I’ve been watching Season 5 of Supernatural and am really enjoying it, as I have the entire series. I got to thinking about the format of this and other series in similar genres, what works and what doesn’t.
Supernatural, much like Buffy the Vampire Slayer (another of my favourites) employs the “monster of the week” format which I think really works. There are more layers here though. Once a series is well established, at least 2+ seasons in, you begin to get a real feel for the series-wide story arc; a direction that the main characters are taking, the way they interact and their combined, or individual, story lines that will flow from season to season. Then there’s the season specific story line. Usually a ‘Big Bad’ trying to bring about the end of the world as we know it, ushering in a time of darkness and unleashing the forces that our ‘heroes’ spend their time beating back. On an episode by episode basis we have the “monster of the week”, a specific target that will, almost without fail, be defeated before the episode’s time is up.
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On a long drive recently I listened to the audio book of A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. It’s good so far, but it got me thinking about world consistency and certain choices that need to be made before beginning to write.
My reading preference is Fantasy/Sci-Fi or Horror fiction, and it’s what I tend towards in my writing. The scope and freedom afforded a writer by a fantasy world come with the burden of creating a believable and consistent environment in which to set the story.
I have a great book called “How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy” by Orson Scott Card. He devotes around 21 pages to “Make rules for your world” in his chapter on World Creation. He perhaps goes a little over the top on his advice about space travel or language, but the point is valid and the information useful, and shockingly neither of the two other ‘Creative Writing’ books I pulled off my shelf talked about this at all.
I think I’ll write a few entries on this subject, as otherwise it’s going to be a long read and will probably never make it online! I do, however, think it will be useful for me to get my head around some of these issues and of course, feedback is always welcome!
So I’m going to start with “Magic”
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Sonia at Doing the Write Thing is going to think I’m going all “Single White Female” on her I’m sure 😉 I was inspired by her blog about The February Challenge – 50 word story by Mura over at Cafe Muravyets and so decided to give this challenge a go.
Wow, 50 words is nothing! Especially when you have to include 5 specific words, so it’s really just 45. Squeezing something that made any sort of sense, let alone had the essence of a story into so few words was a real…challenge. The bit I found hardest, however, was thinking up something other than a surprise birthday party. Which, I did go with at first. Then I read the other comments, and realised I was (probably unsurprising) by no means the only person to think of it!
So, I did what I find works for me best, I just wrote something and then made it fit the brief. I’m quite pleased with the end result. Well, pleased enough to post it on a stranger’s blog and here…
The facade of the family mausoleum looked as always. This was the tenth year she’d come, yearning for what she never understood.
Her brother watched from the shadows, infused by a vicarious thrill at her presence, so full of life, life he would drink in a blink of her eyes.
I finished Apartment 16 by Adam Nevill a few days ago, so thought I’d do a quick review.
The story follows two key characters, Seth a struggling artist who is working nights as a porter in the upmarket apartments, Barrington House in London while trying to find his muse and the young American, Apryl, visiting to dispose of the belongings of her recently deceased great Aunt Lillian.
As Apryl sifts through her estranged aunt’s belongings she becomes increasingly consumed by a need to learn about Lillian’s life, especially when she discovers the strange circumstances of her death and her almost illegible diaries. It appears that something has been keeping the inhabitants of Barrington House from leaving, despite their fear and unhappiness at being there, the question is what and why?
Seth has been receiving complaints about a burning smell and his investigations take him to the door of the permanently empty apartment 16. It’s not long before, first in his dreams, then his waking life he is dominated by the presence of a mysterious child who leads him through the next few terrifying weeks.
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Just a quicky! Might post something more later..
I’m considering entering a writing competion. More for the motivation of having to write to a deadline and theme than in any genuine belief I’ll win…but the topic is Ghost Stories.
I have a question. Does a ghost story have to have a ghost in it, or can it just be something spooky and strange? Not as in “real life” weirdness, but an alternative reality of a scary nature?
What do you think?
I did some researching and found a few definitions:
“A ghost story may be any piece of fiction, or drama, or an account of an experience, that includes a ghost, or simply takes as a premise the possibility of ghosts or characters’ belief in them. Colloquially, the term can refer to any kind of scary story. In a narrower sense, the ghost story has been developed as a short story format, within genre fiction. It is a form of supernatural fiction, and is often a horror story.” – From Wikipedia
In “Some Remarks on Ghost Stories” (1929), M. R. James identifies five key features of the English ghost story, as summarized by Prof. Frank Coffman for a course in popular imaginative literature:
- The pretense of truth
- “A pleasing terror“
- No gratuitous bloodshed or sex
- No “explanation of the machinery”
- Setting: “those of the writer’s (and reader’s) own day”
Not sure that helps though!