Enemy of the State: Study of a would-be Dictator (thread name change8/1/12):

Total posts: [16]
I need a drink
Ok, I'll just come out and say it; my own brother and I don't have the best relationship. On our best days it's a case of Sibling Rivalry gone a little too far. On our worst its straight out Cain and Abel.

Naturally this relationship has affected my own views towards siblings in fiction and how to write them effectively and realistically, so much so that I've decided to include a Cain and Abel relationship in one of my stories.

The thing is even I sometimes find myself rolling my eyes whenever I see this trope. I know that sometimes it's simply a case of failed execution, but I am generally curious as to how my fellow tropers view this trope. Cliche nowadays or not?
Theres sex and death and human grime in monochrome for one thin dime and at least the trains all run on time but they dont go anywhere.
Cliche, but cliche for a reason.

In the bad old days, inheritance could be a Winner Take All thing. One can become King, another can spend a life sentence in a prison tower with an (unrealistic) iron mask. Or be killed.

Upbringing also factors in, brothers can be taught to hate and kill each other as easily (or easier) as soldiers are taught to hate and kill strangers.
3 JewelyJ23rd Jul 2012 09:28:25 AM from A state in the USA
It really does depend on how it's done. Some things are too cliche if you just do it how it's been done many times before, but if you take it and make it your own by adding stuff that makes it original and different.

I have a story myself where two half-brothers are or appear at first to be at war but there's a lot of twists that make it more complicated than that. For example.

Anything can be cliche if you aren't aware of the possible cliches and don't do anything with it.

Also yes, a person's works do tend to reflect them as a person. When this is forced it results in an Author Tract but when it just turns out that way by itself it's totally okay. Writing is a form of self expression after all.

edited 23rd Jul '12 9:29:53 AM by JewelyJ

I need a drink
To be honest when I created the characters I never really intended them to be related, but the more I wrote about them and their relationship and how they interacted with each other the more I realised they just had to be brothers.

The idea I'm playing with is making the younger brother The Unfavourite, but by choice if that makes sense. A character who chooses to betray and challenge his brother over an imagined plight.

The older brother in turn is obviously hurt by the betrayal, but is too proud and angry to attempt a reconciliation. At first at least.
Theres sex and death and human grime in monochrome for one thin dime and at least the trains all run on time but they dont go anywhere.
5 JewelyJ24th Jul 2012 10:40:47 AM from A state in the USA
Oooh That sounds very interesting actually.

Is there anyplace your work is posted?
I need a drink
Just in my many notebooks unfortunately. Here is a little excerpt though that I think sums up the relation between the two. It just a draft. but I rather like it...

[[Nostomo sits slouched at his throne resting his face upon his fist, his brow furrowed as he contemplates. With his eyes transfixed on the darkness of his chamber he reaches for his mace before he rises to his feet.]]

Nostomo:"You dare come before me? After all you've done?"

[[Neurmo emerges seemingly out of the shadows themselves, his rage veiled behind feigned concern. He walks slowly towards the steps of his brother's throne, his twistedright arm hidden between the folds of his cape'']]

Neurmo: "All I’ve done? Brother?"

[[Nostomo descends down to confront Neurmo face-to-face. Instinctively the two begin to circle each other, their eyes daggers. Nostomo’s fist clenches at his weapon tighter.'']]

Nostomo: "It is unwise to play the fool with me, '''Neurmo"'"

[[A smirk crosses Neurmo’s face]]

Neurmo: "Professional jealously?"

[[Nostomo grabs hold of Neurmo's collar, readying his mace]]

Nostomo: "You threatened my daughter!"

[[Before Nostomo can say another word a swift, sharp pain strikes at his side which sends him buckling backwards. Trying to catch himself he drops his mace and falls to one knee, his hand clutching at his wound.]]

Neurmo: "You threatened this City.”

[[''Furiously gasping for air as his body enters shock, Nostomo looks up at his little brother before stumbling to his back onto the stairs. A cold smirk is painted on ‘’’’’Neurmo’s’’’’’ face as he holds a bloody knife in his gloved right hand. Nostomo’s breathing briefly becomes slow and shallow as he stares disbelieving at the knife.]]

[[Neurmo smiles as he acknowledges his brother’s surprise. He raises his arm and aimlessly drops the blade, a grimace of pain briefly crossing his face before he holds his right arm in agony. As he composes himself he takes off the glove revealing a gnarled, atrophied hand.]]

