Welcome to Writing Tip Wednesdays, where I post (you guessed it) tips on writing every Wednesday at 5:00 PM ET. This week’s topic:
This week’s post is going to look at current entertainment trends and what they have to do with your story.
Why don’t you have to write the next Game of Thrones?
Because that’s what everyone is doing. Don’t believe me?
Take a look at these articles on the new Castlevania Netflix original show and Star Trek: Discovery.
I’m going to highlight a few things from each of these articles, so if you could take just a quick peep at each of them, that would be wonderful. =)
Let’s Take a Look at These Two Shows, Shall We?
Abi Shankar, producer for the new Castlevania Netflix original, told IGN that the show is “done in the vein of Game of Thrones,” and that this new Castlevania show is “R-rated as f***.”
Star Trek: Discovery is also inspired by the Game of Thrones trend of killing your darlings the second you start to care about them, though perhaps in a slightly different way. Showrunners Gretchen J. Berg and Aaron Harberts had some interesting things to say about Game of Thrones and the new Star Trek TV show.
In the first article listed, Gretchen J. Berg is quoted to having said that Game of Thrones “almost made it difficult to fall in love with people because you didn’t know if they were going to be taken away from you.”
In the second article listed, Smith writes that, “Harberts added that while there will be death on Discovery, it won’t be used for shock value — rather, ‘when it happens we want to make sure that people really feel it.’”
So there is some encouragement to be found in Haberts’s clarification, but the proof will be in the pudding, as they say. A meaningful death, after all, is one of the most powerful things in writing.
According to the articles above, each of these shows, then, is to be edgy—that is, violent and unsafe for main characters—but are they really “edgy?” Is anything “edgy” if you have to advertise it as such?
“Edgy” is a word and a practice that I would shy away from. What’s “edgy” now will be dated and laughed at in twenty years’ time. It is for this reason that I encourage writing books that will last—see my post on CREATING MEMORABLE LITERATURE.
This to mean, of course, that:
It is more important to write your story than it is to follow current media trends.
This is not to say you can’t incorporate them. I think it is a good idea for characters to be at risk for death because that is realistic: an every-other-chapter-massacre is not.
And thus I would advise you: do not confuse the phrase realistic” with “nihilistic.” Most of what people currently say is “realistic” is actually nihilism wearing the blanket of realism.
What is nihilism?
According to Merriam-Webster, nihilism is “a viewpoint that traditional values and beliefs are unfounded and that existence is senseless and useless.”
There is a current entertainment trend of killing all characters the second the audience starts to care about them. <- Note that wording. “Starts to care,” not “does care.” The second you, as an audience member, opens yourself up to the mere idea of caring, the writer kills them off. This teaches distrust. Distrust of love, people, writers (haha), etc. Unless this is a main them for your particular story, then I would encourage you to stay true to the story you wish to tell, instead of focusing on a marketing trend.
And my encouragement lies there: this is a trend. Many people feel the crushing weight of nihilism, the belief that there is no point in anything, but I would argue that pushing this view to the point of normalcy is insulting to those who choose to hope or be a part of a religion. For those who choose to believe in a life after death, the world is not pointless and trustless and full of death—it is the potential for life. That is also the truth of the many millions of people who choose to believe in the hope a religion provides.
While fully aware of the irony in this upcoming statement, I encourage it, nevertheless: stop pushing your views, and start pushing your story. Yes, your views will always be there, to some extent. That’s part of being both a human and an author. Often, even when authors try to tell a story that’s “completely different” and “edgy,” that is “unlike anything they have ever done before,” fans are able to spot the style and themes they have come to know as that author’s even in the new and “never-been-done-before” content.
If you push the story instead of your views, you will communicate what you want to communicate, instead of getting caught up in a trend that will be seen as “cheesy” twenty years from now.
Trends always die. It is the very nature of a trend; its death occurs at the rise of a new one. Trends kill each other. Remember that “edgy” word we talked about? It’s exciting. It’s new. It’s defined as something “at the forefront of a trend,” when you type it into Google. And what do trends do? They die. So congratulations- if you are at the forefront of a trend, you are at the beginning of death. (And I’ve just nihilistic’ed you with your own logic.)
But the hope is in the death: when a trend becomes over-used, overdone, and over-popularized, people grow tired of it, and often look for its direct opposite. They’ve soaked up so much of one thing that now they want the other. Think of it like someone in summer longing for winter, or vice-versa. They are initially happy when the new season gets here, but after a while, they start longing for the opposite again. Trends push something so hard and so extremely that they invite its death while simultaneously creating a craving for its opposite.
So I leave you with this: many people have stated that, while they have enjoyed the above shows, and the shows definitely have some good qualities and value to them, that they miss being able to be fully emotionally invested in a book, show, or movie. ‘It isn’t safe anymore,’ they say. While death is a reality, it is not the only reality. And so I encourage you: if you want to add hope to your story because that is what your story needs, there is still a place for it.
After all, as Gandalf said in The Hobbit:
Alyssa Grace Moore
What do you think? Does this reflect reality? Is there a place for un-dashed hopes in modern writing? Let me know in the comments!
You can also find Alyssa on Twitter: @alyssagracem and use #writetipwed for all Writing Tip Wednesday posts