Observation Journal — layered characters and tilted expectations

One of the things I appreciate about the observation journal is the way ideas keep gradually looping back over time — whether it’s the most useful way for me to approach a certain topic (this is a variation on Five Things to Steal), or just occasionally returning to a previous idea and chipping away at it (in this case, the opening of YA urban fantasy TV series).

Double page of observation journal, densely handwritten. On the left, five things seen, heard, done, and a picture. On the right, notes about The October Faction.

Left page: Small scooter accidents and harried pharmacists.

Right page: My housemate and I had started watching The October Faction, and I wanted to record what I suspected were the compelling elements, given it did the same things as a number of other series.

Densely handwritten notes about The October Faction.

The three key elements (two episodes in) were:

  • The story was being told on two levels (in the same time period). The children were living one story and the adults were living another, and it was a slightly different story at each layer. Stranger Things Season 1 did this on three layers (kids, teenagers, adults), and was even stronger for it being absolutely plausible that none of the three groups would confided in each other. Alice Hoffman’s Practical Magic (the book) has a few layers as well.
  • There’s a slight Caudwell-esque inversion, too, although not played for comic value. The parents are more varied emotionally while the kids were holding things together. It felt like kids-who-grew-up-and-gained-responsibilities vs kids-learning-to-be-adults.
  • There was also a restrained messing with expectations — the things you expected (false friendship, vampires) happened, but not always quite in the usual way or quite to the usual people. Nothing extreme — it still hit all the major notes of this sort of story. But it reminded me of the rom-com Set It Up, which dutifully included all the expected faces and tropes and then did just slightly different things with them. It doesn’t subvert the genre, but it does make it a little more fun to watch and recognise what’s happening — it gives you what you want but rewards you for knowing what that usually looks like.

A small pen drawing of a child on a scooter

1 thought on “Observation Journal — layered characters and tilted expectations

  1. Pingback: November 2020 post round-up | Kathleen Jennings

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