Monday, 8 April 2013

The Second, Third, or Fourth Time


This post contains mild spoilers for Little Women, Return of the King, Dead Poets Society, Anne of Green Gables, Jane Eyre, and Battlestar Galactica. That’s a pretty weird tossed salad of stories, but bear with me. If you’re worried about being spoiled on the first five, seriously person, you’ve been living under a rock for the last century. ;)


Recently, my husband and I started watching Battlestar Galactica again after buying the entire series on blu-ray as a Valentine’s Day gift for ourselves. (Yes, that’s how nerds celebrate romance.)

Partway through season one, while watching a particularly tense episode, I realized that I was sitting on the edge of my seat (aka schlumpy rec room couch cushion). Now, there’s nothing particularly unusual about being in suspense during an action-packed TV show, but what struck me is that I knew exactly what was going to happen, because we’ve watched every episode of Battlestar before. I knew whether Starbuck would asphyxiate from the toxic atmosphere on the planet where she was stranded. I knew if the Galactica would have to jump to other coordinates and leave Starbuck behind. I knew whether Apollo would realize it was Starbuck flying the Cylon raider and not the enemy before shooting her into oblivion. And YET, I was still practically biting my nails while the plot unfolded.

Why? Because it’s storytelling at its best. It doesn’t matter if it’s a TV show, a movie, or a book, great storytelling will still be great the second, third, or fourth time. The story has been told in such a way that no matter how many times you watch or read it, you find yourself drawn in, connected, absorbed, and kicked in the emotional gut. It has that extra spark that keeps you coming back again and again.

It’s why I cry when Beth dies in Little Women or when Sam carries Frodo up the side of Mount Doom. It’s the reason I cheer every time Todd Anderson stands on his desk and says “O captain, my captain” at the end of Dead Poet’s Society. It’s why I cringe with laughter when Gilbert calls Anne “Carrots” and she smashes that slate over his head. It’s why I swoon when Jane saves Mr. Rochester from the fire in his bedroom (In her nightgown. Shocking!) Time and time again, we return to our favourites and enjoy them just as much or maybe more than when we were first introduced to them.

These are the stories I want to write. Stories that people will pick up and read over and over. That’s a pretty lofty goal, and I’m not sure if it’s one I’ll ever accomplish, but it’s something to aim for.

Do you have a favourite story you never get tired of reading or watching? What are your goals for the stories you write?

34 comments:

  1. You are a Jane Eyre fan AND a battlestar/science fiction fan!! Okay why did it take me so long to find this blog! Awesome! I am a total science fiction/fantasy geek and a huge Jane Eyre fan!

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    1. Yep, my reading and watching tastes are a pretty crazy mash-up of all things old fashioned and sci-fi. Gotta have variety, right? Nice to hear you're the same way!

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  2. It's funny because I often pick up books that I love and/or watch movies that I love, get totally wrapped up in them and even hope the outcome will be different despite knowing exactly what is going to happen. (I'm looking at you Jo and Laurie. I'll never stop shipping those two.) I think that's the beauty of compelling stories--it's like reading them again for the first time every time but also like visiting with an old friend. :)

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    1. That's exactly it--hoping the outcome will be different this time. The way you put this reminds me of that Einstein quote that says the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. So I guess good stories make us act like lunatics then? Sounds about right! :)

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  3. A short list of movies/books I never tire of: The Harry Potter books (of course); The Princess Bride; Doctor Who; Ratatouille; The Sherlock Holmes stories; Sherlock (the BBC series)... and this is just a sample. If I could discern what it is that makes these characters so compelling and the stories worth coming back to time and again, I wouldn't be wading through edits and facing the querying process again--I'd be published already! :)

    BTW, I've tagged you on the "Next Big Thing" blog hop. If you've done this before, then don't feel like you have to do it again. The details are on my blog hop article.

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    1. Harry Potter and the Princess Bride would both be on my list too. The ones I showed above were some of the first to pop into my head, but there are plenty more. I agree that it's difficult to pinpoint exactly what about these stories makes them so endearing. Sure, you could say it's the character development, or the world building, or any number of things, but the truth is there's more to it than that. I guess that's why we have to strive to write the very best we can and hope that special ingredient, whatever it is, manages to find its way into the mix!

      I haven't done the "Next Big Thing" blog hop yet, so thanks for tagging me. :)

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  4. That's my goal too. <3 Let's not give up, shall we?

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  5. Hello, Erin! I love it that you referenced that scene with Anne and Gilbert! I love the Anne of Green Gables books! It's one of favorite series. I featured L.M. Montgomery on my blog today for the A to Z Challenge.

    I strive to create such memorable scenes and characters, too, as these you've mentioned. Just gotta keep writing and reading and writing some more!!

