicts with the 'no dating'. Maybe there is a powerful histoprical figure who worked in conjunction with a famous shrink that you could work in.

Instead of Satan spelling it out for him, it would be interesting to see the shrink lose his composure as he starts to realize who he is dealing with. Or, alternatively, if there is something 'deeper', and Satan is trying to influence the Doctor so as to spread his own version, the doc may never realize it, even though we all do.

You should try it with an angel as well. And then you should try it with Satan pretending to be an angel. [Wink]

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KnightEnder
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The doctor really is Freud, I guess I need to make that clearer.

I'm not really sure what the point of it was but I guess it was that he is asking Freud because Freud historically blames things on the parents and he wants someone to put the blame on God.

And I think he doesn't see the humans that come to Hell as the problem. They are more like him. And I think Freud would end up in Hell.

And I'm not trying to say God is evil here just that there are two sides to every story. I hoped by showing that the Devil still longed for God's love that God wasn't evil. Maybe I was being too subtle?

As for the other suggestions I really appreciate it and I'll work on it and let you know. Thanks for the critique.

[ May 13, 2005, 03:09 PM: Message edited by: KnightEnder ]

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RickyB
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Hey KE, I'm having mail problems. Can you send a copy to rechavia@walla.co.il ?

Thanks.

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KnightEnder
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Done. Do you want them sent there from now on? And do you want me to edited that email addy off the board? I can do at at anytime since I don't have a time limit on when to edit on OWW. Let me know.

KE

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stayne
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Lol, then you _have_ to have the Devil in liederhosen, man!

I also totally missed the idea that Freud was hellbound.

[quote]And I'm not trying to say God is evil here just that there are two sides to every story. I hoped by showing that the Devil still longed for God's love that God wasn't evil. Maybe I was being too subtle?[quote]

Well, I come to the story with the expectation that the prince of lies is up to something nefarious, and I think you will find the vast majority of readers will, too. Satan is a cultural icon. So the biggest problem you're going to have is that the reader is simply not going to trust him and what he says. They are going to be sifting through for subtext, trying to figure out what his game is. I can only think of a few ways to combat that, and really only one that _works_ in my mind: give them the stereotypical satan and deconstruct him with Freud. "Vy are you so angry? Is there a reason you feel driven to do evil?" "Yes, yes, ok, it was my father!" "Tell me about your fader...vas he, hmm, domineering?" [Wink] And there is humor in even the devil having issues that Freud gets out in the open.

You realize what you've done now? I have to write a story about the devil, too, and I was right in the middle of something else. I think I'll go the opposite tack of yours, and do 'what happens when the atheist dies and winds up in hell', and call it 'Losing Pascal's Wager' or some such. I have some good ideas on it already!

You know, maybe _everyone_ could do a devil story? Interesting excercise.

[ May 13, 2005, 03:41 PM: Message edited by: stayne ]

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Pete at Home
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KE, I haven't finished it yet, but I have the impulse to stop and tell you that this story is a delight. More to come.
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KnightEnder
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Pete, Couched or POTF?

KE

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KnightEnder
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Stayne,

I was thinking about what you said and what if I made the point of it that Satan wants Freud to rhetroactively write a book that Satan's minions alive on Earth will "find", saying that God failed Satan as a father and that Satan really isn't evil or a liar but an abused child? That Satan wants this so he can get people to trust him and convert them to his cause, etc. Maybe he tries to convince Freud that this is the case and has Freud psychoanalysis him to prove to Freud that he was actually an abused child. Appeal to Freud's vanity, "if anyone would no and couldn't be fooled it would be the father of psychoanalysis." Maybe entice Freud by offering him that woman he loved (I'll have to research as I've forgotten her name) or take the pain away from the cancer. Didn't Freud use cocaine for the pain? I still need to work out the details but that is where I'm going for now.

KE

[ May 13, 2005, 10:13 PM: Message edited by: KnightEnder ]

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stayne
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KE, that's cooking with gas. What if he actually turns the tables and convinces Satan he _was_ an abused child? Freud gets over on Satan and God with psychoanalysis! Dude, you could let it ramble on through the evolution of psychology, end it up with God and Satan in a group session trying to explain their 'feelings'. God and Satan on Springer. That could be hilarious!
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halfhaggis
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I think Stayne's suggestions are pretty good. Definitely follow them up because the concept of the story is good, but it does lack a little atmosphere.

My only suggestion to add to his is try to reveal the true identity of Satan later in the text. I figured it out when Luc refers to having been an angel, which I think is way too soon. It made me think - why hasn't Sigmund figured it out yet? Is he an idiot?

