Dollhouse Essay Contest Tip #2: More Than Just Story

By November 12th, 2009

It feels weird to be posting this right after the announcement of Dollhouse’s official cancellation. But we’re still planning on doing the book, and so we hope you’re still planning on writing an essay. (A book like this is as fitting a memorial as I can think of for such a weighty, complex show.)

Let me also take a second to remind you, or let you know for the first time, that we’ve added a place on the contest page where you can sign up for updates on the contest and book. We’ll also make sure to remind you when the deadline approaches . . . though if the last episode of Dollhouse airs as hypothesized on January 22, that’ll likely be reminder enough.

As you’re choosing an essay topic, keep in mind: there’s more to talk about than just the story.

A lot of our Smart Pop essays focus on the story of a certain show or book series–they analyze a dramatic arc, or a theme, or how a certain set of characters interact. And that’s fantastic; essays along those lines are some of my very favorites the Smart Pop series has produced. But especially when it comes to television, there’s a whole other category of essay that people tend to forget: essays that focus not on what the story, is, but on how the story is told.

What does that mean, practically?

It means essays like Scott Westerfeld’s “A Slayer Comes to Town” from Seven Seasons of Buffy, that talks about kinds of stories and how Buffy breaks the mold, or Steven Rubio’s “That Was a Ten” from House Unauthorized, that interrogates the show’s structural rhythms, episode to episode.

It means essays like Jennifer Goltz’s “Listening to Firefly” in Finding Serenity, that analyzes the show’s music (or, since the excerpt for that one isn’t up yet, Livejournal user zimshan’s posts on the way Supernatural uses music, episode by episode, to reinforce its themes).

It means essays like Emily Turner’s “Scary Just Got Sexy” from In the Hunt, that talks about one of the ways fans interact with the story in Supernatural.

There are so many things that go into making a television show great other than the story (though, it could be argued, story is what most of them come back to, from the sets to the lighting to the score). And those things can be the inspiration for some unique, brilliant essays.

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