Serial Haunting

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There are probably few people out there who remember going to the Saturday morning matinees at the local cinema and watching the serials. Each week, moviegoers could enjoy a new chapter in an ongoing saga. These days, the closes thing we get are TV series with an overarching story arc, like Breaking Bad or The Walking Dead.

What has this got to do with haunting? It has to do with keeping your guests intrigued and coming back for more. It's about building on the story.

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Let's say you've had a story about a village plagued by a mad scientist. Maybe your haunt has been showing the monsters or the torture victims. Maybe it's time to write a new chapter! Maybe some of the monsters have banded together, seeking to destroy the doctor and his unholy lab. Maybe next year, the doctor's daughter has carried on the work. Maybe she has decided to take the work to a more ghastly extreme!

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The point is to take your existing haunt and story and tell more of it. This keeps the haunt fresh without completely rewriting the theme and making new props and characters. In the mad scientist scenario, you get a chance to introduce new characters in a familiar setting. As the years progress, the theme can gradually change with the story. Maybe the daughter dabbles in sorcery, and the story changes over time from monsters to demons, witches, and other more supernatural creatures. This allows for a certain continuity while also changing the themes. This would be easier than changing a theme all at once, because it allows you to make new things over several seasons.

Besides serials, consider sequels, sidequels or midquels, spinoffs, prequels and even reboots!

A "sequel" might be basically the same as serializing, but it could also just be a different chapter - 10 years later, for example. A "sidequel" is like a parallel story, typically told from the perspective of a different character. Maybe you told the story of the mad doctor last year, and the monsters he created. This year, maybe shift the perspective to a priest from the village, or the doctor's daughter. Same events but shifted a bit in perspective.

Related to a "sidequel" might be a spinoff. Instead of focusing on the mad scientist, why not focus on his deceased wife? Maybe in the original story he went mad upon her death. Maybe now we see she was not quite as angelic as the doctor might remember her. It's a spinoff because it takes a side character and tells their story. In this example, it's also a prequel!

Prequels, of course, tell an earlier story, or an earlier part of the story. The doctor is not yet mad. The horrible monster is still his lab assistant. The wife is still alive, but contrary to what we thought, she is kidnapping and eating the local children. We see the same sets but in a different light.

In movies and TV, sequels often are not quite as good as the original. Reboots or "reimaginings" have an even worse track record. However, I believe what afflicts these projects is there are often new directors and new writers and these new people don't understand and love the original. Also, sequels are frequently no more than cash grabs, made on 1/2 the budget of the original with little concern for story. As a haunter, you know your haunt. You know what works and what does not. Maybe you have a bigger budget than last year, and maybe not. For SURE you have lots of fun ideas where the story could go, and you can always repurpose old sets and props. I think the love of the subject matter is what can make new stories successful.

People LOVE the familiar, the comfortable, and they CRAVE the new and novel. By moving the story forward a bit, you can give your patrons both!

How have you done this in your own haunts?

Happy haunting!