If you haven’t seen the DEMONS films, I highly recommend doing so. The first one is the best, but DEMONS 2 and THE CHURCH also have some great highlights.
What I like about them is their apparent lack of structure and notable character arcs. They simply put interesting people in frightening situations and let the action play out. It’s not a bad model if you’re a writer who finds yourself bored to tears with blueprints like The Hero’s Journey or Save the Cat.
A good example of a book that employs this free structure is KILL FOR SATAN by Bryan Smith. Ryan Harding and I took a similar approach with our new book PANDEMONIUM, letting instincts and logic drive the narrative, rather than contriving a connotational psychodrama to show what our book is really about. Sometimes you just need to have fun. Cut loose and follow a natural progression, rather than attempt to manipulate the narrative. I think it worked out well.
One of the things we did in the novel that we didn’t see much of in the films we hoped to emulate was spill the action out into the streets. I understand why the movies didn’t do it. Every scene costs money in that business. When it comes to writing a book, your budget is limitless (not so much in publishing, but that’s probably another blog). We agreed that the action should spread from the primary location because that was something we’d always wanted to see more of in those old movies.
Also, I love old beat ’em ups like Sega’s STREETS OF RAGE. The fourth entry in that franchise came out this year and was a total godsend for me, who had just gotten back into gaming. While it lacks the splatter and demonic element of our book, STREETS OF RAGE 4 (and its predecessors) have an anarchic spirit that just works. It doesn’t have much in the way of story, because it doesn’t need much in the way of story. If you’re thinking about it too hard, you’re doing it wrong! I like to think PANDEMONIUM works in much the same way.
This is my roundabout way of saying a couple things.
First, if you are a writer, and you’re struggling with finding some heavier theme or subtextual underpinnings to your plot, maybe try scrapping those ideas altogether. Just let the action play out. Follow logic and instinct. If there is something weightier underneath everything, it will shine through without you ham-fisting it and insulting your reader’s intelligence.
Second, I’m officially launching my Twitch channel today! Join me at 2:00 pm, central time. I’ll be playing STREETS OF RAGE 4 and taking your questions about books, games, wrestling, Italian horror, collaborating with another author, and a whole lot else! While I intend to do a lot more than simple gaming with the channel in the future, I want to start with what’s familiar. So, come hang out with me this afternoon. You’ll be glad you did.