Monday, June 26, 2017

Character Types: The Emotionless One

If you’re wondering why I haven’t posted the past two Sundays, you can read all about my reasons in my latest newsletter for last Sunday (River of Books; sign up for the Word Storm Newsletter here!). This Sunday, I was having technological problems. I couldn’t connect my computer to the internet at all.  Now, I’m back! *waves*

I hope you are having as much fun reading these character posts as I am writing them! They may be challenging thus far, but I really, really, really like character analysis. This week, I’m here to talk about yet another one of my favorite characters—The Emotionless One. They may not be the easier character to empathize with considering they tend to be absolute jerks, but they’re simultaneously fascinating.

Note: The Emotionless One is not to be confused with The Brooding Boyfriend or The Compulsive Liar, though they may overlap at times.

“‘It must be because you’re so approachable,’ I say flatly.
‘You know. Like a bed of nails.’”
(Tris, Divergent)

A few examples of The Emotionless One include but are not limited to Sherlock Holmes (Sherlock Holmes collection by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle), Spock (Star Trek, the original series and the latest movies), and Jahan, son of Elam (Last of the Memory Keepers by yours truly). Here are just a couple of the traits they tend to exhibit.

 They’re often misunderstood.

Okay, before you start telling me that’s just an excuse, here me out. A lot of times, people—even readers—jump to conclusions before they get to know a character. One of the main reasons Sherlock didn’t have a lot of friends (aside from the fact that he was a jerk) is that few people took the time to really listen. Mrs. Hudson needed boarders, and Lestrade needed Sherlock’s help, but it wasn’t until John took the time to listen that Sherlock found a best friend.

John: That… was amazing… It was quite extraordinary.
Sherlock: That’s not what people normally say.
John: What do people normally say?
Sherlock: “**** off”.
(Sherlock, “A Study in Pink”)

 They tend to lack social skills.

Sherlock can deduce a person’s occupation and personal habits but doesn’t always recognize when he’s being cruel. Jahan is perhaps the exception, as he can empathize well with other people.

Bones: You could at least act like it was a hard decision.
Spock: I intend to assist in the effort to reestablish communication with Starfleet. However, if crew morale is better served by my roaming the halls weeping, I will gladly defer to your medical expertise. Excuse me.
Bones: [as Spock leaves] Green-blooded hobgoblin.
(Star Trek)

Things that are obvious to everybody else are not obvious to them.

Sherlock doesn’t know the earth revolved around the sun or that England doesn’t currently have a king. Jahan can be incredibly naïve when it comes to his family and overly secretive when it comes to his friends.

John: But it’s the solar system!
Sherlock: Oh! How? What does that matter? So we go ’round the sun. If we went ’round the moon or round and round the garden like a teddy bear it wouldn’t make any difference. All that matters to me is the work. Without that my brain rots. Put that in your blog. Or better still, stop inflicting your opinions on the world.
(Sherlock, “The Blind Banker”)

They’re incredibly smart in some areas.

Sherlock can deduce a lot in one glance and only takes cases that are intellectually stimulating. Spock was accepted to the Vulcan Science Academy (yet declined admission), designed the Kobayashi Maru test, and even quotes Sherlock Holmes. And while Jahan may not express emotions, he is good at discerning them.

Sherlock: What is it like in your funny little brains? It must be so boring!
(Sherlock, “A Study in Pink”)

They’re not always emotionless. Sometimes they just process emotions differently.

A recent trend within the film industry has been to give The Emotionless One at least one instance when show some form of extreme emotion. Sherlock is often overprotective of John; Spock nearly strangles Kirk; et cetera. While many of these extreme displays of emotion from The Emotionless One are often criticized, that doesn’t mean these characters are completely unfeeling.

However, while Sherlock may have been overtly emotional in the BBC adaptation, there is only one instance that comes to my mind when he showed fear in the books after John got shot. Spock, on the other hand, is half-human, half-Vulcan, giving him some of the characteristics of both. Likewise, most of Jahan’s reactions are internal.

