Hi, Fictasian readers, thanks for having me! Today I’d like to talk influences: How Korean dramas (K-dramas) played a big part in shaping REBEL SEOUL, complete with gifs!
REBEL SEOUL begins with a concert, and in a way it was my homage to K-Pop, as well as a nod to OSTs (Original Sound Tracks). I also listened to K-Pop while writing (you can check out a partial playlist: here), which included songs from OSTs like Shut Up Flower Boy Band and Heartless City. I think the mood of REBEL SEOUL’s first draft was “몰라야 할 말” by Loveholics (featured in the drama Shut Up Flower Boy Band). Later in revisions, “Just” by Zion.T and Crush became the book’s theme song. Because music is so integral in Korean dramas, as well as Seoul culture in general, I wanted to channel that feeling of music through my writing – by inserting actual music into the novel, but also by writing to the soundtrack of songs that invoked the feeling of the book.
You can’t have a book set in Korea without food, especially street food. I have definitely suffered from the “I watched an actress eat ramen deliciously in a K-drama, and now I crave ramen” syndrome. So of course I had to have characters eat ramen in REBEL SEOUL – multiple times – as well as other types of street or convenience store food. I think the “street food cart scene” is a staple in every K-drama, and I wanted to have similar scenes in REBEL SEOUL to ground readers and give them a sense of homecoming.
Wardrobe and style are super important in Korean dramas, whether it’s like the above Kang Chul from W: Two Worlds who always dresses snazzy in bright colors or Park Shin Hye’s character in Flower Boys Next Door who is always seen dressed in big sweaters or blankets (she’s a reclusive writer – I can relate). You can tell a lot about a character from their clothing. I wanted to channel this a bit in REBEL SEOUL. My protagonist, Jaewon, when not wearing his school or military uniform, dresses in dark, plain colors. Ama, another character, wears bright colors (when given the chance), which matches her personality. Even if I don’t describe in-scene what each character is wearing, I always know what they’re wearing because, like K-dramas, I think wardrobe and style tells you a lot about a person and their preferences, who they are and who they want to be.
- Fight Scenes
I think most K-dramas have fight scenes, even if they’re not action or crime dramas, like the one above. Even comedies will have a hair-pulling fight between friends or a fight between jealous rivals. In REBEL SEOUL there are multiple fight scenes (including ones inside giant robots). Just like how the fight scenes in dramas are carefully choreographed, I choreographed my fight scenes, paying careful attention to where the characters were standing in-scene, how their bodies connected, the sights, sounds, and tastes. I watched a lot of favorite fight scenes from Korean dramas, to see what details about the fight scenes made them exciting and unique to watch (not just flailing punches).
The main reason I watch K-dramas is for the characters and their relationships to one another. Though REBEL SEOUL has an action concept and is in the mostly action-driven sci-fi genre, it’s a character-driven story focusing on the protagonist’s relationships – past and present. Jaewon’s past was a lot like the gif above. Though his friends often got him into scrapes, they also got him out of them, supporting him when he was hurt or afraid. When he lost those friends, it devastated him. Present-day Jaewon struggles to come to terms with his past, while coming into contact with new people who challenge him. I feel like every good drama challenges the viewer with difficult questions and complicated feelings. I tried to do the same through Jaewon’s relationships in REBEL SEOUL.
REBEL SEOUL is a mashup of K-drama influences and my own trips to Seoul. It is, in a lot of ways, my love letter to this city. Seoul is as vibrant, colorful, noisy, quiet, dreamy, harsh, fast, stylish and beautiful as the dramas show it to be, which I hope my book portrays it to be (beyond the dystopian veneer). Hopefully through this book I can share some of that love with readers!
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Axie Oh is a first generation Korean American, born in NYC and raised in New Jersey. She studied Korean history and creative writing as an undergrad at the University of California – San Diego and holds an MFA from Lesley University in Writing for Young People. Her passions include K-pop, anime, stationery supplies, and milk tea. She currently resides in Las Vegas, Nevada with her puppy, Toro.