The topic for this month is lessons learned from other storytelling genres. This is a strong one for me because I didn’t come to storytelling through writing. I came to it from an oral tradition that I later tried to translate into written form. I never did finish that project, but have since moved on to new ones.
I feel I’ve already given a strong example in a post I made all the way back in 2012 (which you can read about here) where I compared two television shows that on the surface are completely different and yet share at least two character arcs (one I discuss and the other mentioned in the comments). The two shows are Chuck and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Oddly, I’m watching another show right now that has anti-parallels to Chuck. It’s the dark Chuck in every way that counts. Where Chuck goes for the chuckle (all puns intended), Alias goes for the gut. Somehow you know no matter how desperate, the main characters of Chuck are going to survive whatever situation they’re in. You hope that’s true in Alias, but there’s a trust level that’s missing even though I can’t remember any significant characters who have been killed except one (and that gets complicated).
Character arcs are almost easier to study in visual media because you don’t have the distractions of their perceptions of themselves to cloud the reality of how they behave.
I’ve also taught a class on deconstructing Iron Man 2 in which I compared the novelization (reviewed here) with the movie. That was fascinating in part because the screenplay and novel were written simultaneously and yet made different choices at certain points that both strengthened and weakened each depending on the choice.
Japanese film is another influence on my storytelling, though whether it’s apparent, I do not know. What I draw on there is the use of color and mood to enhance the story. I’ve discussed this recently because of the movie Pacific Rim where many in the American audience missed a whole subtext shown only in lighting, color, and focal point.
Not all the visual techniques are translatable to the written page, but they can inform the choices made in description, setup, and who is the viewpoint character. They are also excellent in conveying themes, in part because the complexity is less (though not always) and in part because the themes are more prominently on display.
This has become more a summary of where you can learn about storytelling with examples I’ve studied in the past, but I hope it gives you some ideas for approaching other mediums as potential educators. If you have any questions about this, drop me a note or post in the comments, and I’d be happy to explain in more depth.
Today’s post was inspired by the topic “What Lessons Have You Learned from Other Storytelling Genres?” — Aug’s topic in Forward Motion’s Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour. Read the thoughts of nearly twenty different authors at various stages in their careers on this same topic. The next posts in the series are by Lisa Janice Cohen and Bonnie R. Schultzman.
Check out the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour to learn more. You can find links to all of the posts on the tour on the group site. Read and enjoy!