Monday, 5 February 2018

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? - 5 Things We Can Learn From This Classic Horror

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Recently on my Kindle store recommended books I saw What Ever Happened To Baby Jane. Not knowing anything much about it other than it was a horror and only 99p I quickly clicked the buy now button.

Baby Jane, a child star of early vaudeville, resented having to grow up in the shadow of her prettier sister Blanche Hudson, who became Hollywood's reigning love goddess. Now, some fifty years later, they are together and alone. And reality has toppled crazily into eerie fantasy. Blanche now finds she is growing old in the shadow cast by Baby Jane -- and a very sinister shadow it is.

What Ever Happened To Baby Jane is a slow burning, psychological thriller, most known for its 1962 film adaption staring Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, who's own feud helped skyrocket this story's fame. But what can we learn from this classic horror that we can use in our own writing?

  1. Its all in the twist
Without spoiling the book I can tell you that what impressed so many people about this story was the twist. For me, someone who can guess the ending or twist in most films or books straight away, I didn't see the twist coming in this book - though if you watch the film I think it will be very obvious what the revelation to come is. This made the story all the better for me, fool me once, props to you, fool my twice and I will read all of your books to come - this is something that started my obsession with Jefferey Deaver's works after reading The Cold Moon. If you can pull off a twist in your own work then I would recommend you do (unless of course it is completely irrelevant to the rest of the story), if you're writing a thriller or crime fiction I would say that a twist is pretty much expected now-a-days and not having one could be detriment to your reader's enjoyment

      2.The suspense can be more entertaining than the actual event

What Ever Happened To Baby Jane is a classic, slow building horror, which I will admit isn't always my cup of tea. When I go into a horror I expect chills, I expect to be reading this at night with my feet firmly tucked under the blankets so the monsters can't grab me. This story isn't like that, and I think it is a sign of the time it was written in. I spoke about this with my dad recently, how old horrors really aren't horror at all and now-a-days wouldn't even have a rating of more than a 15 at most. This doesn't mean I didn't enjoy the book though, and I can see where the horror lay in it for some readers. Baby Jane is full of suspense for both the characters and the readers. As the story darkens and Jane Hudson's mental health declines both the reader and Blanche find themselves questioning what she is going to do next. And this builds up into a great expectation that I feel fell flat within this story. If you're going to use suspense in your book you need to let it lead somewhere, don't let it dwindle to nothing, because this will only lead to disgruntled and disappointing readers. 

     3. A thorough insight of your characters can be the making of your story

What I think was really well executed in this story was the character of Jane Hudson. She was someone who's fractured psychology made for really interesting reading and was a character that I really wanted to learn more about. This book leaves little question about how Jane became the way she did, and though she is portrayed as the villain of the story she is one we can deeply sympathize with. Having a character that we can both hate and pity, I think, is a mark of really great writing. It shows an understanding of your own character, and that people are more complicated than just 'hero' and 'villain'. 

    4. Keep it relevant

Whats great about Baby Jane is how it is still relevant to today's society. With child stars being more current and problematic than ever this classic novel can really carry itself in today's events, something that will make readers click with it even more. When writing your story make sure to keep it relevant to now. I don't mean that you have to have Donald Trump as the president and remark about whats currently on TV, it needs to be more subtle than that. If you can weave today's issues into your story without throwing it in the reader's face, then that is the mark of a story that will stand the test of time.

    5. Frustration can make or break your reader

As I've already touched on, Baby Jane falls flat in some areas. I think this was my biggest frustration with this book - too many dumb characters. Frustration can be a great thing for your story, if it can get you yelling at the book, hoping the characters will hear you then it can be great (think of being a child at the panto and the joy/frustration of 'it's behind you'), if it makes your characters look dumb, your story flawed or just falls into the same trope of 'oh look, a creepy dark cave that smells like murder, lets go investigate' then it's going to lead to the wrong kind of frustration. Things don't always go according to plan, and if your story follows a situation where your character needs things to go to plan and they don't then it can work in your favour, but if you lead them on a pointless arc (like Finn's arc in Star Wars: The Last Jedi) it will just lead to frustration in the reader for their wasted time. Make sure that the frustration is relevant to the story, if things don't work out make sure that the character comments on this rather than sweep it under the carpet.

                                                                   Shop for Baby Jane Here:


Have you read What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? Or Have you seen the film? Let me know what you thought in the comments below!

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