Tag Archives: fiction

Review: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (By Robert Louis Stevenson)

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 137 pages

My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

When London lawyer, John Gabriel Utterson, first sees Mr. Hyde, he’s struck by a sense of foreboding. He finds the infamous man as deplorable as the rumors state. And he hopes that he never has to lay eyes on him again. But fate has other plans. Dr. Jekyll, a respected man and Utterson’s good friend, refuses to share in Utterson’s disgust of Mr. Hyde. In fact, he seems to almost care about the strange, unlikeable creature. Strange events begin to unfold in the city and Utterson is inescapably pulled into them. At the heart of them all, he finds Mr. Hyde and Dr. Jekyll’s unrelenting support of the man being hunted by the entire city. As he is compelled to investigate further, he finds himself in the midst of a nightmare he’d believed unimaginable, and a reality that would challenge everything he’d ever believed in.

My take:

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is known for being one of the earlier works on the topic of split personalities. But the book is actually way more than that.

The book has a very archaic writing style and, with it, the charm of that style. It’s actually quite easy to read as long as you read it slowly and not in any rush. The prose will not leave you feeling overwhelmed or like you’re missing out on anything; in fact, it’s written in an incredibly enjoyable manner.

As a story, it isn’t exactly what I had expected. I was probably misled by the many adaptations of the book (which I’ve not watched/read but only heard about). So I kind of expected a book that begins with a murder and proceeds to the split personality angle. The book is nothing like that and that’s a good thing.

It’s a little difficult, to be honest, to explain how amazing this book is (because that would inevitably lead to spoilers). So, I’m going to focus instead on why this book is so good. The main reason is that The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is emotion in prose. The book has an eerie sense to it that stays with you as you read it. But, it also has this beautiful, profound sadness.

It touches upon topics like the duality of personality (which is very different from a split personality) really well and forces you to remain in thought long after it’s done. It talks about the contradiction that all of us are, within ourselves, and our ability to choose to be one over the other at varied times. And in a world where all of us are juggling so many different things that require us to be so many different things, the book and its emotion hit pretty hard.

Then there is the emotion you feel for the characters themselves. In a book as short as 137 pages (or even lesser, depending on the format and publisher), Stevenson manages to make readers truly associate with the people within his story. Whether they appear for one scene or carry the entire story, or whether they’re good or evil, you feel for each character. You share in their angst, their fight (often internal), and their decisions. As a result, you are left enjoying every single aspect of the book that really pulls you in from the get-go.

As a story itself, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is written in a mixture of retellings and present events. A lot of it is also written in the form of correspondence. It’s definitely not a linear murder mystery if, like me, that’s what you’re expecting. And I wouldn’t call it a horror either. But, it is definitely disturbing in certain ways, and even more so because those angles are a little too real. All in all, it is quite exceptional in its ability to evoke emotion of varied kinds, and in the way in which it makes you look within yourself.

I’d definitely recommend The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to:

  • all kinds of readers
  • people who haven’t really read classics (It’s a great classic that is easy to read even if you’re not a fan of classics)
  • fans of psychological thrillers, mysteries, and horrors (It’s a multi-genre book and would appeal to most genre fans)

Also, it seems that Dr. Jekyll is pronounced Jee-kal or Jee-kill and not Jek-ill (That was definitely a bit annoying to get used to).

What did you think of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? Let us know in the comments below!

– Rishika

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The world as your inspiration

The term ‘Inspiration’ has a lot of impact on the life of people who rely on their creativity to make a living – an author is just one subsection of the people who fall into this category. The reason that inspiration has such an impact is fairly simple. We need to create worlds with people and settings, chaos and peace, negatives and positives, love and hate, anger and laughter and life and death. But how does someone who’s never experienced love write about the emotion that drives their central character? How do you write about a man who is the living embodiment of sex appeal and righteousness if you don’t know anyone who has those qualities? How do you decide the warmth exuding features of your heroine if you don’t know anyone whose eyes sparkle like hers should? And how do you create a man so vile that a snake’s skin would crawl at the mere mention of his name if there is no one who instigates that fear in you?

That’s where inspiration comes in. You don’t need to know someone who has all the qualities of your protagonist or antagonist. Just one iota of similarity is often enough, and you can build an entire persona around that one characteristic. The same works with settings. All you need sometimes is a simple image of an ocean and you can create a world that is set around that very beachfront. Those scattered images help you create the world that your characters live in and the characters themselves. Those scattered images are the inspiration you need. So where do these images come from?

Everywhere!

I find my inspiration in places that others label as peculiar. The antagonist of a movie has a steely resolve that I can associate with my story’s protagonist, with some morals replacing the thirst for destruction of course! A fleeting expression of seriousness on a friend’s face becomes the look my protagonist portrays if he’s had a life that’s filled with hardships. The silent support I receive from a close friend becomes the inspiration for the defining characteristic of my supporting character.

