Monday, June 14, 2010

In Which I Share A Favorite Term

So when I was messing around with duotrope, looking for submissions options, I came across my favorite term.

Unheimlich.

I discovered this awesome term a few years ago. Loved it immediately. Then promptly forgot all about it.

heimlich means roughly "familiar" so unheimlich is the unfamiliar, uncanny.

BUT heimlich can also mean "concealed" or "obscure" so unheimlich can also mean "the revealed".

In horror unheimlich is that moment we experience as being uncanny - akin to seeing something unseen. When we’re forced to reinterpret everything we understood in light of new knowledge.

Freud comments that a sense of the unheimlich is “often and easily produced when the distinction between imagination and reality is effaced, as when something that we have hitherto regarded as imaginary appears before us in reality, or when a symbol takes over the full functions of the thing it symbolizes"



I love dealing with the unheimlich in my short stories. I think short stories are the perfect medium to explore things that normally aren't unusual or frightening, but with a little twist can be scary.

So what about you? Do you have any favorite terms? Or favorite themes you like to explore in your writing?

27 comments:

Ted Cross said...

I seem to be heavily into simplicity. I always make the 'good guys' prefer simplicity, i.e. no fancy clothes, no ostentatious designs on their equipment, simple hilts on their swords, etc. Only the bad guys like frippery in my worlds!

Christi Goddard said...

I've read this a couple of times, and all I can do is wonder what the unheimlich maneuver would look like.

Falen said...

Ted - interesting!

Christi - Ha! I do too!

Palindrome said...

Honestly, I have no idea. I don't ever think about that when I'm writing but afterwards, I tend to notice I focus on the psyche a lot. I don't know. I'm not very good at noticing trends in my own work.

Lola Sharp said...

Hannah just wrote exactly what I wanted to say.

(thank you Hannah)

But for some reason I feel like someone just reached around my body and squeezed, and I hacked up a chunk....all maneuvered and stuff.

Happy Monday!

JustineDell said...

When I saw that word, all I could think about was the heimlich manuver (not sure if I spelled that right).

I noticed a repeative theme in my romance - I tend to write about "reunion romances." All three books I've writter are reunion type. Maybe I should branch out? ;-)

~JD

DEZMOND said...

I believe it's a German term. We love Freud as well :))
Who is the poor fella in the pic? :)

Zoe C. Courtman said...

Ah, the unheimlich. I first came across that a while ago when reading HOUSE OF LEAVES. That entire BOOK felt unheimlich :D

Erica Mitchell-Spickard said...

I really am trying to answer your end post questions but I'm too caught up in the visual of the heimlich posters I've seen in random places and how the unheimlich works? Do you let them just...choke? That would be uncanny right? Ahhh, Freud... :D

Falen said...

Palindrome - i didn't start noticing trends in my writing until a few years ago. And they tend to pop up more in my short stories than novels

Lola - HA! Also, gross

Justine - i dunno if you have to force yourself to branch out. I think when you're ready to explore a new theme, it will just come to you

Dez - it is indeed German. And i found that photo on a geo-caching website. The group just randomly found it. So weird

Zoe - YES! That is a perfect example! I love that book, but also i think it destroyed me a bit

Erica - we should really come up with something. It's either letting them choke, or saving them from choking in a different manner (instead of shoving the food out, it gets sucked out? GROSS!!!!)

Teebore said...

@Christi: all I can do is wonder what the unheimlich maneuver would look like.

The sudden inhalation of a ton of food, maybe?

I like "schadenfreude" ("those Germans have a word for everything...") and "veritable plethora", amongst others. I'm actually working on a "favorite words" blog post.

In terms of recurring themes, the two I always come back to are the role of destiny/fate in life and characters' responses to that, and male/male and male/female friendships.

Watery Tart said...

LOVE the term, though I confess that my first image was using an evil eye to make somebody CHOKE, since I speak no German and my most common use of Heimlich is the maneuver to STOP people from choking...

Still... the use with horror, when things are suddenly 'unobscured'--very nice!

Eric W. Trant said...

"... when a symbol takes over the full functions of the thing it symbolize."

This point got me. My first book hinged on Pagan beliefs. A symbol means one thing to one person, something different to another.

For instance, the Peace Sign.

For most of the world, it is the overlapped naval flag symbols for N and D, meaning Nuclear Disarmament.

But for me, I see the Pagan sign of strength and protection -- the Algiz -- inverted, and with a circle around it for added power.

I'm not Pagan, but I see a VERY powerful Pagan witchcraft hex of defeat and weakness tattooed for all to see, and in many ways worship.

So, I suppose favorite themes would be this: Irony.

How ironic, eh, that we cast a genuine Pagan spell on ourselves and our children, and how ironic if the devil ever came to call on it.

- Eric

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I'm a plethora of big words!

Southpaw said...

Oooo, a new word!

Emily White said...

I tend to write about the struggles between good and evil. For this reason, I often make the villain my POV character. It's interesting because the villain doesn't usually know he's the bad guy.

Falen said...

Teebore - ooh i LOVE schadenfreude - but it's one of those words that i always forget the definition for and then have to go look it up again as a reminder

Tart - yeah i think it was for most of us

Eric - ooh irony. That is a good theme.

Alex - HA!

Southpaw - i love learning new words!

Emily - those are the best villains, hands down. Robin Hobb does terrible villains like that. They're rapists and horrible people but you LOVE them.

Printhis said...

I really like your blog! I'm a new author and have enjoyed this new experience. I find that it's the most difficult and most rewarding. I'm also a graphic designer and love having that creative outlet as well.
Thanks for your post! I will be back for more updates. :-)

Melissa Nielsen
frommysomewhatseriousmind.blogspot.com www.printhis.biz

Anne said...

stupid Blogger ate my comment!

And now it feels obsolete after all these other comments.
so let me write something new

let's see...something new...something new

if i were a writer, i bet my themes would revolve around redemption. Well, at least those are the stories i like to read about the most, and tend to be my fave characters (Gaara, Anubis, Zuko- the list goes on)

Falen said...

Anne - hells yeah! Redemption is indeed super awesomesauce. I need to use it more often, though i think Quill's personal theme and conflict is Redemption

Shannon O'Donnell said...

What an interesting post, Falen! I've never heard of unheimlich before - love it! :-)

Falen said...

Shannon - i think i squeed when i found it again.

DL Hammons said...

A common theme I find myself revisiting time and again is the fallibility of first impressions.

Anne said...

Yeah Quill's got some pretty good redemption
But i would need it turned up a lot more personally- or she'd need to be a 'bad guy' (which she obviously isn't)
but yeah- i thought about that too

Shannon said...

Love learning new words! I like it!

Falen said...

DL -ooh! That is an interesting theme!

Anne - yeah i gotcha.

Shannon - yeah me too!

AchingHope said...

I love that word :D

Ooh, ooh, you do that in your story that you let me read that I will e-mail you about sometime. :D

And for some reason this comment loves smileys :D

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...