Redefining the Mould

Oct 24, 2020 | On Writing

“You know what life is really all about, Miles? Keys. See, people are like locked rooms. They’ve all got different locks and you’ve got to guess the shape of their key.” Peter Quint from The Haunting of Bly Manor

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Why do we consume art? Is it in the hope for an escape from our reality? Or perhaps, in the pursuit to better understand the fragments of our own lives by exploring another’s, fictional as they may be?

From the TV shows we watch to the music we listen to, every bit of art that we soak in provokes some manner of emotional reaction from us. Sometimes, the good kind. Like a tear-jerker of a show (This Is Us, anyone?) Sometimes, it stirs up a need to get up and take action or do something to make a difference. 

But all art, no matter the form, makes us feel.

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I think that’s one of the reasons I cannot help but adore creators that take a risk and go above and beyond the pre-defined ‘limits’ of their genre to create something spectacular.  

Because you might be signing up to watch a horror series, thinking “ah, I can’t wait for those classic jump scares.” At the end of it, you’re sitting huddled in your bed, a plethora of emotions gripping your heart that encompasses way more feels than a ten-second fright. 

That is exactly what The Haunting of Bly Manor did for me. I spent last night binge-watching the second half of the series, and guys: it shook me. 

Now, I’ll be honest – I knew very well, going into watching this show that it would not be your typical ‘horror’. I watched and fell in love with Mike Flanagan’s work with The Haunting of Hill House. You’d be lying if you denied that Hill House is a masterpiece. (If you haven’t seen it, go watch it right the hell now.)

I’ve always been a horror-lover but it took experiencing a beautifully layered and complex story, with phenomenal character building and emotional arcs to make me realize…horror doesn’t have to be just one thing.

As a creator, seeing works that push and stretch beyond the boundaries of their genre is such an inspiration. Is it sometimes met with criticism? Yeah, of course. Not everyone will agree your work conforms with the “labels” that are used to categorize it. Some people called Bly Manor a joke. 

“Not enough jump scares!” “I didn’t sign up for a sob story.” “This is NOT horror.” 

You’re right. It isn’t. It’s so much more than that, and that’s what makes it brilliant. 

To be able to take a concept that is so overdone and saturated with tropes, and spin it into something innovative that still has its roots in that field but maintains its own unique integrity is NOT easy.

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I applaud the creative minds behind The Haunting series because they didn’t just deliver your typical horror flick that you consume and then forget within a matter of days. They brought to life a story that will resonate far beyond the reaches of the screen – because the beauty of true horror lies in the reality of it. 

And that’s exactly what I try to do with my writing. 

It was fun to write the romantic cliches growing up. Boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, they meet obstacles, conquer them and live happily ever after. Boom. Done and dusted. That’s what we all want to see, right? Rose filters on and a happy ending. 

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But as I grew up, I realized happy endings are overrated. There is so much to life beyond just getting to that ‘forever after’ I dreamed of as a kid. The magic of it all lies in the journey – scattered with a world of emotions that people don’t talk about enough. Pain, loss, healing. There is so much more beauty in the middle than the end. 

And that’s what I try to bring forth through my words. Not the perfect ending – but the imperfections we uncover while seeking them.

So thank you, Mike Flanagan, for reminding me through your stories of the magic I want to create with mine.   

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