Sarek: Emotions run deep within our race. In many ways, more deeply than in Humans. Logic offers a serenity Humans seldom experience. The control of feelings, so that they do not control you.
Spock: You suggest that I should be completely Vulcan, and yet you married a Human. 
Sarek: As ambassador to Earth, it is my duty to observe and understand Human behavior. Marrying your mother was logical. Spock, you are fully capable of deciding your own destiny. The question you face is: which path will you choose? This is something only you can decide.
(Star Trek)

Anybody else notice what else I might have described in this post? And before you say a psychopath or even a high functioning sociopath, think really hard.

If you picked autism, you would be correct.

However, it’s important to differentiate between the terms and their characteristics. Personally, I would not label autistic characters as emotionless. They may process emotions differently, but they are far from unfeeling. If anything, they feel deeper than others.

Often times, the main issue with The Emotionless One is that they’re just labeled emotionless without the author really delving into why. When Doyle wrote the Sherlock Holmes stories, autism was relatively undiscovered, so we may never know if his famous detective was autistic or sociopathic. It doesn’t help that Doyle really didn’t care about accuracy either. While the modern BBC adaptation tries to explore the traits of a high functioning sociopath, it’s not entirely accurate. There’s even one point where John suggests Sherlock has autism. I’m sorry, but pick ONE. They are not the same.

When writing or examining The Emotionless One, there are generally different reasons for their lack of emotion:

1) Their mental processing is different.

·       E.g. Sociopaths.
·       E.g. Vulcans. As a nonhuman race, the Vulcans think in a very different manner from the humans. As a result, they often come across as being arrogant and emotionless. Their traits are also cultural (see below).

2) It’s cultural.

·       E.g. Germany. Believe it or not, the Germans often come across as very stoic. They’re seen as lacking in a sense of humor and being incredibly critical because they state things the way they are.
·       Lightning Wielders. In their culture, showing emotions to people outside of their immediate family and/or close friends is considered very rude. Hence, Jahan comes off having no emotions, until he befriends Rhona.

Rhona: “I am not emotional.” 
Jahan: “No. You’re passionate. There’s nothing shameful in it.”
(Last of the Memory Keepers)

3) It’s personal.

·       There are many different reasons for hiding emotions, the primary one in fiction being a survival technique. In some cases, showing emotion can be seen as a sign of weakness, so as a defense mechanism, the characters learn to adapt. Developing a poker face can also be a helpful trick for con artists and thieves.

Other examples of The Emotionless One not discussed in this post include Tempi (The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss) and Wong (Doctor Strange). Such characters are perhaps some of the most difficult to understand, which only makes them more fascinating.


Film references: Star Trek, 2009

Literary references: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes collection, Patrick Rothfuss’ The Wise Man’s Fear, Azelyn Klein’s Last of the Memory Keepers, and Veronica Roth’s Divergent.

Let’s chat! Who is your favorite emotionless character? Which do you think could have been written better? Which of the three reasons for a “lack of emotion” would you like to see more in fiction? 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

8 Obscure Books I Thoroughly Enjoyed

I’ve got a thing for obscure books. There are plenty of occasions when I tell a friend about the book I’m reading only to hear, “I’ve never heard of that one.” In some ways, it’s nice. Without the influence of my friends or of the masses, I can form my own opinions on the books. But in other ways, it’s annoying. If I really enjoy the book, I may feel like it’s not getting the attention it deserves. And how am I supposed to talk to anybody about it if nobody has read it?

The following books are organized by the authors’ last names.

Reading Flatland with a three-dimensional bookmark.

Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions by Edwin A. Abbott

I heard about this book as a kid, and the concepts fascinated me. But it took years before I discovered it again and was finally able to add it to my To Be Read (TBR) List. During a creative writing class in college, a local author came to discuss her own book (see below), and she talked about how she found this book to be an inspiration. Part discussion on mathematics and the dimensions, part social critique, Flatland is narrative that explores the life of a square, from the second dimension (i.e. Flatland), and what becomes of him when he discovers the presence of the other dimensions.

