Say "Barbara Jagger" with a Finnish accent. You get something that sounds a lot like Baba Yaga. Where does she send Alan? To Bird's Leg Cabin. What do Tor and Odin call her? "The witch". Where is the cabin? Cauldron Lake.
Why is American Nightmare an action story, different from the survival horror of the first game? Alan is writing his own story, and he normally writes pulp action, not horror. Alan is now in full control of his story.
The amorphous malevolence which harries Alan throughout the plot with neigh-limitless power to form and control the world he is fighting through, is a Lake.
See the below Fridge Horror about free will. Consider also the resemblance of the blobs (and for the matter most manifestations of the Dark Presence) to... ink. What's Alan's profession again and what's the basic premise of the story?
The "Quantum Suicide" episode of Night Springs suggests that when you die and reload your save, you're just switching to an alternate universe where you didn't die that that moment.
From various POVs, it can be seen as Alan re-writing the initial manuscript, the idea of a narrative universe having alternatives, or what have you. And given how that episode ends, that too can be taken as a interpretation of the Xbox 360 itself. It is the magic box that keeps the protagonist alive... until you pull the plug (turn off the power). When you turn on the power again... that's just another universe.
Alternatively, but basically the same idea, dying could be explained as Alan giving into the Dark Presence and killing off himself while writing the manuscript, losing all hope for his wife and the end of the Presence. He then scraps the page, having no way to delete characters with a typewriter, meaning checkpoints are just ends of pages in the manuscript.
Odin and Tor help you escape. Now, back in Max Payne, there were heavy Norse themes and included a character also named Odin (well, Wodan but it's just a different transliteration) who helps Max out. See also the Take That below.
Also, the manuscript implies that they know about the Dark Presence and and have fought it before. That would explain why they built that massive stage on their farm as well as why their farm was stocked with enough weapons and supplies to equip a small army.
While we're on the topic of the battle on the stage, fighting off a hoard of monsters on stage while music blares like that doesn't make sense in a horror story, but would make perfect sense in a metal song. A metal song such as the kind that Tor and Odin would've written near a certain lake. Another song we know they wrote is Lady of the Light, which also turned out to be true to a point.
Okay, knowing this, let's now look at the lyrics of the two songs we hear of theirs in game:
Warriors, torchbearers, come redeem our dreams Shine a light upon this night of otherworldly fiends Odin's might be your guide, divorce you from the sane Hammer's way will have its say, rise up in their name Oh, Memory and Thought Jet black and clawed Children of the Elder God Scourge of light upon the dark Scratching hag, you can rake your claws and gnash your crooked teeth You've taken slaves like ocean waves, now feel the ocean seethe Father Thor, bless this war, between the dark and light In their songs let their wrongs bring dissolution's night Oh, Memory and Thought Jet black and clawed Children of the Elder God Scourge of light upon the dark
— Children of the Elder God
There's an old tale wrought with mystery, of Tom the Poet and his muse And a magic lake which gave a life to the words the poet used Now, the muse she was his happiness, and he rhymed about her grace And told her stories of treasures deep beneath the blackened waves Till in the stillness of one dawn, still in its misty crown The muse she went down to the lake, and in the waves she drowned And now to see your love set free You will need the witch's cabin key Find the lady of the light, gone mad with the night That's how you reshape destiny The poet came down to the lake to call out to his dear When there was no answer he was overcome with fear He searched in vain for his treasure lost and too soon the night would fall Only his own echo would wail back at his call And when he swore to bring back his love by stories he'd create Nightmares shifted in their sleep in the darkness of the lake And now to see your love set free You will need the witch's cabin key Find the lady of the light, still raving in the night That's how you reshape destiny In the dead of night she came to him with darkness in her eyes Wearing a mourning gown, sweet words as her disguise He took her in without a word for he saw his grave mistake And vowed them both to silence deep beneath the lake Now, if it's real or just a dream one mystery remains For it is said, on moonless nights they may still haunt this place
— The Poet And The Muse
I could be here for hours going over it all, but suffice to say, both songs came true. Every word of them. The latter was a sotry of a forgotten past, the former a prophecy.
If you ask why the Taken don't just take out the transformers so they can assault the power plant, try leading one into the hanging or horizontal wires you've seen.
Ok, Alan Wake is a writer, so how do they explain how good of a shot he is? He mentions that he's 'never fired a gun outside a range before', so, he's clearly handled guns. But come on, he's practically a perfect shot, what's the explanation? In one flashback, when the power goes out in the Wake's apartment, you can find a trophy on the bookcase next to Alan's set of novels. It's a clear acrylic trophy set with a pair of gold pistols. Clearly, Alan won it at a shooting competition.
Alternately, Alan could be using the flashlight beam as a makeshift set of crosshairs - just like the player.
I'm sure I read somewhere that the trophy is a literary award for one of his 'Alex Casey' books. Nothing to do with marksmanship at all.
