FEATURE| Writing the Supernatural
You can find the rest of this great newsletter, and others, here at greg buchanan’s site. here’s my tidbit:
I have put a lot of (shower) thought into this, and the metaphor I always come back to is a Mylar balloon. The supernatural aspects of your lore / world / idea are the balloon itself. The little weight at the bottom is what anchors it to our understanding. Without a human connection to the strange and wonderful, it’ll float out of reach and your reader / player may struggle to connect with the narrative you’re peddling. After all, we should be able to see something of ourselves in amongst the ectoplasm!
Du Lac & Fey: Dance of Death is a good exercise in the supernatural, as it draws into question our own myths and the way they have been represented throughout our histories. Does legend count as supernatural when it is rooted in living history? Or does it only become supernatural when it is removed from its original context? These are questions I don’t actually know the answers to, but they are fun to think about.
Fey provides us with a unique pair of eyes through which to peer, and I feel as though she is a good representation of what the supernatural can be – a lens through which to view the human world. It is an opportunity to look at ourselves and the rules we’ve created in a mirror – be it one tainted with magic and the impossible. A legendary sorceress trapped in the body of an animal allowed us to explore feelings of mistrust, frustration, and crushing alienation. We contrast her with brave Lancelot, the Victorian ideal of chivalrous masculinity, and we begin to understand her trajectory through the game; how painful it is to be invisible and unheard when you have so much to say, and a plight she shares with the forgotten masses of the 19th century.
Atone is another foray into the history books, this time Norse Mythology. The task was to take non-human entities and create for them relatable personas, closing the gap between the ‘them’ and the ‘us’ by rooting their arcs in human emotion and experience.
At the opposite end of this spectrum sits Sundown; a short-form narrative experience where you must help a young WW2 soldier (Private William Harris) come to terms with his own death. Where Du Lac & Fey and Atone allowed us to explore how to make the supernatural human, Sundown was a lesson in making the human supernatural. In order to follow William on his journey, pesky Father Time had to be removed from the picture. The supernatural allowed us to deliver this story of loss, much in the same way Ghibli seeds a human message within their weird and wild worlds.
I’ll conclude with stating the obvious – there are no rules to follow when approaching the supernatural. Don’t let that balloon full of ideas fly away, but, by the same token, don’t let that human anchor limit your concept. Have fun with it! I couldn’t possibly leave without mentioning the show, but Supernatural took the supernatural and poked holes in it. Hell – Twilight did things to vampires we’ll hopefully still be talking about many years down the line!