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Something wonderful happened this holiday season.

Something magical, unexpected, joyous.

My friends decided to watch Farscape.

It took two years of pestering and almost a week of downloading the 13GB first season, and to be honest I didn’t think it was going to happen. But, hey, Christmas is a time for miracles.

Rewatching this show for the, er… mumblemumble… embaarrasingly-large-number-th time, I am reminded of:

1) how much I love it, and

2) how much MORE I love it than any other shows I’ve seen since then. (Firefly could have given it a run for it’s money if it hadn’t been killed in infancy, and Doctor Who might… possibly be kind of…. possibly, maybe… getting there.   But for the most part I haven’t seen anything Farscape-calibre besides Farscape.)

As my friends laugh at the cheesiness and the ten-year old special effects, I analyze why exactly I love this show so much.

And I know: it’s not just the story, it’s how the story’s told.

Farscape has something I need to learn.

Here’s the thing.

When I decided to dedicate myself to writing, it was, well, the writing that I thought I needed to learn.  But now as I bring my work into the light of day, I find myself more and more interested in storytelling.

See, good writing makes a book tolerable, but good storytelling makes a book desirable.   

The writing is the easy part.  Googling “writing tips” will bring up more pages than one could possibly read about pleonasms, showing not telling and adverb awfulness.  But the rules of storytelling are less concrete–intrigue and mystery, appealing characters, satisfying plot.  What makes a good story is… shifting, ephemeral, abstract.  What works in one story is cheesy in another.  What gets an A+ on technical quality might get  a D on desirability.  What gets an A on desirability might get a D on technical quality.  What makes a good sentence isn’t exactly rocket science.  But what makes a good story is more mysterious.

Well, black holes and dark matter and things at the bottom of the ocean are mysterious too.  But we still study them.

Anything can be analyzed. Anything can be learned.

And that’s exactly what I plan to do.

Over the next few weeks, I will be doing what I started down this path to do–writing novels.  And as I go through the final edits and polishes on my works and put them out so all can see, I’ll be educating myself on that real quality that makes a novel worth reading: the storytelling.  And because sharing is caring, I’ll be posting the lessons learned here.

So how do we study these qualities?

Simple: we look at stories.  And here’s the thing, as I am reminded watching Farscape, stories do not only exist in novels.  Poetry and essays as well as movies and TV tell stories too.  My goal is to study the best story telling methods in any medium and attempt to translate them to my own novels.  To quantify and capture the storytelling greatness in those stories that I have been most affected by. 

Starting with Farscape.

Merry frelling Christmas.

4 Responses to “Upcoming Storytelling Lessons From Farscape”

  1. eporter70

    Farscape is a fabulous study of character development. The show often had plots that made little sense, but the characters were almost always true to themselves. To me, that’s what makes fiction desirable–believable, relateable, flawed, fully developed characters. It wasn’t about the whozit or whatzit in Farscape–it was about John, Aeryn, Zhaan, D’Argo, etc.

    I think it’s a great test study for storytelling–frankly, it got me writing fan fiction like there was no tomorrow.

    • aeliusblythe

      Absolutely! The subtle transformation of the characters was remarkable too. The way they grew–not only in themselves but in their interactions with each other–was so natural that you hardly noticed it was happening, but it was. Way more natural than the characters in almost any other show.

      I’ll admit the episode-by-episode plots weren’t always fantastic, but I loved the season-long arcs. The first thing I’m working on analyzing, actually, is the way they built these over-arcing stories while still keeping individual episodes engaging. (Hopefully that’ll be up in a few days!)

  2. kyte

    Farscape is one of my alltime favourites. I must confess that I first watched it on TV because it was filmed here in Australia… but I kept watching because it was good – REALLY good. I was SO disappointed when it was axed. There was a lot more of the story to be told, and the Peacekeeper Wars which, whilst pretty good, didn’t wind it up well enough, as far as I am concerned.

    In any case it was good enough for me to go to the local DVD store and buy the entire series in one fell swoop. (I’ve subsequently done the same with Stargate, Star Trek et al… but I didnt connect with most of those characters as I did with the Farscape mob. The remake of Battlestar Galactica came very close and yes, I bought that entire series too)

    • aeliusblythe

      Farscape is the only series I’ve bought the entire DVD set of. Unfortunately it’s on the other side of the world. Fortunately, BitTorrent is right here at my desk! :-)

      “Best science fiction show that’s ever been made for television…”



  1.  Farscape Storytelling Lessons « Cheapass Fiction

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