Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Thoughts on the classic serial adventure in short story form

My ambition is to write the kind of stories that I enjoyed as a kid and to also write around a recurring character and themes. I would love get to know a character so well that simply crafting adventures is second nature and anyone and everyone that enters the story would be perfectly placed to add either conflict, motivation or interest.

Flash Gordon comic cover

I've always loved the idea of a 1940s / 1950s style serial adventure. A kind of Flash Gordon style hero that faces a new challenge each week. I would write short stories in which my hero would test himself physically, mentally and morally and then return to the relative safety of their "home". Whatever or wherever that may be.

Some years ago I'd initially written a short treatment for a young 12 year old high school hero. An all round good guy, popular amongst his peers, good looking, fine soccer player and also brilliant creator of things. I'd given him multiple names and never landed on one that really stuck. This kid was thrilled with space. That wide-eyed boyish wonder of staring in to the night sky and just imagining what might be. But of course this being drama I'd placed my young hero right in the middle of an intergalactic war.

My heroic pre-teen good guy was hard at work in his father's shed crafting a space gun. Perfect for taking down alien beings. He'd read all the signs and was pretty sure that an invasion was due. He was right! One night the invading bug-like monstrosities arrived in his town. Clearly drawn to the threat that this wonderkid posed they wanted to face their potential nemesis and do battle.

You can imagine the consequences.

But several things didn't work. Such a rounded and almost perfect character offered little or no opportunity for focusing on weakness. I always wanted a character with weaknesses such that I could devote a good amount of text to dealing with what would become teenage issues.

So I threw everything on its head. I took the boy away from the comfort of home life right from the start. Through some means or other the kid is dumped in outer space. His underlying goal is to return home. But whilst he's out there he grows as a boy. Grows in confidence, adapting all the time to his new life, fighting aliens, making new friends and just dealing with the fact that he doesn't have the "perfect" life.

It gave me the opportunity to focus on his vulnerabilities and highlight weakness whilst at the same time presenting the underlying theme of homesickness. I never quite figured what series of events could have led to this situation arising so I went back and studied Flash Gordon, amongst others. I wanted to examine what might be plausible and/or enjoyable to an audience. I studied other cartoon adventures from my own youth - the classic Dungeons and Dragons cartoon, Valley of the Dinosaurs. Adventures where the good guys are removed from their normal life and long to return home. You always got the impression that should they return home at all they would be several times stronger than they'd been when they were removed from it. It's a common method. Buck Rogers and John Carter of Mars are two other classic stories where the good guy has been dumped in to a different scenario.

This is very much a project I want to rekindle. It's also quite close to me. I had a huge love of these serials as a boy and they each in their own way dealt with the concept of isolation that I like to run through all of my own work.

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