I was watching reruns of Buffy the Vampire Slayer recently and it occurred to me that it would make an excellent writing exercise.
Writing exercises are great to have in your back pocket for when you need an extra boost of inspiration.
Exercises, whether you follow them exactly or not, get you thinking critically and creatively which inevitably leads to IDEAS!
Those sacred beasts we’re all desperately scrambling to get a hold off.
Once you learn the art of creative thinking, which is really just daydreaming, you’ll find there’s a whole mob of ideas loitering just behind that tree and they actually want you to catch them, take them home and play with them for a while.
So what’s this writing exercise then? I call it The Buffy Effect, but you can find it in many a supernatural TV show. Think, Smallville and Misfits.
What these shows do exceptionally well, especially in earlier seasons, is construct metaphors.
Take a look at the season 1 episode of Buffy, The Pack. In The Pack a bunch of teenagers are possessed by hyenas and start acting like animals. This episode uses supernatural possession to explore bullying and male aggression in high school. There’s more nuance to it of course, but those are the broad strokes.
This is done in many supernatural narratives and one supernatural element can stand in for any number of real human experiences. Mutants in X-Men, and vampires in Trueblood have both been used to tell stories about racism, social exclusion and loneliness, among other things.
Now it’s your turn. There are two ways you can use The Buffy Effect to spark new ideas:
- Think of a real-life issue. Anything from war to divorce to acne. Then brainstorm how you can explore that issue through a supernatural lens. Now write!
- Think of a supernatural trope you would like to write about. It could be a supernatural creature (vampires, werewolves, witches) or phenomenon (supernatural abilities, a bizarre apocalypse, a portal opening to another dimension, time travel). Now brainstorm what sort of real life event or feeling that trope could represent or align with. Got it? Write it!
It doesn’t have to be a super obvious connection either. I recently wrote a story (currently in the editing phase) which used a zombie apocalypse to explore the loss of one’s first love. The zombie apocalypse raised the stakes and heightened the emotion of an experience than many people have gone through themselves.
This exercise is perfect for creating short stories and flash fiction. It can also be used as a starting point or brainstorming activity for a novella or novel. Another way to use it is to check whether an existing supernatural story you wrote has a relatable, human core beneath the monsters and mayhem.
If you’re after a more detail explanation of this exercise, with examples of supernatural tropes and real world experience that you can use for yourself, here’s a free PDF just for you!
Happy writing, dreamers!