A lot of writing advice I come across goes in one eye and back out the other. I’ve encountered so much contradiction that I eventually learned to cobble together bits of what works for me from all kinds of sources, including my own experience. Sometimes something comes along that’s so full of writery goodness that I either nod in agreement or learn something new.
Joss Whedon’s Top Ten Writing Tips makes me do both. Most every writer has a writing god, sometimes in multiples. Joss Whedon is one of mine. As other fans of his may have noticed in the paragraph above, I picked up bits of Buffy speak that I’ve never quite managed to put back down. Buffy was different. Buffy was cool in a way not exactly like anything else out there. Buffy’s always had imitators, but none that ever capture that exact Buffyness that makes Buffy the Vampire Slayer a series that left an indelible mark on the entertainment world.
I really love Angel too. The broody vampire cursed for the better, after being cursed for the worse. Not hard on the eyes either. Angel took a great ensemble into darkness and fear, with the perfect measure of lightness and humor. For me, the best thing about Angel is the 180 character changes. Doyle…good…scary…heroic martyr. Cordelia…vain, snobby cheerleader…rock solid, selfless (mostly) higher being. Wesley…stammering milquetoast…rebel outcast…romantic-fight-to-the-death hero. And the biggest one of all…Fred…a sweet girl with a huge brain…loyal big bad fighter…turns into Illyria…fallen god…powerful, arrogant…lethal…comrade in arms…friend. That kind of writing carries a lesson in each episode. Angel is like a master class in character growth. The series finale is one of my favorite TV episodes ever.
Firefly was a total Whedon about face. A space western, with a ship you fall in love with as much as the characters. It took the idea of a western and turned it on its head. It took the idea of science fiction and turned it inside out. It made the words Browncoat and Shiney (and a lot of a language we didn’t understand but got the gist) part of entertainment history.
Any time a writer who can do all of that wants to share his top writing tips, I’m going to pay attention. They’re aimed at screenwriting, but several can apply to fiction as well.