To continue my study of strange pleasures, I took to the web in search of others’ ideas and insights on the subject.
I found some interesting ideas at Wooden Boat Forum where a discussion of enjoying things from the past brought up the strange pleasures of: cutting grass with a scythe; doing laundry by hand; muzzle loading a shotgun; smelling of fireworks and rowing instead of using a boat motor.
Over at Vinted forum, I found a discussion of strange pleasures. After pages of what to me were very tame and usual pleasures (morning coffee, sunshine, etc.), I found some interesting entries: the smell of gasoline; popping knuckles and ankles weirdly; chewing on plastic; the smell of brand new backpacks; the smell of a new box of crayons and a parent smelling her children’s feet.
At Cloudcap Games I found a nice post about the strange pleasure of watching other people enjoy board games. This could be taken as the pleasure of board games, a rather mundane pleasure as board games are created to be pleasurable, or the pleasure of voyeurism which at its extreme can be criminal, a strange pleasure indeed.
Speaking of strange pleasures that may be criminal, I found an interesting statement at We Will – “the joy of the thief in stealing”. If one follows the theory of Hedonic Motivation that I talked about last time, criminal activities would somehow bring the criminal pleasure and/ or decrease pain–something to think about for your antagonists’ motivations.
I even found an article in the Huffington Post about the strange pleasures of literary trickery, an intriguing article about why readers enjoy the unreliable narrator (something I’ve been studying, but not finding pleasurable, in my reading).
I really enjoyed an article at Dissonant Symphony about the pleasure dandelions bring to children who then grow up to spend time and effort trying to kill this “weed” that steals space and nutrients from the grass in their lawns. Since discovering homemade dandelion root tea, dandelions may be one of my strange pleasures.
For fun, I have assigned some of these found strange pleasures to the characters from my work in progress.
Anna – digging up dandelions to eat and make tea; the smell of a new box of crayons; cutting grass with a scythe; rowing instead of using a boat motor; her boyfriend, Ben, loves the smell of campfire and fireworks, she does not. The smell of fire makes her anxious that a fire is not being tended properly. She has a deep rooted fear that she will set the house on fire. Thus, Ben’s strange pleasure could cause conflict (And every story teller is on the hunt for conflict– Oh, strange pleasures, the gift that keeps on giving).
Brittany – Board games remind her of better days with her family. She finds great pleasure in watching happy families doing things together, especially in the park or eating at a restaurant. Chewing on any plastic she can find–she has an oral fixation, but doesn’t want to gain weight. She loves the smell of gasoline; it reminds her of summer.
Rick – popping knuckles and ankles weirdly; smelling his children’s feet; voyeurism; the joy of the thief in stealing.
Now, along with the strange pleasures from last time, I have many interesting ideas for unusual hedonic motivations for my characters. Time to apply all this learning and practice to my manuscript.
Here’s a section, from Rick’s point of view, that could use some explanation of hedonic motivation:
As Brittany talked, Rick walked over to the mailbox. It was large and silver with fading sticker stencils reading STARK, barely legible on the side. He pulled out a large stack of mail and started to leaf through it. Maybe that lady didn’t live here after all, at least not full time.
Rick’s strange pleasure is manipulating others; he likes to make others believe his lies and what better lie than identity theft. This also goes with the found strange pleasure above “the joy of the thief in stealing”. Here’s a re-write acknowledging his strange pleasure.
As Brittany talked, Rick’s attention was drawn to the old-style no-lock mailbox. People who didn’t put in even the least amount of effort to secure their stuff, didn’t deserve to keep it. He felt pleasure in the anticipation of discovering someone else’s letters and, of course, the personal information they contained. His rising excitement became physical tingles as he lowered the door and saw a large stack of mail. He cracked his knuckles for emotional and physical release and set to examining his haul.
Okay, maybe I over did it a little there, but it’s a start.
I’ll try another one:
If it wasn’t prostitution, it was definitely a case of infidelity, the conversation continued, so another solution would be getting his license plate number, finding out his address, and giving pictures to his wife. These were also ideas Anna had thought of, but playing detective could be dangerous. The “bad guys” knew where she lived, so retaliation could be very unpleasant. Anna realized that she had been focused on retaliation which made her feel helpless.
In this example, Anna has gone to an intimate dinner party, so her hedonic motivations include both pleasure: making people happy; positive attention; good food and drink; and avoidance of pain: her discomfort around people; fear of judgement; her need to seem “normal”. Though in further revision, this scene may be mostly dialogue and Anna’s anxiety and pleasure will be understood through her actions at the table, for this example, I will attempt to insert Anna’s hedonic motivation to the above paragraph.
If Anna’s driveway wasn’t passively participating in the business of prostitution, it was place-holding a case of infidelity. Anna enjoyed the camaraderie as the diners continued to contribute suggested reactions to the intrusion. They agreed that the best solution would be getting his license plate number, finding out his address, and giving pictures to his wife. It may have been a stomach full of warm delicious food or the plentiful red wine, but Anna felt included, like a normal person in a group of peers, as she recognized each of these ideas as thoughts she had already considered. However, she also recognized that this level of detective work could be dangerous and she was isolated and alone. The “bad guys” knew where she lived and retaliation could be very unpleasant. It was this idea of retaliation that made her feel helpless.
She hated feeling helpless. The warm feeling of camaraderie dissipated. They hadn’t said anything to help her at all, nothing she hadn’t already thought of. Not one of them would act on their suggestions; not one of them would help her, but they were willing to put her at risk. This feeling of bitter disappointment was why she didn’t spend time with people. She knew better.
Again, I would say my example could be over the top and in need of dilution, but a fun, challenging step in the right direction.
This study and exercise definitely put my brain machine in motion. I am churning those neurons.
I hope this inspires you to explore your characters’ motivations that may be quirky and unusual. Please let me know what you come up with and any suggestions in the comments. Happy Writing.
*I did not mean to publish this as only a picture on Friday. I meant to save it as a draft, but people had already liked it by the time I realized my mistake.
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Great post! Keep the neurons churning! My strange pleasure is ASMR: autonomous sensory meridian response. I’m not sure what it is or how it works (nobody seems to know), but it definitely works on me. It’s very strange, and it’s a pleasure. If your brain is like mine, and you experience an ASMR trigger, the sensation is delightfully overpowering…
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