Category Archives: Brad Dunne

Farm to Table: Worldbuilding vs Storytelling

Last weekend I attended a panel on world building in genre fiction. There was a lot of interesting discussion, including one question a lot of genre writers grapple with constantly: When does world building stop? As in, when does world building become tedious exposition. After all, the reader doesn’t want an encyclopedic presentation of your lore; they want a dramatic story. I’m not sure about the precise numbers, but I’m willing to bet The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings have sold a helluva lot more copies than The Silmarillion.

When it comes to world building, I think the biggest challenge genre writers face is knowing when to stop, recognizing what they can, and should, leave out. The analogy I often use is that the writer is like a chef and the reader is their customer. When most people go to a restaurant, they don’t care about the work that’s gone into the dish. All they care about is the meal. What kinda soil did these turnips grow in? What sorta grain did this cow eat? Most people don’t care about this. They wanna eat their steak and veggies in peace. Likewise, do I really need multiple paragraphs on the history of every little village your adventurers pass through? No.

Sure, there are foodies and the whole farm to table movement of people who are really interested all that extracurricular stuff (The Silmarillion does sell copies). However, that’s extra. If you make flavourless food no one is gonna eat it no matter how much you tell them about the acidity of the soil.

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Hemingway said “If a writer of prose knows enough about what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them.” Easier said than done. This is difficult for genre writers because there’s the fear that leaving out certain bits of information will leave the reader confused.

So, let’s say you’ve committed all these hours to drafting your writing and have developed a robust universe for your characters to experience. What sorta techniques or principles can you deploy to avoid falling into exposition traps.

David Simon, showrunner of The Wire and other great TV series, makes a great point when he observed that the viewer “loves being immersed in a new, confusing, and possibly dangerous world that he will never see. He likes not knowing every bit of vernacular or idiom. He likes being trusted to acquire information on his terms, to make connections, to take the journey with only his intelligence to guide him. Most smart people cannot watch most TV, because it has generally been a condescending medium, explaining everything immediately, offering no ambiguities, and using dialogue that simplifies and mitigates against the idiosyncratic ways in which people in different worlds actually communicate. It eventually requires that characters from different places talk the same way as the viewer. This, of course, sucks.”

Don’t be afraid of ambiguity. Andrew Stanton (writer/director for Finding Nemo and Wall-e) said don’t give the audience 4, give them 2+2. Don’t be afraid to let your reader work for their meal, so to speak. Let them fill in some of the gaps. That’s part of the fun.

When Han Solo tells Luke Skywalker the Millennium Falcon is a great ship because “it made the Kessel Run in twelve parsecs,” we don’t need to know what the Kessel Run is. We think, “oh this must be some kinda inter-galactic smuggling thing,” and now our imagination starts expanding this universe even more. Or we might even think, “this guy sounds like he’s making this up,” which builds character. It’s not necessary to see Solo for any of this to work, if anything it might ruin it for a lot of people.

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So, ultimately, it all comes down to storytelling. Most people don’t care about your homework. World building is a means to an end. Figure out what that end is and don’t worry about your readers understanding every inch of your setting.

Cheers

-b

 

 

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Write Like No One’s Reading | Brad Dunne’s Blog

This weekend I will be launching my debut novel, After Dark Vapours. It’s obviously a very exciting time for me; publishing a book has been a dream for me ever since I was a little kid reading Goosebumps. Likewise, I’ve been lucky to have experienced an outpouring of support and enthusiasm from friends and family. Perhaps the most common refrain I hear, especially from bookish friends, is that they too have always wanted to write a book. If you’re reading this and also feel the same, believe me when I tell you that if I can do it, you can do it. So, with that in mind, I’d like to give you all some advice that I wish someone gave me when I started writing:

Write like no one is reading. Continue reading Write Like No One’s Reading | Brad Dunne’s Blog

Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow: The failure of the DCEU

In 2013, when Man of Steel was released, I wrote about the challenges of adapting Superman for modern audiences. After a mixed bag of movies, it seems like Warner Bros is ready to cut bait and move on from this iteration of Krypton’s most famous son. Or maybe not? Now, Ben Affleck is apparently looking to bail as well. Who knows. The fact of the matter is, the DCEU is a dumpster fire.

