The Words on the Page

Stranger Things

December 5, 2017

 

Stranger Things 

Created by Matt Duffer & Ross Duffer

Story Bible - Undated

Sci-Fi, 21 pages

 

"We want to use the mathematics of theoretical physics to ground our horror in reality." - The Duffer Brothers

 

Originally titled Montauk, Stranger Things is pitched as an eight-hour limited series. It immediately references '80s classics like Jaws, E.T., and Poltergeist and continues the connection through its presentation. Stranger Things is the only high-level bible I've seen that includes pictures. Complete with front and back covers, images from E.T., Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Hellraiser, and the like are interspersed throughout, with a whole page dedicated to each image. This immediately communicates the tone of the story and it serves to visually break up what often comes across as a lot of words on the page. 

 

The flow of the story bible is easy to follow and, after a brief pitch, the Duffer brothers capture my attention by dedicating a page to the real-life history of The Montauk Project and the experiments that many claim happened on this Long Island base. By the time they transition into their story, always using inclusive pronouns like "we" and "our, I'm curious and intrigued.

 

Although the story summary comes well before character descriptions (page 5 versus page 13), I find it easy to follow. The characters are neatly if basically introduced in the summary, using phrases like, "a young boy, WILL BYERS," and, as the first appearance of the names is capitalized as it would be in a television script, the format is already familiar. 

 

The season one overview proves very specific. It is to be structured like a film with no cliffhangers, and there are plans to target celebrities for the adult characters. The episodes are further broken down into what would comprise, if this was a screenplay, Acts 1, 2, and 3, and, while the resolution isn't quite stated, the climax and hopeful outcome are clear.

 

When the characters are formally introduced, they are broken down by age group - The Kids, The Teenagers, and The Adults. Interestingly Eleven is given her own section between The Kids and The Teenagers as "The Outsider." A story arc is stated for each individual character, and the separation of the groups gives me a sense of how the world and storylines will be separated out in the individual episodes. 

 

The character breakdown is also where I started noticing sizable disparities between the overview and the produced show. Dustin, played by Gaten Matarazzo, is described as "overweight" and in "oversized glasses," but my favorite description is that of Terry. "TERRY IVES, 40s, mentioned only passingly in the pilot, will play an important role in episodes to come." I absolutely adore this method of including a character whose role becomes larger, and it is something I'd likely use myself. While Terry's trajectory did not change, the character did. Here, Terry is referred to as a "he" with "balding hair [and] big oval glasses." Of course, Aimee Mullins ultimately played this role. Perhaps it is wiser to avoid physical descriptions unless they are absolutely essential to story plot.

 

Obviously the biggest disparity is the format. The end of the bible speaks of the franchise potential, stating that the story will continue in subsequent sequels with season two jumping ten years forward to the summer of 1990, allowing for the same characters portrayed by "a new ensemble of actors and a fresh time period." Season two is out, and the kids are back. We haven't jumped forward in time, and the Upside Down, referred to in the overview as the tear, is not closed. While the story structure may not be what the Duffer Brothers initially intended, the engine is clear and the show has legs.

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Writing for film, television, and the stage is, in my opinion, one of the most difficult - and most rewarding - art forms. The language needs to be visual and evocative as each script must achieve two important tasks...
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