A Writing Journey

Posts tagged ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’

Fiction and Real Life

Last Wednesday, I mentioned that I have started work on a pet project, and that it is YA. In my attempts to procrastinate working on various tasks, I came across some articles and posts about how certain books and TV shows exemplify and work through real life issues. Now, I’ve said this a few times before but I will reiterate: fiction, regardless of genre or medium, needs to reflect real life. This is especially true for YA, because teenagers are often struggling with issues that they keep hidden, or have no resources to help them work through it. Sometimes the only way they know that they aren’t alone is by reading a book, and seeing characters going through the same things – even if there are fantastical elements to the story.

I believe that the primary focus of writers should be to tell a good story, but I don’t think a story without a message can ever live up to the enduring prestige of those stories that say something important. There is no doubt that this belief has been influenced by my study and love of Russian literature. Many classic books (whether they are Russian or not) have important messages that echo throughout the ages. Crime and Punishment questions whether a person can do whatever they want just because they are “better” (or if some people really are better than others)While I don’t think YA books need this level of  musing, it is important to have a purpose behind writing.

Now, by no means am I saying that books need to be preachy or overtly biased in the message: it is up to readers to interpret what we writers are trying to say. I merely mean to make the assertion that there ought to be room for people to connect and interpret. The best way to explain is through examples, and so I have some for you. They are from both books and TV, and mostly from what I would consider to be YA fiction.

Many articles have been written on the real-life relevance of Harry Potter. Integral to the plot are messages about prejudice, abuse, death and immortality, betrayal, loyalty, oppression, and sacrifice. When the books first came out, I never saw these themes (I was a kid, after all), but as I grew and kept reading the books, it became obvious that they had relevance to real life. This wasn’t just the story of a boy who found out he was a wizard. This was the story of a boy determined to make a change in the world around him. He grew out of terrible circumstances and did something amazing, as did the people around him (heck – look where Neville ended up!).

The Hunger Games is another YA book series that has an incredible message. It is about children being exposed to (and forced to participate in) violence. It is about standing up for what you believe in and thinking of those you love. It is also, in my interpretation, about peer pressure (particularly in Mockingjay, book 3 of the trilogy).

The Farseer Trilogy, though not YA, deals with difficult real-life issues such as addictions, depression, and if people should always be obedient to authority.

Books aren’t the only medium in which reality informs fiction. The best TV shows and movies do the same thing. In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy and her friends deal with a myriad of issues from relationship trouble to the death of loved ones to doing the right thing even though they know it will hurt to doing the wrong thing because they are in so much pain. M.E. Kinkade recently had an excellent post called High School as Hell: Buffy the Vampire Slayer about – you guessed it – how the show (at least the first few seasons) is about how rough high school can be. Stargate, a show about traveling through a wormhole to other planets and encountering other civilizations, deals with cultural issues, prejudice, and imposing one person/group’s values and morals on another person or group.

Stories – be they books, TV shows, or movies – need real life relevance. A story without something to say to me, no matter how good it is, leaves me feeling unsatisfied.

Do you think that books should have messages? Do you have a favorite book (or show or movie) with a message?

Take care, fellow travelers.

Friday Inspiration – Joss Whedon

I remember the first time I ever watched Firefly. I was home from school with a cold and my mom went to get me some movies from the library. I don’t think she knew what she was starting when she picked up all four discs of Firefly and brought them home to me. It was love at first episode. Vaguely I remembered seeing previews for Serenity a couple years earlier. This was around the same time that I was waking up at 5:45 to catch reruns of Angel on weekday mornings (with no idea that Joss Whedon had anything to do with that show – I never watched credits). I’d seen a few episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and really liked that too. And when Dollhouse came out, I was right there watching every week. Needless to say, I loved (and still love) Joss’ stories.

Now, you might be wondering what is so inspirational about watching some old TV shows. A lot, actually, but this post is about Joss Whedon and how he is so inspirational. His shows are brilliant and have a level of planning that is mystifying to me. He creates such characters that jump off the screen and put you through so much emotional turmoil that you don’t even know how you’ll survive it. His plots are sheer genius – honestly, just watch one of his shows and you’ll see what I mean*.

He is a hero of mine, not only for his brilliant writing genius, but for his fantastic female characters**. Too often on TV and in the movies these days we have weak (or at least weaker-than-the-man) women. Joss Whedon throws that out the window. Buffy starts out as a typical high school girl, but really grows into her strength. And yet her strength doesn’t define her (entirely). She’s still human, with the whole glorious range of human emotions. Inara never lets Mal push her around and Kaylee sticks up for what she believes in. Heck, even Cordelia (from Buffy the Vampire Slayer) is stronger than she lets on.

You want your weekly inspiration? Go watch some shows by Joss Whedon, and try to learn something. I know I have.

Take care, fellow travelers.

*More discussion on the realism of Joss Whedon’s shows/characters/plots/etc. will be in my post next Wednesday.

**I will be writing more about strong female characters later in my series Reclaiming Fantasy. Watch for it!

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