Monday, October 09, 2017

Emmerdale / Young Adult, continued

You turn on your favourite soap, and you’re in that village or street or square that you know so well. You settle in to spend time with a group of characters that you’ve got to know almost as well as family. As a viewer you want that reassuring, warm sense of familiarity, but you want more than that – you want to be surprised. So the writer’s job on a soap is to find the surprise in the context of the familiar. Hence the murders, affairs, amnesia, stalking, drug addiction and cliff-hangers mentioned in the previous post.

It’s a lesson I’ve learnt from writing soap and brought to writing for teenagers – everything should be familiar, everything should be normal, until suddenly it isn’t. In The Impossible, my YA novel, I’ve created a fictional small town called Gilpin based on Hebden Bridge, (by which I mean it basically is Hebden Bridge.) It’s the kind of town where you meet people you know as you wander down the street, where you chat to the local butcher, you hang out in a favourite cafe, and as kids you all went to the same primary school. It's an ordinary world, until the extraordinary creeps in, spreads, infects the whole town. Something weird is going on  - it’s a bit John Wyndham, it’s a bit Stranger Things, only even stranger - and the whole town’s quarantined. Surprise, within the context of the familiar. Along with character, texture, nuance, humour. And cliff-hangers.

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