So let’s talk about SOME THINGS I ENJOY. One answer to this is really obvious: I like supernatural teens, in a vaguely grubby British setting, overwhelmed by terrible problems. Often the problems are: their personalities.
Why the grubby British setting? I’m not really sure. There’s a lot of history there, obviously, and I like the lack of high gloss and super-attractive people that American media has. This is not to say I don’t like American books (too many examples to count) and American shows (my devotion to The Vampire Diaries is well documented).
Possibly it’s just because Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising series and Diana Wynne Jones got me at a young age, and made me think That Is The Way Things Should Be. One of my favourite scenes from a fantasy book, ever, is when in Diana Wynne Jones’s The Ogre Downstairs the main characters accidentally sow dragons’ teeth in a parking lot (the myth: sowing dragons’ teeth reaps you a harvest of warriors). Angry bikers spring up in the parking lot, and the main characters – a new stepfamily who aren’t getting on any too well – have to make their escape by chucking groceries at them.
That is the kind of thing I call ‘putting the magic out with the milk bottles’ – mixing up magic with extremely basic real life in a way that makes the magic seem absolutely convincing. And I see it with this setting a lot. Which is why I like to use grubby British settings a lot myself. 😉
One example of this kind is a show I am mad about called Misfits, a series set in a fictional borough of London about young offenders sentenced to community service, who all get super powers. (One of them: That kind of thing only happens in America.) Their total lack of control of said powers mean they have to run around hiding dead bodies and getting into embarrassing situations all the livelong day. There’s a lot of hilarious dialogue and people who can’t deal with their feelings even slightly.
Another example, and the one which spurred this post, is a series called Becoming Human. It’s a spinoff of another show called Being Human, but let us lay that aside, because the reason I like the series is in the title. It’s why I write teen fiction – because the process of ‘becoming’ is so fraught and fascinating, because when you’re still working out who you are you can do some terrible things and then come back from them. Or not.
Quick summary: a teenage vampire goes to school to try and live a normal life. What’s that I hear you cry? Sounds, um, familiar? Sure, but I love vampires. And this is the way to get me to love vampires more: make them embarrass themselves. Adam the baby vampire is forty-six, which is just horrifying instead of being a glamorous century plus, and he constantly makes eighties pop-culture references that mystify his classmates. Additionally, he seems very young adult, as his parents who fed him their blood and moved around the country with him, keeping him in a cycle of eternal childhood and causing him to have literally lost the ability to shut up oh God Adam please shut up, have just died.
At his new school, chances of a normal life are immediately nixed by his meeting Christa, who recently had a mysterious bad break-up and changed her look abruptly from pigtails to black duster jackets, who is enormously grouchy, and who refuses to admit she’s a werewolf. (How I like werewolves: anger issues and confusing transformations!) And Matt, a ghost who never felt he had much of a life, who wants revenge against his former bullies and revenge against his murderer, and who convinces them to help find out who said murderer actually was. Supernatural Brick style shenanigans ensue.
Another thing that I enjoy: strange partners who fight crime. I have high hopes that Christa, the smart one, could become a werewolf Veronica Mars with differently-living sidekicks. I also have high hopes that Christa and Adam will overcome the barriers of their species and personalities, and be together forever, but that is a side issue…
The way I like all supernatural issues: Use the supernatural thing as an analogy to real-life problems to some extent, and then use the myth for its own scary, interesting sake as well. Real life, but take it further.
And speaking of taking things further. Becoming Human is actually a web-series. And it has all these little online extras to go with it, like character profiles and an excerpt from Christa’s diary.
All of which I totally read, and which got me thinking about the different ways online promotion works. Ideally it should enhance the experience of being a fan of something, and get you more excited about something. It should provide you with a little something extra.
Misfits has twitter accounts for several of the main characters, which I love because I love twitter, and the way it inspires mini-conversations. (Just last night on my twitter I was doing ‘two characters stuck somewhere together’ tweets. On a prompt of ‘The one I REALLY want is Alan and Sin Start a Detective Agency’ I had fun with: ‘CLIENT: Help! ALAN: Trust me. SIN: Don’t.’)
I also love online short stories. Because I think fans deserve presents, and because they’re what I was talking about earlier: something extra, and exciting. I have a ton of short stories up set in the universe of my books. Kelley Armstrong has a blog where she tells short stories from other characters’ POVs and does giveaways.
Holly Black has taken this a step farther and done a series of vignettes from the point of view of the heroine of White Cat which are both awesome in themselves, and have extras from the world of the Curse Workers series, like TV ads and posters.
Basically Becoming Human got me thinking about online extras, what works, and what I like. And I was wondering, dear readers, what do you like? There’s a lot of awesome stuff. Carrie Ryan’s going to have a novella out for super cheap. Cassandra Clare has a tumblr for a new character in her series. Baen, to talk about a publishing house instead of writers or TV shows, gives away tons of free e-books.
Fans can make truly spectacular things. I am watching the entries come in for Promotion Notion ARC contest with great joy (round-up of entries so far to come soon) and I will never get over the amazingness of the Demon’s Lexicon told through lego. I am not a quarter talented enough to do such things! But I did wonder about people’s thoughts on creator-generated extra content.
So: what works for you, and what do you like to see? Anything special? Just hand over the TV shows and books and nobody will get hurt? I would like to know! And talk about it further.
I will also be talking about how I like my vampires, and about mixing up real life settings and magic, again. But you all knew that. 😉
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