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KnightEnder
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Thanks halfhaggis, I am vacilating. My original idea when writing it was to have the reader realize it was Satan at the end so it would throw a whole knew dimension into what they just read. I was worried about the 'angel' remark, which is why I didn't capitalize 'Angel', as it should have been. I was hoping that little cheat would have been enough. I guess I'll have to rearrange it.

Stayne, you should do an over the top liederhosen and horns version of the story. I don't think I could do it very well. I have a hard time writing comedy.

Also, do the rest of you think that Freud's accent should be more noticeable in his speech or could I get away with saying he has an accent? Remember I'm attempting to keep the question of is he or isn't he 'really' Freud until almost the end of the story. Help.

KE

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Pete at Home
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Couched is the one I read. I think I'd have enjoyed it more if you'd dragged out the more obvious clues. The subtler ones are the ones I enjoyed the most. The devil is most frightening when he's most like us.

I've deliberately not read the other comments so that you'll see what my first understanding was. Maybe I'll see that I totally misread it.

Did you ever see the mid-1990s show "Brimstone"? Do they ever play that on Cable? Only lasted 13 episodes, but quite amazing. Can't buy it anywhere, but I recorded some of them on video. Definitely the most entertaining portrait of the devil -- and the devil makes a number of comments that play on the same sort of psychological father-son issues.

I got that Freud was in hell (still in the old clothes from his time), but I think there's more you could play with on that side of things. What's life for Freud like in hell, and how does he manage to stave off recognizing the fact that he is in hell? (Here, CS Lewis' "The Great Divorce" might have some ideas, though you could take it much further.) Who are some of Freud's regular clients in hell?

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KnightEnder
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I loved "Brimstone", I wish they hadn't cancelled it. Thanks for the the advice I will see what I can come up with.

KE

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KnightEnder
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I have a question for those of you that have read it so far; Do y'all think Sigmund should have a disernable accent? Or does that give away the fact that he really is Sigmund Freud to soon? And in this version of the story I am going for subtlety, and I worry that the accent would might come off as too campy? (Too be avoided at all cost, in this version.)

I'm going to be mailing this off to the magazine I hope will publish it in the next couple of days, I was happy to find that they insist on receiving submissions via email. I wish the rest of the publishing industry would enter the twentyfirst century.

And I'm changing the title to "Evil is a Relative"

KE

[ May 17, 2005, 09:45 AM: Message edited by: KnightEnder ]

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hywer
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Nah, just say he has one. Immitating accents with text is difficult, and someone will know you're BS-ing it when you leave something out. Though, I suppose it doesn't REALLY matter if you're making it up because that's not the point of the story.

I agree with the above comments that you should take out any early reference to Luc's Satan-hood--it was fun to see it unfold.

Now for the dirty work...

This is a paragraph in the story, on the first page.
quote:
Sans his suit coat clad in a finely tailored pure white dress shirt adorned with gold cuff links that matched his slim gold watch the younger man walked to the settee beside the old psychiatrist and reclined into the classical patient pose.
It needs to be broken up with commas or periods. This is how I would do it.
quote:
Sans his suit coat, the younger man was clad in a finely tailored pure white dress shirt adorned with gold cuff links that matched his slim gold watch. He walked to the settee beside the old psychiatrist and reclined into the classical patient pose.
Watch for things like that, but there's not too many in this one. All in all, I found the story very enjoyable. [Smile] If I think of anything else, I'll let you know.
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halfhaggis
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I find that the most effective way to convey an accent in a serious manner is by using grammatical errors in the character's speech, instead of spellink ze vords like zis.
Also by making a careful choice of diction.
For example, I imagine Freud's english would be very formal, so avoid colloquialism when he's speaking.

An example of what I'd do when Freud speaks:
Instead of "So, you do work for him?" try "So, you work for him, yes?"
Just be careful not to change something too much so that Freud sounds more like a fool than foreign.

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halfhaggis
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Oh yes - I really like the new title. Clever
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Pete at Home
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Agreed -- new title is great.
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KnightEnder
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Thanks. I first thought "Blame is Relative" and then it evolved. I do my best thinking while falling asleep. Then I wake up and write it down so I don't forget. Stacy loves that.

KE

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KnightEnder
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I've edited it and mailed it off to The New Yorker. Anybody that wants to see the edited story (utilizing y'alls suggestions), let me know and I'll shoot you a copy. Thanks for all the help.

KE [Smile]

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