Initially, you may have to look for these inspirations – these scattered images that define traits of your story and its people. But a time will come when the inspiration seeks you out. Where others see only a villain, you will see the circumstances that made him the villain, circumstances that you can alter to make them the past life of your hero. Where others see a delicate woman, you will see the beginning of a journey where situations instigate the weakness to turn into strength. And where others see a silent listener, a shoulder to cry on, you will see the makings of an unmoving friend who stands by your main characters through their thick and thin.

And when the inspiration screams and reaches out to you, for you to see what the others don’t, all you need to do is go with the flow. So sit back and look around and you’ll be finding inspiration in areas that would’ve otherwise been left unseen. Just make sure that you’re carrying a little notebook that can house all the ideas that come hurtling your way, because they can surely overwhelm you if you’re unprepared.

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All the fuss that is character development!

Every writer, whether published or not, has heard of the concept of character development until his ears are willing to fall off. Yes, your story has some protagonist. Yes, he looks a certain way. Yes, he’s supposed to behave a certain way. So why make all that fuss about something that’s so obvious?

The fuss stems from the very often seen lack of depth in character development. The characters of your book, like the real people in your life, live in a world that cannot be looked at in black and white. They all live in a world coloured with various shades of grey. Like reality, their reactions to situations, their manner of speaking and every little aspect of their behaviour is a result of the circumstances around them and more importantly, the circumstances they’ve come from. It’s not necessary that your readers know their entire background story; it’s necessary that you know their entire background story. Your readers can piece together the background story from little references that crop up occasionally and the character’s reactions and behaviour. I read an interview by Gabe Robinson recently (he used to be an editor with HarperCollins and runs his own editorial services now so he probably knows what he’s talking about). He said that authors tend to spend a whole lot of words and pages on giving a narrative description of one of their characters upon entry of said character. If you write a book and, in it, tell me that your protagonist is tall with blue eyes, black hair and an amazing build, I’ll believe you. You go ahead to tell me he’s an insanely calm person until you say something not-so-nice about his wife or family, I’ll believe that too. If you go further to explain his entire back story and more or less, all the major incidents in his life that made him the way he is, I’ll believe you again. But the point is I’m not necessarily going to enjoy reading it. Robinson says that sometimes, a brief initial description coupled with instances that come up as the story progresses where the character reacts in certain ways paints a better character picture than an all out description.

I could go on and on about how characters can be depicted. In the end, you will have your preferred method; what matters is that the character stays the way he or she is. Some story lines require that characters change, but if the change itself is out of character, the story is going to falter. Sure there’s an instigating factor that causes a change – but that change cannot be one that is dramatically different form everything the character is.

Ensuring that your characters react like anyone would in reality is easy – bring your characters to life, at least in your mind. When I wrote my first manuscript, I was practically living with my characters. I spoke of them as if they were real people (it confused the heck out of people who overheard my conversations – I was talking about murderers after all), but my friends were supportive and listened patiently, often offering advice if a reaction seemed out of character. Make their world real, make their pain real, make their appearances real – and you’ll think they’re real. Without you believing in their existence, your readers won’t. Your readers feel what you make them feel. So feel your character’s pain and anger and you’ll be able to pen it down so vividly that your reader feels like he’s known them all his life.

You can write about your character’s stories or let the reader find it out for himself as the story progresses and he can piece together pieces of the character’s life that he picks up through the progression. But technicalities aside, you need to think of your characters as living and breathing human beings. Daniel Davis (author of Wind River) recently mentioned why he loved Stephen King – because the man could portray characters so aptly that you see them reacting in a way you would have and then some. That is what most authors aim for and some attain.

You can read all you want about making your characters real, but the question remains – how does one do that? My method is simple, and I think it’s one that a lot of authors consciously or unconsciously use. My characters are based on the people I know – some eye colour here, some hair colour there, some temper issues here and some agony aunt behaviour there. I don’t mean I know people who are murderers and private detectives with a hidden agenda that borders on vigilante, I mean I know someone with eyes and a temper that suit my protagonist. Little bits of character thrown in, some from people I know, others from my imagination, and I get a believable character that I can associate with easily because of that element of reality.

Let me end this post on character development (another among so many by almost every writer) by saying just this – your characters make your story. If you create live characters that you can believe in, your readers will believe in them too; and if your readers believe in your characters, they’ll believe in the story that marks their endeavours, failures and triumphs.

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Star of the night

In the dark sky of the night,

With no moon to light,

A lone star shines down,

At the many tales to look upon.

 

She listens to the lone wolf,

As it howls into the dark,

Calling for its mate, a cry from the heart.

 

She listens to the birds,

As they flutter in the tree,

Waiting for the dawn, for when they may fly free.

 

She looks at the gypsy,

As she sits warm by the fire,

Longing in her eyes, as her heart waits for its other.

 

She looks at the star gazer,

As he looks up, deep in thought,

Trying to make sense, that of which he knows nought.

 

She looks at the unsleeping lover,

As she restlessly tosses and turns,

Waiting for the nights to pass, for when her love returns.

 

She looks down at the world,

As, in dream, its people smile and frown,

She looks down at the waking world,

As the darkness starts to fade,

She looks down, her shine less visible,

As night turns to day.

 

She looks down as she waits,

For the day to give way to a dark night,

For her time to once again shine bright.

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