Which is unfortunate because, unlike the MCU, Warner Bros actually owns all the IP rights to the DC characters. It should’ve been them leading the way of the shared cinematic universe, not Marvel, who didn’t even own the rights to Spider-Man when this whole trend got going. The MCU built perhaps the biggest box office juggernaut in Hollywood history off the backs of second-tier characters. What the hell happened? Continue reading Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow: The failure of the DCEU

Hail, Paimon! Perspective in Hereditary

One of my favourite podcasts at the moment is Show me the Meaning, which does deep dives into the themes of popular movies. (It was a big influence for my podcast Deconstruction Junction.) Even when I disagree with them, I still find lots to think about. Recently they were discussing Hereditary, a pretty awesome but polarizing horror movie. They mostly took issue with a pivotal moment in the film where the plot shifts from psychological horror to supernatural. I want to zero in on this moment because it reveals a lot about perspective and how the viewer treats the camera as an “objective” point of view.

 

(Before I continue I’m gonna make a spoiler alert here. If you haven’t seen Hereditary then I strongly suggest watching it before reading this because I’m gonna be discussing some plot details, especially w/r/t the climax and conclusion. You’ve been warned!) Continue reading Hail, Paimon! Perspective in Hereditary

Do or Do Not: Anthony Bourdain, Star Wars, and Failure

Like so many, I was deeply saddened by the news of Anthony Bourdain’s suicide. He produced many great TV shows and pretty much created modern food culture with Kitchen Confidential. He was a once in a generation influence.

I was watching one of his final interviews where he made a point that I’ve been thinking a lot about ever since. (I highly recommend watching the full thing.) He said, “I’d much rather not make TV at all or make unsuccessful TV than competent television…I detest competent, workman-like storytelling…I’d rather fail.” At the face of it, attacking competency seems wilfully ignorant, but what Bourdain means here by “competent storytelling” is by the numbers acceptable mediocrity.  He’d rather take a chance at something different and fail. “There are shows where people are just going to hate it. They don’t like the style, they think it’s self-indulgent. But that’s the kind of failure I like. A powerful reaction one way or another is infinitely preferable to pleasing everybody.” Continue reading Do or Do Not: Anthony Bourdain, Star Wars, and Failure

Brad Dunne

brad_closeBrad Dunne is a freelance writer and editor from St. John’s, Newfoundland. He began his writing career as an intern at The Walrus magazine and has published journalism and essays in publications such as Maisonneuve, The Canadian Encyclopedia, and Herizons. His short fiction has been featured in In/Words, Acta Victoriana, and The Cuffer Anthology.

His debut novel, After Dark Vapours, will be available in October. He maintains a blog at braddunne.ca

He’s also active on twitter (@braddunne1796) and instagram (@yoloflaherty).

 


ADV_testAfter Dark Vapours by Brad Dunne

The Pitch: Werewolves and a dark family secret in Northern Labrador! Growing up without his father, Tyler had no way of knowing the horrible secret that has plagued his family for generations. To free himself and find the cure, he will have to look beyond himself and into his dark history.

As a twenty-something ne’er do well, Tyler is stuck in a rut. He works a dead-end job, gets high, and plays video games. The only bright spot in his life, his girlfriend Julie, is about to leave Newfoundland (and, by extension, Tyler) for law school. She knows that he’s a smart, talented guy, but he’s held back by familial trauma he refuses to confront.

Then the family curse, and the full moon, transforms Tyler into a werewolf, a fearsome beast with no memory of its humanity, driven by the call of the hunt.

It’s only by diving into his past and exploring his family’s history that Tyler has a hope of finding a cure. It is a journey that will take him north to Labrador and face to face with the terrible legacy of residential schools.

To make amends for a crime and appease an offended god, Tyler must choose between making a great sacrifice or living the rest of his life as a monster.

MCU Ranked | Dun Dun Dunne

Hi there,

With the recent release of Avengers: Infinity War I thought it would fun to introduce myself to the Engen community by ranking (in my opinion) the MCU films from worst to best. Because who doesn’t love some good old fashioned clickbait? I should warn you that there may be spoilers ahead, so you’ve been dully warned.

Alrighty then, I’m gonna cut to the chase and dive right in…

Continue reading MCU Ranked | Dun Dun Dunne