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Tuesday 4 March 03

Joss Whedon on storytelling
Posted by Derek at 9:15AM

This Onion AV Club interview with Joss Whedon (the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and more) is rich in storytelling wisdom. He's talking about fictional characters in a horror show, but a story is a story, and his insights into what hooks an audience and keeps them watching is just as relevant when you want to hook a visitor and keep them reading.

This is my favorite exchange:

O: I've got a quote here from a recent interview with James Marsters [who plays Spike on Buffy]: "Joss likes to stir it up. He likes a little chaos. He likes to piss people off. He likes to deny them what they want. He loves making people feel afraid." Do you agree with that?

JW: First of all, if you don't feel afraid, horror show not good. We learned early on, the scariest thing on that show was people behaving badly, or in peril, morally speaking, or just people getting weird on you – which, by the way, is the scariest thing in life. In terms of not giving people what they want, I think it's a mandate: Don't give people what they want, give them what they need. What they want is for Sam and Diane to get together. [Whispers.] Don't give it to them. Trust me. [Normal voice.] You know? People want the easy path, a happy resolution, but in the end, they're more interested in... No one's going to go see the story of Othello going to get a peaceful divorce. People want the tragedy. They need things to go wrong, they need the tension. In my characters, there's a core of trust and love that I'm very committed to. These guys would die for each other, and it's very beautiful. But at the same time, you can't keep that safety. Things have to go wrong, bad things have to happen.

For more on Whedon's creations, visit Whedonesque.

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