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On Podcasts, Buffy, and Learning from a Master Storyteller

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Do you listen to podcasts? I was a little late to the podcast party. Last time I tried to listen to a podcast, they were impossible to sync properly and, at the time, I had no way to listen in the car. One of my dearest friends, a fellow Outlander fan, suggested The Scot and the Sassanach. After her patient coaxing, I downloaded the first episode to listen to on my hour drive home from her house. Technology marches on and now, through the magic of Apple’s podcast app and my car’s bluetooth integration, I’m a total addict.

I’m working my way through their Story Wonk Sunday, Story Wonk Sessions, and Story Wonk Daily archives. The Story Wonk Sessions are especially fun since they focus on Pixar movies. I can multi-task and watch Pixar movies with Fox in preparation for my Story Wonk school. Win-win all around.

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Their newest Podcast, Dusted, focuses on analyzing Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Now, way back before the Pilot and I became parents to Fox, we glommed Buffy via Netflix. So far back, we had to wait for the next disc in the mail. Now, most of our television watching centers on age-appropriate TV for Fox. Am I the only parent praying for Peppa Pig to become bacon?

Anyway, I never got around to re-watching Buffy. In preparation for Dusted, I just watched the first two episodes and realized how much Joss Whedon, the genius creator of Buffy, seeded into that first episode. He hid so much in that episode that would later be key, important, or pivotal details.

For example, the opening segment shows a couple sneaking into Sunnydale high, seeking a private trysting place. The girl—dressed in a Catholic schoolgirl style—is Darla. That’s right, the first vampire we meet is Darla. That’s the very same Darla who created Angel and gave birth to Angel’s son, Connor, in an alleyway. We also run into Angel in this episode too as a helpful stalker.

Also, we meet Harmony for the first time. Harmony of Spike and Harmony fame. Harmony-the dimwitted girl who later becomes a vicious and funny vampire—is there. She only has a few lines of dialogue with Cordy in the computer lab. Blink and you miss it kind of thing. But she’s there.

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At the time we watched this (at least a decade ago), I only had eyes for Angel. And he’s cute and David Borenz’s acting’s come a long way. But Tony Head as Giles is the same age I am now (43) when Buffy began. And that Giles is awful cute with that accent and the Harry Potter glasses. How did I not notice that before?

One of my favorite things as a reader is being surprised when a tiny detail later becomes monumental. JK Rowling is a master at this and so is Whedon. As a writer, I know some of this is accidental or at least subconscious. For me, I’m looking at this wondering how I can integrate the big important details into the early scenes of my story to provide this same kind of reader surprise.

When I watched Buffy the first time, I mostly just watched for the story. But this time, I’m watching as a writer and taking notes. Then listening to the Lani Diane Rich and Alastair Stephens of Story Wonk help me break it down. Because part of being a great writer is learning from the master. Joss Whedon? Definitely a master.

Published inPodcastsWriting