A surprising percentage of people all over the world don’t know this, but the thing about vampires, ghosts, visiting aliens, and all kinds of other so-called imaginary beings, is that if you look at them directly, you cannot see them. It has something to do with the human eye and how the brain interprets the biochemical visual signals: it’s partly why sailors know to look just a tad to the left and right of a target far off on the water to prevent it from “disappearing.”
Some of the time – actually most of the time – if you want to show somebody something that will scare him, it works well if you use the sailor’s trick and show him something a little to the left or right of the reality you want him to see. People so easily accept something they almost see out of the corner of their eye (“What was that?”), much more so than something they don’t want to see, even when it is right there in front of them (“Um, ya, uhh, ya, okay, I love you, now c’mon over here . . .”)
Here’s a great example from the movie Guardians of the Galaxy, y’know, the movie with the man from Earth boppin’ around the galaxy with a talking raccoon warrior, a walking, one-sentence-talking tree, a green-skinned woman assassin, and . . . well, go watch the movie! Here’s the dialogue from the scene that is a great example of the usefulness of stories of spacemen, vampires, ghosts, dragons, wizards, and the like:
Yondu Udonta: When I picked you up as a kid, these boys wanted to eat you. They ain’t never tasted Terran before. I saved your life!
Peter Quill: Oh, will you shut up about that? God! Twenty years, you’ve been throwing that in my face, like it’s some great thing, not eating me! Normal people don’t even think about eating someone else! Much less that person having to be grateful for it!
It wouldn’t have been very interesting at all, and it probably would have made many in the audience lose interest in the bigger story, if instead the “step-father” figure had said, instead of “I didn’t let them eat you,”, just “I put a roof over your head and fed you!” The not-letting-them-eat-you un-reality deftly carries the larger reality of the following line, “Normal people don’t even think about . . . (fill in the blank with your own family / relationship issue.)
Sometimes to see, or show, the forest through the trees . . . well, sometimes you gotta go left to get right.
Want a much more powerful example? Well, remember the gods of Greek and Roman mythology? Or all the parables of the Christian Bible? (I’m not attacking Christianity here; I’m just saying that as a story it certainly has many elements that can be considered fantastic, magical, metaphysical, and the like.) Millions, no, billions of people have read the Bible (religion in story format), but how many of them have read or can even name just one treatise on religious dogma (in academic, informational, or theological format?) No doubt about it, stories rule.
Sometimes the more fantastic, the more unbelievable a story is on the surface, the more human truth it holds, and the more powerful it is. So, if you don’t already have respect for ghosts, vampires, dragons, wizards, demons, aliens, and the like, just remember, sometimes you gotta go east to get West.