Middle of the week, and, once again, I am making this blog entry at the end of the day instead of the beginning of it. This bothers me, but, if I’m staying with the common threads theme, so the later posting time gets reframed as in keeping with the theme.
Yesterday was critique meeting day, with N, who also attended the workshop where we had to find common threads in our favorite viewing matter. Naturally, we had to compare lists. They were different, no choices in common, though we were more or less familiar with each other’s choices, or could fill in the blanks enough to get the gist of what appealed to the individual.
What we both agreed on, though, was that we would have liked to have made longer lists. The more examples, the easier it is to spot a pattern, but five was a good number when discussing in small groups. We also discussed the criteria for giving something favorite status. Does it have to be something watched multiple times, or can we count the moment when, during a first viewing, that we know a moment on the screen (or page) has crossed the border from something we watch or read, to something that is a part of us. Sometimes, a moment is all it takes.
Two characters who wouldn’t appear to be potential romantic partners at first lock eyes in the right circumstances, maybe brush hands in the briefest of touches, and that’s it. Boom. Never saw it coming, but, now, we will go down with this ship. A car drives around a bend in the road, we see the first view of the stately manor house, and now a part of our heart will always live there, no matter what else happens, in the story, or in life. Scenes stick in our mind. Sometimes, they hang out there for a long time, waiting for other pieces of the puzzle, to join them and become something new.
Both N and I discussed keeping longer lists of these films and TV that catch our interest on that level, and how I expand the concept in my Play In Your Own Sandbox, Keep All the Toys workshop, to include not only visual media, but books, music, and other miscellaneous media – computer games, graphic novels, etc. On the surface, they may not seem like they have much in common, but get them all in one place, and start looking for the common threads, and, surprise, there they are. Later that same day, I chatted with another friend, H, who mentioned a new option in a favorite game. It now has an arctic survival factor. Sold. I don’t need to hear any more than that. The first novel-length fanfic I ever wrote was set on an arctic world, for the mere reason that I love snow. If I have to create an alien world, there is going to be snow on it. Everywhere on it.
I love the idea of core story, not that it’s a formula, or one author doing the same thing time and again, but that readers know what they’re getting from a particular author. Hopefully, it’s the stuff that the author loves, and, ideally, at the spin-around-in-a-field-of-daisies level. Readers can tell. Trust me on that. For me, that basically breaks down to include (but not limited to) the following:
- full immersion historical atmosphere – this is far past long dresses on the female characters. I’m talking the era as almost a character in itself, where characters think and act like people of their time. I want to be steeped in the period, feel it in my blood, and, for the space of the story, live in that world instead of our own. I have my favorite eras, but as long as we get full immersion, I can go pretty much anywhere/when.
- star-crossed lovers who make it work – this is my catnip. If I could only write one kind of story for the rest of my life, this would be it. Give me two lovers who belong together, but have the entire world against them (or so it seems) only to find out that the world is no match for true love. I am perfectly fine if this takes years, or, in the case of sagas, decades. Hard-earned happily ever afters are my favorites.
- house as character – do not get me started on this one. Usually a stately English home, but there are a few on the other side of the Atlantic as well. Double points if this is in a generational saga, and we get to see the house change with the different generations of occupants. Triple points if house falls out of family’s possession, and then back in after some time away. If I ever (who are we kidding, when) I get to write a family saga, there is going to be at least one of these in there.
- survivor characters – I like my people to go through some stuff. Their emotional baggage, more times than not, comes in coordinated ensembles and may, in fact, need a luggage cart, or small pack animal, to carry it through the whole book. Hauling around all that baggage does develop some emotional muscles.
This isn’t a comprehensive list, though that may be something to consider as I study the idea of core story. Always good to know what tools are in one’s toolbox. What’s in yours?