[[Neurmo stares at it as he walks to the steps'']]

Neurmo: “We both know why Father chose you. Imagine… a king incapable a lifting his own sword. How could I possibly be expected to protect Atlantis from her enemies. No, instead he gave the crown to you”

[[He pulls his eyes away from his hand and glares them towards Nostomo as he attempts to drag himself towards the throne]]

Neurmo: “You, this city’s most insidious enemy”

Nostomo: “I have given everything I possess to defend and serve this city”

Neurmo: “Please, do you have any idea what it’s like to watch this city crumble as you lead us towards mediocrity?! You and the other fools in the Senate!? With every hour our enemies grows stronger. It will only be a matter of time before they are at our gates. The surface can only be helpless for so long; if we are to have any hopes of making Atlantis great we must strike now and conquer them!”

[[Nostomo reaches the arm of his throne and uses it to lift himself to his unsteady feet, hand still holding at his side. His anger is slowly replaced by confusion]]

Nostomo: “Why would you do this Neurmo? You had everything: Wealth, Status, Power, Family…”

Neurmo: “A meagre compensation”

Nostomo: “We loved you!”

Neurmo: "YOU PITIED ME!"

edited 26th Jul '12 10:47:47 AM by AtomJames

Theres sex and death and human grime in monochrome for one thin dime and at least the trains all run on time but they dont go anywhere.
This sounds uncannily like the relationship between Marvel Comic's Thor and Loki characters. Like to a T.

Which I also happen to think is the most interesting aspect of the characters. Check out "Thor and Loki: Blood Brothers." It's a motion comic, available on Netflix instant, about that relationship but following Loki. It's really great. You might be able to mine it for ideas. You could also see the recent live action Thor movie, for another portrayal of it, except with a more forgiving Thor and a slightly more malignant Loki. It's not quite as great, but still quite interesting.

Also, note that I am not citing this example to dissuade you. Your approach is interesting, and just because others have taken a similar approach does not mean you shouldn't do it. I would read your work from what you've posted so far.

edited 26th Jul '12 12:53:36 PM by Cthulboohoo

Pronounced YAK-you-luss
One way to make this age-old trope interesting is to make neither brother obviously the bad guy. They both have understandable reasons for despising each other, and they're both sympathetic.

It's always nice to imbue your conflicts with a bit of nuance.
What's precedent ever done for us?
9 JewelyJ26th Jul 2012 08:12:51 PM from A state in the USA
[up]THIS very much.

Don't tell us who to root for, give us actions, reasons and all that and let us weigh them ourselves and choose.
I need a drink
@Cthuboohoo: The relationship between Loki and Thor (particularly that of the films) was definitely a major influence on the two. I'll definitely check out Blood Brothers.

@Iaculus and Jewely J: Though I made Neurmo the villain by default, I was hoping to make him somewhat sympathetic and to give him valid reasons for his actions (his own feelings of self worth and rejection aside) . Hopefully this will make the two a little more interesting and nuanced.
Theres sex and death and human grime in monochrome for one thin dime and at least the trains all run on time but they dont go anywhere.
Responsible adult
Seconding Iaculus. One conflict option, which I think gets overlooked too much, is the one of having no real obvious antagonist, and making both opposing parties basically good, or at least basically sympathetic. In addition to letting us choose to root for, it makes for good dramatic tension if we don't want to choose sides. It's a real dilemma if we want both sides to succeed, and it keeps the reader invested because they want to know what eventually does happen.
"Proto-Indo-European makes the damnedest words related. It's great. It's the Kevin Bacon of etymology." ~Madrugada
@ Iaculus, Jewely J and Freezair:

Making both siblings sympathetic and neither one's motivation outright 'wrong' is just generally good 'mature' writing, as opposed to anything specific towards the subject matter. To take full advantage of the Cain and Abel dynamic, what should be done is to intentionally play up how tragic it is that two brothers (especially ones who used to or deep down still love one another) find themselves at each other's throats when family are supposed to care for one another.

