• NaPoWriMo Interview: Oroboro on Drama

    “Twi? Why does your diary go on and on about some waterfall and... oh. Um. Nevermind!”

    Today, we’ve got another legendary author to talk about what he does best. Oroboro cemented himself as one of the best Sunset Shimmer (and SunLight) authors in the fandom with his wonderfully epic (and emotionally traumatic) Fractured Sunlight. He’s also the mastermind behind the Sunset Shipping Project, a series of short stories shipping Sunset with each of the Canterlot High Mane 7. 

    And by the way, no, that 7 is not a typo.

    So, if you’re looking for ways to make your readers and characters suffer, continue below the break for Oroboro’s insights on drama!

    Novel-Idea:
    To get us going, where do you look for inspiration for your stories in the drama genre?

    Oroboro:
    Inspiration always comes in little bits from thousands of sources. From books, TV shows, cartoons, movies, video games. The more media you consume, the vaster the library in your head. Drama, at its core element, is about conflict between characters. So many of my ideas start at that point. Take two characters, and what's a conflict they could have, and how could it resolve? It should be something that fits the characters, for starters. And in that 'library of media,' there are a thousand different conflicts I've seen played out a thousand different times. So you take those basic ideas, figure out how they'd fit with the characters involved, reach the point of "this would work, but I've seen it a thousand times already," then find a new angle to give it. Something to make it unique, a personal touch. Combine it with bits and pieces of other media if you have to, or give it a nice sheen of personal experience.

    Novel-Idea:
    That's a great example. With the sheer amount of stories out there, how does one put a new spin on a pre-existing story or formula?

    Oroboro: 
    I'll borrow some advice from the Writing Excuses episodes "Where Do You Get Your Ideas" and "I Have an Idea, What Do I Do Now?" for this one. 

    Everything has been done before, but we keep reading new stories anyway. An easy rule of thumb is that the first idea you think of, is almost always going to be the low hanging fruit. It's everyone else's first idea as well, and has already been thoroughly picked. You need to go beyond that first idea, dig deeper. Figure out what about that idea is appealing to you. What about it would appeal to others? Can you combine it with another idea, or a cool concept, and get something fresh out of it? And, before you take your ideas too far into the realm of abstraction, figure out what part of the idea is simple, and easily relatable to some core facet of the human experience.

    Novel-Idea:
    With that in mind, what do you consider to be some of the challenges and potential pitfalls of writing effective dramas as opposed to comedies or slice-of-life stories?

    Oroboro:
    I suppose it has to do with scale. It's easy to look at drama and point at where it goes wrong. Too much melodrama, and the only emotional reaction it evokes is laughter, or it becomes just plain cringe-worthy. You need to put in a lot of work to get your readers invested in caring about the same things your characters care about. The higher the stakes, the more intense the emotions, the deeper the angst, the more groundwork you need to lay to start with. The framework of any given story can only support so many "Big" moments, and if you pile too much onto it, it'll collapse.

    Novel-Idea:
    What do you think are the critical components needed for a solid drama piece?

    Oroboro:
    Develop a sense of sadism and experience sheer delight in watching your characters and readers suffer.

    Other than that, I think it ties into what I already said above. When developing your idea, your core conflict, find some basic, relatable human experience and wrap your story around that as a theme. Whether it's something like "Rejection hurts" or "Hero worship" or "Family sticks together", or whatever. As long as you have something simple to ground your story, you can explore the crazy, over-complicated high concept stuff as much as you want, explore in any direction.

    Also, although this slides into more general writing advice, your characters should want something, and take active steps towards achieving that desire. Every character should want something. And when those desires intersect, drama is born. And that drama causes characters to grow, to learn, to change. (Incidentally, a failure to change at this step is the hallmark of a tragedy.)

    Novel Idea:
    Any suggestions on a practical exercise on how put this into action?

    Oroboro:
    Listen to people. Your family, your friends, your coworkers, strangers in a coffee shop. Listen to some small conflict, some argument, some disagreement that two real people are having with each other.

    Then find a way to tell a story about this argument. Figure out what two characters that it would be interesting for them to be having this argument. Make up context for why this argument exists. Embellish a little, raise the stakes. Give the characters a reason to care, and give the audience a reason too.

    Novel Idea:
    Have any closing thoughts you'd like to share?

    Oroboro:
    Keep writing, learn from your mistakes, and don't be afraid to try new things.

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