*This is a 2 part blog, with part 2 coming in another day or so.*
The fantasy genre as a whole can be argued as being the oldest out of any, by a couple thousand years. The labors of Heracles, the legend of King Arthur, tales of the centaurs, phoenix, sphinx, and so much more are all stories that have been told for millennia and continue to this day.
While the root of the genre has remained constant the manner in which we tell these stories has changed with advances in mass communication and technology. Ranging from video games, to t.v shows, and feature-length movies. The fantasy genre is beamed to us in a myriad of ways, inspiring, thrilling, and captivating us all. As a modern writer of fantasy, one of the most often pieces of advice I hear is, “Read the genre.” The more you know about what your peers are doing the better you’ll be able to write the story you want to, by knowing what sells and what’s popular. Well in this age I think this needs to be amended to, “Experience the genre.”
“Experience the Genre”
In my opinion, one of the best ways for a writer to improve their craft is to immerse themselves wholly in the genre and experience everything the wonderful world of fantasy has to offer. Not only is it about being able to experience the fantasy genre but it’s also a manner in which we, as writers, can become inspired. What better way to visualize that perfect sword fight you’ve always wanted to write about than to watch a series of fights from movies like Rob Roy or Princess Bride, or even experience a fight through the actions of video game like Prince of Persia or Assassin’s Creed.I’ll get into this kind of thing later on in the article and explain some of the best ways to compensate for things like unbelievability.
I will offer this one final warning. If you follow my advice and actively look to dissect the characterization, plot, and setting of alternate media, you might not be able to enjoy these movies or games as wholly as you would normally. Academic dissection has a way of coloring our vision. That being said, on to the mediums:
Movies, to me at least seem the most obvious of any medium to become fully immersed in. When one of us sits down in the movie theater and those lights dim and a wave of silence washes over the crowd. You can’t help but be immersed in the movie. Much like a good book it takes a lot to drop us out of our immersion and back into reality. The buzz of a phone or a particular loud, and rude, person are often the culprits. But barring such instances you’re left to journey into the world behind the screen.
Those 2-3 hours are pure immersion and I would not recommend keeping yourself out of the immersion if it meant analyzing the film – save that for after the credits on the ride home with your friends or significant other. Instead, take a mental note whenever you find yourself surprised or on the edge of your seat with suspense, not to mention every time you catch yourself muttering “wow.”
Afterwards, go back and think why you were doing those things. What did they do to make the immersion so black hole strong that you were connected so strongly? These are the things you want to take note of when you get back to your own stories. You’ll just need to work these thoughts in to the written word, which admittedly is the hard part.
- Princess Bride
- Amazing Spiderman
- Pan’s Labyrinth
Television shows offer all the same benefits of movies with the added perk of a longer run time. A lengthy feature-length film pushed the 3 hour mark. An average season of T.V shows run for 21 episodes, which at about 20 minutes long comes out to around 7 hours. This isn’t even considering the hour long shows which average about 40 minutes without commercials. Of course you suffer from a smaller special effects budget and the occasional weak performances from actors and actresses. But these are small issues that more often lend to the charm of the show rather than detract from it. The biggest draw to being drawn into a television show is the characters and plot. Both of which have ample opportunity to grow and develop into grand things that can cross multiple seasons. It’s perhaps one of the best ways to study character development and plotting if you know what to look for.
- Finish the season and look back reflectively – If you try and make notes as the show progresses your quickly going to become lost and overwhelmed. You’ll have no way to know where the show’s producers direct the story and the changes they’ll make.
- DON’T study character arcs across seasons. T.V shows, unlike movies, are plagued by the ever-important critics and audience. These ratings will often force producers to change their vision of characters to better fit into the role the audience wants them to play. Better to focus on a particular season’s worth of growth and go from there until you can be certain it isn’t overtly changed mid-season 2.
- Enjoy yourself. This is one of the great things about the writer’s life. You’re not “watching t.v”, your studying modern forms of storytelling through the visual media.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender/Legend of Korra
- Once Upon a Time
*I stayed away from any shows based on popular novels, i.e. Game of Thrones because as everyone knows, “The book is always better.”
– That’s it for now, please feel free to leave a comment with any of your suggestions for either movies or t.v shows that are great for immersion and inspiration. Part 2, which covers Video Games and Books will be coming soon!