Stranger Things Tips for Writers
Contributor
Written by
She Writes
June 2019
Contributor
Written by
She Writes
June 2019

That's right... Stranger Things is back. Now on Season three, this 80s-set, sci-fi phenomenon is a beloved classic for Netflix fans and a completely binge-worthy source of entertainment regardless of what your typical watching preferences tend to be.

What has made it so successful though?

As a writer, it's important to understand the elements that make a story commercially viable. Whether fame and fortune is your aim or not, knowing what elements of a story make it compulsively consumable is important if you're hoping to reach readers and grow an audience. 

Nostalgia is Gold

The number one thing Stranger Things has gotten right in every season is its ability to hit the nostalgia nail on the head. From an opening scene of the boys playing Dungeons & Dragons to casting Winona Ryder and Sean Astin, this show makes sure that anyone with a soft spot for the 80s gets a feeling of familiarity.

If you're writing a piece set in another period, you definitely need to bring in the details that enrich that era. Clothing descriptions, pop culture references and catchphrases can not only orient your readers but give them that warm feeling of connection. 

You don't have to write in a recent decade though, to create that feeling. You can create nostalgia for moments, like the birth of a child or wedding day jitters. You can remind readers of what it is like to be a kid in coming-of-age stories. Whatever genre you're in, creating a yearning for a certain time and place will put your reader in a comfort zone they don't want to leave.

Know Your Genre

Stranger Things isn't an entirely unique story. Stranger Things is this generation's The Goonies, E.T., or Super 8. That's okay though. A story doesn't have to be completely unique to be a huge hit. If it's following in big footsteps though, it does need to know the genre it is derived from. 

The show isn't great because it carves a new course for this sort of "rag-tag team of kids on an otherworldly adventure" genre. It's great because it hits all the same notes. An unimaginable task is laid before a group of kids. Adults are conspiring against them and they have to work together. Danger lurks around every corner. 

Knowing your genre isn't about copying what came before. It's about understanding your audience's expectations. It's about hitting certain tropes that are must-haves for the story to fit into a certain category. How you tell the story, your voice and your characters are what will make it unique. 

Improve on What Came Before

Even though the story is set in the past, does not mean the writing has to be. What used to be an all-boys club for this genre is finding ways to highlight women and girls and give them powerful, exciting roles rather than supporting, stereotypical ones. 

As a modern-day storyteller, it's okay to take the best of the past, but infuse some more rounded components in your updated version. Having a diverse cast and more interesting dynamics between genders is just an example of so many ways today's writers can take a genre and give it more depth.

Create Characters Readers Will Deeply Care For

And then put them in jeopardy. Stranger Things has so many characters to love and all of them are at risk all of the time. Whether you are writing an action-packed adventure like this or a sweet beachside romance, conflict is at the core of any great story. Will she survive? Will he make the right choice and win her heart? Will the dog find his ball?

The key to any can't-miss story is building characters who you would hate to see bad things happen to and then putting them in a position where bad things might happen to them. Whether they come out victorious or not is really not the important part. The important part is getting your audience to care.

  • Eleven has had this horrific childhood and all you want is for her to happily eat Eggos with Mike, no matter how emo he is being at the time. 
  • Dustin is so funny that if anything keeps him from smiling that toothless grin, we are all devastated.
  • Joyce fiercely loves and protects her boys at any cost. What mother can't relate?
  • Hopper is that lovable hometown cop who has lost a child and become a surrogate father to Eleven so if anything happens to him, so help us we will burn Hawkins to the ground. 

Stranger Things makes us feel for all their characters in unique ways that speak to the core of what makes us human. And because we love them, the stakes are ultra high when they face the monsters. So even though the show has a massive budget and CG that won't quit, it's still the characters we show up for, the nostalgia we eat up with a spoon and the perfect balance of adherence to and deviation from the genre that make the show so great. 

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Comments
  • Lisa Thomson

    Great story writing analysis. I'll keep this show in mind while creating my fictional characters. Lots here that makes the show a success. I love the throwback aspect of it. I don't even care for science fiction normally :)

  • I love this series. Reading this article helps me understand why.. My only question , Erica's character was a interesting addition. Why did they add her?

  • Patricia Robertson

    Lots of great points. Sometimes I think we believe we have to reinvent the wheel rather than take from what has worked and making it our own in our unique way.