    Happy reading and writing! from Laura Marcella @ Wavy Lines

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    1. I'll have to go check out your post! Being a redhead I've loved Anne of Green Gables for as long as I can remember. When I was eleven, I visited Green Gables on Prince Edward Island and I'd love to go back and see it again someday. Nice to find another kindred spirit! :)

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  6. I've learned that if I even get close to thinking about equaling the writing of those classics, I get blocked and roll up into a little ball of insignificance. But I think it's a secret dream that every writer has, and something we strive for - that magic moment when you create something that touches people and stays with them and makes them really feel. I'd love to produce a book like that, but if I aim for it, I'd never publish again! I think the books like that are Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, and even non-classics like Christie or Sayers. And then there are books that have that turn of phrase that's so exquisite that you stop and just marvel at it. I hope I find that magic someday.

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    1. Yes, as you say, this is probably the secret dream of every writer. And while it's something to aim for, all you can really do is write the best you can and hope that readers will enjoy what you've created.

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  7. Congratulations on your Blitz Blog. Nice going. Hugs and all the best.

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  8. I am so with you on this! Anne of Green Gables is one of the series I read almost annually as a girl - she was my hero. :) And the Captain, My Captain moment still makes me cry...

    Happy Blog Blitz day! :D

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    1. Growing up, I loved both the book and movie of Anne of Green Gables. As a red head with a crazy imagination, I could really relate to her. In high school I went though a Dead Poets Society phase, which included reading poetry and a huge crush on Ethan Hawke lol. That movie had a huge influence on me. :)

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  9. I never get tired of reading The Wheeel of Time series by Robert Jordan- some 14 books long- yet to read the last instalment and I'm going to be so sad when it ends. The main character, Rand, has such incredible growth throughout the series- it's really sepcial. Robert passed away before the end of the series, so we won't have any more treasure from him.

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    1. I haven't tackled The Wheel of Time series yet, but my husband is a huge Robert Jordan fan. I think it's so sad that Robert Jordan didn't get to write the end of his own series. I admire him so much for planning the story out, even though he knew he wouldn't ever see the last book in print. I will definitely get around to reading his series someday.

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  10. I see absolutely nothing weird in that tossed salad! I actually have some trouble with editors because I learned to write from Jane Eyre and Little Lord Fauntleroy, not Strunk and White.

    My mother could never understand why I would read the same book over and over - but she would urge me to see the same play or movie because "you always see something new." Never understood that woman. Good storytelling is good storytelling, and worth enjoying twice (or more), whatever the medium.

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    1. I can't imagine not reading my favourite books more than once! And I agree, good storytelling is good storytelling. Well said!

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  11. SURPRISE!!!!! NEW BLOGGER FRIEND HERE! YOU"VE BEEN BLITZED!!!!

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  12. I love going back and reading all my favorite parts of my favorite novels. Pride and Prejudice is one of them! Of course LOTR, and then there's even my own book!

    Wonderful blog & yay blitz!!
    <3

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    1. Sometimes I just reread my favourite parts too. And fortunately I haven't grown tired of rereading my own book either, especially seeing as I'm still revising certain things. :)

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  13. My favorite love story if The Phantom of the Opera, My favorite dinosaur movie is Jurassic Park, and I could go on and on -- but what really makes it fun is to share it with a loved one!

    Happy Blog Blitz Day!

    Nice to meet you Erin!

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    1. Phantom of the Opera is a great story. I've read the book and was fortunate enough to see the musical when I was in high school. And I agree that sharing stories with loved ones is the most fun. :)

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  14. I never get tired of watching Firefly, the Princess Bride, or reading through Kim Harrison's Rachel Morgan series.

    Happy Blitz Day!

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    1. My husband and I just finished watching Firefly again. Firefly and Eureka are my favourite TV shows ever. And we're huge Princess Bride fans in my house too. So many funny quotable lines from that movie. It's a classic!

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  15. I have never seen any of the movies/shows you listed. My husband likes Battlestar Gallactica

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    1. I love Battlestar. Glad to hear your husband is a fan too. :)

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  16. I know what you mean. Even watching Signs and Sixth Sense, where the movies are all about the secret at the end, I still love all the drama and action. This is how I want to write also - to make readers pick up the novel again and again.

    .......dhole

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    1. Sometimes it's just as fun to go back and look for the clues you missed before the twist ending, whether it's a book or a movie. :)

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  17. Hi Erin, You have picked some of my favorites. We try to watch Anne of Green Gables series at least once every couple of years. LOR as well. I would also count Ben Hur among my all time favorites. Good post. Glad I stopped by. Hope you were blessed by the blitz. Thanks, Maria from Delight Directed Living

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    1. When I was a kid we had a video tape of Anne of Green Gables, and we nearly wore the thing out we watched it so much. We usually watch LOTR at least once a year too, and it'll probably be the same with The Hobbit now. Thanks for stopping by!

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