It's this aspect of the relationship that creates the magnetism (pun intended) of the conflict between Xavier and Magneto in X-Men; even though the two of them aren't even related by blood.

edited 27th Jul '12 3:53:00 AM by peasant

I need a drink
Thanks for the tip Peasant.
Theres sex and death and human grime in monochrome for one thin dime and at least the trains all run on time but they dont go anywhere.
Yeah, I would say from your example passage that one of the brothers seems FAR more villainous than the other. He strikes first, smirks while his brother is down, and advocates conquest of the defenseless. Part of the appeal of Loki, when well written, is that he is an outcast, treated like crap for being of a race that is reviled by the people around him. Sure Thor and Odin love him, but Odin also lied to him for much of his life, and Thor was the favored son, rewarded for his brutish and oafish tendencies, whist the brilliant Loki is despised precisely because his methods are more subtle.

You can see why he would want to strike out. But it's important to note that in the film, the end goal of his scheme was simply to win his father's favor - his approach is nuts, but it's something anyone could sympathize with. This is taken further in Blood Brothers, where Loki is unsure if he actually wants to kill Thor after deposing him. In that story, Loki is very much an anti-villain, bordering on anti-hero.

Apparently in the recent Thor comics, he has become a full on anti-hero, taking over Thor's own main comic, while Thor works in a new line. Might be interesting to check out.
I need a drink
While I do appreciate everyone help and their input, I've decided it might be best if the character was retooled. As much as I do love Loki, I can't help but feel that I may have been too derivative by pitting Neurmo and Nostomo as brothers. When I first developed the character of Neurmo I started with a simple concept: An Atlantean Usurper. It is with this in mind that I've changed the character's origin and motivation somewhat to reflect this.

The original Neurmo was a Prince who was given a position in the Senate. The New Neurmo, while still an aristocrat, is a man who uses his charisma to not only gain a seat in the senate, but to use popularity to incite a civil war using the citizens of his district and any others he can rally.

As for his motivation, well I admit I'm still too unsure. I still imagine him as disabled. Does "proving a society wrong by placing a cripple in charge of a warrior society" float?
Theres sex and death and human grime in monochrome for one thin dime and at least the trains all run on time but they dont go anywhere.
I need a drink
Sorry for the Thread Necro, but I just thought I'd share what I've developed thus far. Originally I had intended the younger brother, Neurmo, to have been born with a somewhat crippling defect; a twisted right arm that made even the simplest tasks difficult. Self-loathing would have turned into rage towards those whom he believed only loved him for his status, position and out of obligation, including his brother, The King.

This iteration of Neurmo would orchestrate a civil war, turning his fellow Senators against each other while amassing an army of the city's malcontents in order to forcibly remove his brother from the throne and launch a campaign against the surface. While he had no interest in what the surface has to offer, Neurmo plans to do so in the belief that he would be loved by future generations for his deeds and not out of pity. As other before have said though, as interesting as that iteration of the character was, there was no sense of love or remorse between Neurmo and Nostomo and this iteration was finally scrapped.


Afterwards I thought of retooling the character: Neurmo 2.0 was changed to an up-and-coming Senator and former general of the Atlantean Army. While this version also planned to ignite a civil war and use an army of his own, this one did so for the sake of conquest and to further the interests of Atlantis. He was not very interesting and without the inherent drama and pathos found in a royal family ultimately very boring to write.


Which brings us the the newest version of the character, in many ways a synthesis of the previous two. This Neurmo is a general who retired to the Atlantean Senate after an injury. He fears the growing power of the surface world, namely its ever increasing number of superheroes and villains and the power and resources they possess. While he genuinely does love his brother he believes him to be to both arrogant enough to think Atlantis could resist such a force if the surface were to become too powerful and naive enough to trust that its heroes will honour their agreement to leave Atlantis to her own devices.

Neurmo's warning to remain cautious of the surface has fallen on deaf ears and to ensure that the city's inhabitants (whom he has fought for) remain safe, he plans to to kill the King and have his niece, Niera, placed on the throne trusting her youth, hot headed nature and her desire to prove herself and others as her father's equal will leave her susceptible to his influence. With Niera on the throne, Neurmo can at least start to prepare for either an invasion.

Once again, Neurmo creates an army of his own to carry out his orders and plants the seeds of dissent in the senate in order to frame his key rivals for his brother's murder.

edited 27th Mar '13 8:36:25 PM by AtomJames

Theres sex and death and human grime in monochrome for one thin dime and at least the trains all run on time but they dont go anywhere.
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Total posts: 16