Friday, 23 October 2009
campaign branding: genre conventions
Aesthetic - The specific attributes of a story that helps define it. The time, place, genre and basic premises of what is expected from the story. Aesthetic conventions include oppressive regimes, armoured knights or isolated rustic colonies. These need to be outlined up front or the audience will be confused.
Ideological - A specific vision or sensory experience (a 'look' or 'feel') - if aesthetic is the substance, this is the style. Here is the grit in your crime drama or the slick chrome in your science-fiction. As over half of all communication is non-verbal, this is something ignored at your peril.
Rhetorical - Persuasive arguments employed by a story on it's audience. The social implications of those arguments may compel (compare The Handmaid's Tale with Gattaca with Children of Men) an audience and contemporary issues can shape or alter the sensitivity of an audience to a story's rhetoric.
Ritual - Behavioural actions associated with a particular genre, the traits characters display to comply with the above. Action heroes are courageous, tough and rebel against authority. Noir detectives are cynical romantics with internal monologues. All of these (and more) are explored in one place.
Aligning genre conventions can maximise story impact and speed setup. The trick is to do it so the genre conventions are revealed in an original or innovative way. Due to high exposure (how many TV shows and movies have you seen this year?) these are used and re-used to a point some call formulaic.
Judicious blending or contrasting conventions can invigorate formulaic elements. Robocop is cyberpunk but uses elements of the western and crime drama. From Dusk Till Dawn is another example of blended genres.
Yet even blending can hit saturation. The key then is to go back to the classics and work from there.
To give a story zip, it's worth focussing on character and emotions powered by situations. In order to provide characters, emotions and situations context, genre conventions provide a backdrop for the drama and help to wrangle thematic elements.