Thursday, February 6, 2014

American Horror Story: Coven & Lessons on Plot and Characterization

If you’ve watched the latest installment of American Horror Story: Coven, you may have noticed some short-fallings of the season. I’ll keep out spoilers as much as I can, but here’s what AHS: Coven has taught me about plotting, characterization, and pacing.

1. When you start with a BANG, follow up.

Coven started out SO promising. We’ve got badass teenage witches in New Orleans, a school for witches, voodoo, a witch war, powers. I mean, what is not to like about all of this?

The problem is, when you have so many elements in your story, you need to make sure each is properly invested in. If you have ten characters who intertwine, leaving one or two out of the loop for a while can cause readers to lose their interest.

This is where plotting and planning come in. A big story needs big payoff, so it’s important to pay attention to who your characters are, and to make sure that everything comes off as clear and not rushed. If you notice that a few plotlines are being missed or it’s too much, it may be time to cut some of it for the sake of the overall story.

2. Subplots are awesome, but too many is exhausting.

Coven is the reigning Queen of subplots. Here are just a few:
  • ·        Fiona (Supreme Witch) and her dying power
  • ·        Fiona and aging
  • ·        Fiona and her love affair
  • ·        Fiona and the Voodo Queen
  • ·        Fiona and the Coven
  • ·        Cordelia and her fertility
  • ·        Cordelia and her mother (Fiona)
  • ·        Cordelia and the Coven
  • ·        Delphine Lalaurie and the Voodoo Queen
  • ·        Delphine Lalaurie and the Coven
  • ·        Delphine Lalaurie and her past
  • ·        Marie Leveau and the Voodoo fight against the witches
  • ·        Marie Leveau and the Witch Hunters

… I could go on. There must be at least thirty subplots in this series. Unfortunately, a lot gets lightly touched upon or thrown away because there is simply not enough time or room to cover all of these subplots (I didn’t even get to at least seven characters.)

Subplots are an amazing tool for your book. They aid in characterization and the overall atmosphere of the story, but too many can result in chaos, confusion, and pieces left behind. Ensure that you can cover everything you have planned with your characters. If you don’t want to cut, then consider multiple books or a series. Give your readers what they deserve: a well-written, well-rounded narrative with characters you can sink into.

3. Characterization

With Coven having SO many main characters (Fiona, Cordelia, Madison, Zoe, Queenie, Nan, Marie Leveau, Delphine Lalaurie, Misty Day, Myrtle, and more), fitting all of their storylines in one narrative is exhausting. I wanted to know so much about each of these characters, but there just wasn’t enough time. Especially when we hit the romance of Zoe and Kyle, it just seems like it’s started, ignored for a while, then all of a sudden BOOM! Love.

So make sure you give each character their time to shine, and give the reader a chance to get to know their stories well. It’s not fun for a reader to be interested in a certain character only to have their stories brushed upon or cut short.

Also, having a REALLY AWESOME character always helps :) (Misty Day)

Overall, there is always a lot to learn from everything we watch or read or see. If you notice something in a book or a show that you don’t like or that could have been done better in your mind, keep note of it. These are tools that may help you create the best work when writing your own book.

And if you haven't had a chance to check out AHS: Coven, it's a pretty awesome show despite its issues.

Lindsay Leggett

1 comment:

  1. Coven has been my favorite season so far. I haven't watched the finale yet to do that soon! And yes, there were an awful lot of characters and subplots. I would have loved more emphasis on the relationship between Zoe and Kyle.