Write Like Stranger Things

Stranger Things is a uniquely familiar story that hits all the right story conventions while still seeming fresh and fun. It comes back to season two with the same elements that made me love season one. Nothing felt over-done or recycled. The danger was believable and made my skin crawl just thinking about being stuck in the caves and hunted by Demogorgons. 

Dig Dug, in particular, was a great episode. It kept the subplots going. Focused on the conflict of Hopper stuck in the tunnels. And tied it all to Will’s slow descent into being controlled by the monster. 

What it does well

Inter-weaving stories

There is a lot going on in both seasons of Stranger Things but particularly season two. There are many characters to follow and lots of subplots to keep up with. The Duffer Brothers and other writers had a clear idea where they were going when they wrote the scripts. They may not have known how they would get there, but it’s obvious they know what the change that occurred was going to be. 

Keep that in mind when working on your own stories. Only you’ll know the process that works for you, but knowing where each and every subplot is headed and why it’s in there is going to be key for creating stories like Stranger Things. 

Humor

What I most appreciate about Stranger Things is that is couples the dark stories to humor. I appreciate being made to laugh when Mews is killed because it’s a sad moment, but I can just picture myself dealing with it just as Dustin did. 

Again, you should have a reason for the choices you make with regards to your story, but if you can add humor to offset dramatic experiences I’d be a fan. Provided it’s done well. In this case, the humor is subtle. Like Steve teaching Dusting about girls and sharing his haircare secrets in episode six. It’s just enough to give us a break from utter annihilation, but not too much that we get pulled out of the story entirely.  

Numerous characters

It can be difficult to get a handle on such a large cast of characters. Stranger Things not only managed but added even more for season two. All the characters are unique. They have wants and needs that are separate from other characters, but that play together as a whole. It’s easy to feel like you know Bob, Max, Will, or Eleven simply because we empathize with them. We’re there for the journey and we want to see how it ends. 

In your writing, make sure to keep your characters straight. The best way to do so isn’t to necessarily focus on their traits and mannerisms, though those can be important. It’s to focus on the choices they make when forced to do so. Choices define the character’s core and will be what the audience attaches to when they read your work. You may only have one protagonist, but the more you know about the other characters, the more they will feel real on the page no matter the role they play. 

Thinking on their feet

Originally, Bob was supposed to die in an earlier episode, per the season two interviews on Netflix. Sean Astin brought so much to the character that they kept him around until his untimely death at the lab (which was tragic, even though I saw it coming). The writers realized that Bob was such a lovable character that keeping him around would improve the show. They also originally imagined Steve as a terrible person, kind of like Max’s brother in season two. However, when Joe Keery got the part, they realized they had some rewriting to do. We ended up with the Steve we know and love who teams up with Dustin to hunt for Dart. 

That said, the Duffer Brothers (and the individual writers working on the episodes) know when to change direction. They aren’t afraid to turn something they liked, maybe even loved, and change it into something completely different based on what the actors bring to the stage. Obviously, you probably don’t have actors around that might cause you to otherwise reinterpret your character. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t take a page out of their book. 

Don’t be afraid to cut something you love if it isn’t working. It might be your favorite line from the whole story, but you can’t let that stop you from doing justice to the work as a whole. Learn to separate yourself from the writing and give it everything it needs to work and be successful. Don’t get too attached because it will make it harder to edit and feel personal when someone tells you to cut your favorite part or character. 

Now take it to your work. Get back to writing. Write Like Stranger Things. 

2 thoughts on “Write Like Stranger Things

  1. You’ve posted some great advice. I’ve only started following you recently. I like the way you present your ideas in simple, no nonsense language. I’m currently struggling to get my amateur draft into professional draft form using what I’ve read from The Story Grid/Foolscape book and the many podcasts Shawn has posted. I hope to have it in professional draft form by New Years. I’m thinking 3 to 5 re-writes. This is my first story. After that, I would love to engage a SG Editor.

    Thanks for posting your thoughts. Every bit helps

    1. Jerome, I’m so happy to help you better understand story. You’re right, it’s a process. You have to do the work to get better. I’m so happy you’re getting it done and finding the help you need along the way from me and Story Grid. Keep writing!

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