The Shifter by Chris T. Acadian

When Acadian came to talk to my creative writing class about her book, I became really excited. Not just about Flatland but also out The Shifter, a story about people who can slip into the fourth dimension. The writing style and the plot is quite unique, unlike any story I’ve read yet, and the concepts are fascinating! I’m still eagerly awaiting the release of the next book…

Season of Wonder (Remnants, book 1) by Lisa T. Bergren

I first discovered Bergren’s works when I first picked up Waterfall, and it didn’t take long for me to get sucked into the story. Unlike the River of Time series, however, Season of Wonder and the accompanying Remnants books focus less on an epic, whirlwind romance and more on what the spiritual realm might look like in a fantasy/dystopian society. This trilogy has to be my favorite of Bergren’s works.

The Naming (Books of Pellinor, book 1) by Alison Croggon

While I do have a couple friends who have read this book, I feel like the series as a whole is not talked about nearly enough. Croggon develops a unique world and magic system with a Tolkien-esque complexity, and I definitely wouldn’t mind doing more research to find out where her influence comes from. Once a fantasy quadrilogy, now a series of five with the release of the latest prequel, The Bone Queen, the Books of Pellinor contain beautiful scenery and epic adventures. I would recommend starting with The Naming (UK, The Gift).   

Methuselah’s Gift by Mary Elizabeth Edgren

When asked which book has influenced me most as a writer, I cannot give an accurate response. After all, every book has made me who I am as a reader and a writer, and that’s constantly changing considering how much I read. But if I were to pick one book from my childhood that first showed me the joys of reading and writing, it would be Methuselah’s Gift. A charming tale about talking racoons and their adjustment to life on the other side of the creek after a forest fire, this book was among the first that drew me to writing.

In the Palace of Rygia (The Alliance, book 1) by L. Nicodemus Lyons

I received the first book in this series in exchange for an honest review and knew I was hooked. So my mom bought me the rest of the series, and I read all seven in two weeks, part of which was during midterms. Not only are the books captivating, but they are full of good themes, a smidge of humor, and lots of research. I also had the privilege to meet the author, who has become one of my good writing friends.

Where the Woods Grow Wild by Nathan Philbrick

Another indie book with wonderful writing style, Philbrick creates a world with a familiar setting but with a unique twist. Full of well-developed characters, witty remarks, and seemingly impossible struggles, Where the Woods Grow Wild is a must read for fans of fantasy. It’s also a great story in that it addresses what it’s like to live with a physical disability and to know somebody with one.

By Darkness Hid (Blood of Kings, book 1) by Jill Williamson

If there is any series that I most associate with bookworm cramps from being immobile all day, it’s this one. Even though each book is nearly 500 pages long, I read the entire trilogy in four days. Part of it was because I had nothing else to do, and part of it was because the characters and their quest was so captivating, I couldn’t put the books down. This is perhaps one of the first books I’ve read on my e-reader, and considering I still prefer physical books, it speaks to the trilogy’s quality.


Similar posts: Treasured Books and Book Reviews: The Shifter, In the Palace of Rygia, and Season of Wonder 

Let’s chat! Have you read any of the above books? Have any been added to your TBR List yet? What are some obscure books you enjoyed? 

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Poem: Cathedral

Over the past couple of years, since I’ve visited many cathedrals and written various poems, I wanted to write a poem that captured my emotions. But poetry doesn’t come for the asking. Sometimes it comes in spurts. If I force it, it sounds terrible.

So I waited, biding my time, until this poem came to me. I can’t say it embodies one particular building or experience, but a combination of them all. The two it most reminds me of are Notre Dame de Paris and Ulm Münster, two very different, gothic pieces of architecture. 


The people, like grains of sand
blow through the halls of stone,
like scattered dust amid solid,
gray rock. Sunlight streams
through the chinks of colored
windows, warming some grains
while others go untouched
in shadow, and others yet hide
amid the cracks of rock
ne’er to move despite where
the wind blows and seeps
through the halls, causing the sand
to dance across this ancient earth.


Similar posts: Bury Me and The Muse

Let’s chat! What did you think of the poem? If you’ve ever set foot in a cathedral, what was your first experience like? What is one of your favorite cathedrals to visit?