What Buffy the Vampire Slayer taught me about writing
April 28, 2013
I was very fortunate when I was at university, because I was taught creative writing by Witi Ihimaera, author of The Whale Rider. However, as it often the case, I didn’t really have the experience at that time to benefit as fully as I could from the process. One piece of advice in particular that Witi gave me, that went completely over my head, was that “Your novel must have arcs. You sow the seeds at the beginning, arc over the story, and pick it up and tie it all off at the end”. (May not be an actual quote – it was over ten years ago). Ah. Exactly. Earnest 21-year-old me nodded enthusiastically, asked for one explanation, still didn’t understand but gave up and hoped it wouldn’t affect her final mark (it didn’t.)
Because I was too busy studying and worrying about marks during my high school years, I missed Buffy the Vampire Slayer the first time around. However, in my mid-20s I saw Season 1 on special in an independent CD and DVD store and I thought I would give it a go. I was mesmerised and went on to watch all seven series in rapid succession. However, much to my surprise, I finally got what Witi was on about with the arc. Season One – the idea of the Master is introduced. Intervening episodes – he is mentioned from time to time, they have run-ins, but we, the viewer, are always aware that he’s there, in the background. Final episodes – Buffy has to deal with the Master directly (no spoilers. But it is good). Start the idea at the background, let it “arc” over your entire work, and tie it in at the end for a satisfying conclusion and a unified whole.
And they say television rots your brain…