Are these the rules and principles for salting your stories with exotic imagery that works? Let me know what you think.
1: The exotic is anything that readers haven’t directly experienced, but given the expansion of the media in everyone’s life the exotic is getting harder to find. A decade ago a burkha would have seemed exotic to most Americans. Much less so now. Modern writers must work harder to find the exotic. This may mean turning established imagery on its head. For example, vampires began in literature as villains, but increasingly have become heroes.
2: Any scene must be primarily realistic and not exotic. Just like a small child wants to know where its mother is before it begins to explore, so a reader needs to have the comfort of the familiar before being introduced to the exotic. In horror fiction, the monster is typically depicted as coming out of a realistic setting. People know what woods look like. They know what an old house looks like. The monster is the exotic element.
3. The more realistic a scene is in general, the greater the impact the exotic element(s) will have.
4. The exotic quickly becomes the familiar. There was a time in America where men found the sight of a woman’s ankle terribly erotic. There was a time when any sexual position other than missionary was considered terribly kinky. That time is not now, unless someone is having sex with someone else’s ankle in a bathroom.
5. Although magical realism may be an exception, the exotic works best when it has a logical explanation, even if it is a slender explanation. I wonder, however, whether this is more something in me than in the average reader. To this day, for example, I can’t buy Kafka’s Metamorphosis because the guy just wakes up and he’s a cockroach. I can buy a shape shifting alien, a demon from Hell, a vampire far easier. There is at least some conceivable explanation for such things, although they require the assumption of things that we have no scientific evidence for. There is no possible explanation for how a guy living in a normal everyday world would wake up as a giant cockroach. Thus, to me, the Metamorphosis is far less realistic than any other fantasy I’ve ever read.
Well, I think there are more principles/rules but this is all I have time for today. Will there be a part 3? Who knows. Maybe one will magically appear on my computer overnight while I sleep.