Alan makes a comment about how he'd never fired a gun outside of a shooting range, so he has experience. He wasn't prepared for the noise and light, but adapted quickly.
Anyone who bothers to call themselves a writer does research for their story because of the #1 Writer Mantra: Write What You Know. Alan wrote a whole series of novels about a detective so he would've extensively researched guns and fighting techniques. Also, since he's from NYC, New York State has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the country. It's not surprising he never fired one outside a gun range.
The messages 'The Darkness controls the taken' as well as 'The Darkness wears her face', among others that explain things like how to kill the taken are spread evenly throughout the game. This is despite the fact that the player has long learned most or all of these things— many in the tutorial no less. The reason? Cynthia had no way of knowing where the battle with the darkness would start, so she instead placed the caches and messages everywhere. Overlaps with Crazy-Prepared.
Alan's Captain Obvious moments make a lot more sense if you realize that they're the narration of the book he wrote while trapped in Cauldron Lake.
Why are there coffee thermoses scattered around, some even being in obscure areas? They were left there for Alan if he needed re-energizing to stay up through the night!
This bugged me! Even with the "Alan wrote it that way" explanation, it's still annoying because they serve NO PURPOSE whatsoever in-game. They don't give him an energy boost or replenish his health, at all. That would have been nice, actually, since he can barely run 20 feet without having to have a lie-down.
A bolt of lightning saves Barry and gets the Anderson's stage running. Now what is Thorgod of?
The protection of humanity, oak trees, destruction, and fertility!
The rockers, being questionable scholars, call him the god of thunder at one point. It's likely their knowledge of Thor is from Marvel comics as much as any books on mythology.
It's not even questionable scholarship; Thor is legitimately associated with thunder and lightning, along with a ton of other stuff nobody outside of Norse lore fanboys remember. If anything, it might be a sign of the brothers being *good* scholars, especially given the Lightning, Thunder, Destruction, and Protection of Humanity bits.....
That lightning bolt could be the line "Father Thor, bless this war between the dark and light." from Children of the Elder God coming true.
If the Dark Presence can take over things, why doesn't it just crack open the ground or other such things (Lawful Evil restrictions not withstanding)? After all, it possess objects all the time. Because it works on living beings or the creative output of living beings such as the technology they use (a sort of minor variant on how it can use the creative power of artists). Why then a tornado? It's not a tornado of air, it's a tornado of pollution!
The Darkness is also only gathering its power. It's at its strongest at the end of the game and isn't trying to kill Alan for the majority of the game. By the time the end of the game occurs, Alan has already literally written it into a corner.
Thomas Zane's avatar is a man in a space/diving suit. The last song of the game? Space Oddity, a song about an astronaut who is lost to oblivion by a mistake during his mission, named Major Tom. Holy crap!
That song came out the year before Tom's disappearance. Perhaps Bowie got a little inspiration at Cauldron Lake.
The game's action sequences also take place over the course of one or two nights. It's quite possible that, after Deerfest, everyone will notice the place looks like the Apocalypse happened.
Alternatively, the Dark Presence is keeping them from noticing.
The Dark Presence's Taken and Poltergeists are vulnerable to light because Tor and Odin wrote that they would be vulnerable to light in "Children of the Elder God."
A meta-Fridge, but why Poets of the Fall, a Finnish band, for the sound track? Because despite the fact that Max Payne and Alan Wake are perhaps iconic American games... Remedy (the developers) are actually a Finnish company.
Also, the lead singer, Marko Saaresto, is a friend of Alan Wake's writer, Sam Lake.
Take a look at Imaginary Barry near the end of The Writer. One will notice that he's not wearing his Christmas lights any longer. Thus marking the transition from good guy to bad guy as the light (even if the light itself is imaginary) no longer protects his imaginary existence from the manipulation of the Dark Presence.
A lot of the gameplay contrivances can be explained by A Wizard Did It. How is Alan able to cast magic missile into the darkness, so to speak, with a standard household flashlight? The Light Presence empowered him. Why do flares and batteries have much shorter effective lives than they should? The Dark Presence. Why don't he and Barry die or suffer any significant effects from injesting a massive dose of sleeping pills? The Light Presence protected them. Why didn't they taste something funny in the first place? Ol' DP. And so on.
There's another force at work. Alan Wake is a crime writer writing outside his genre, and is just coming out of a two-year case of writer's block. And he's living through his own writings. For once, the fact that the writer is a complete hack is a valid in-universe explanation.
It gets better. Not only is the writer a complete hack (or at least fears that he might be), his editor is a Made of EvilHumanoid Abomination who wants to use the power of Self-Insert Fic to turn herself into a God-Mode Sue, perhaps literally. The wonder isn't that the story has some less-than-impressive elements; the wonder is that it turned out as well as it did.
Doctor Hartman considers video games to be "trash" because the process of developing video games generally involves a large development team - something which he can't really work with in his tiny lodge/clinic. Not to mention a development staff of a half-dozen to hundreds of people would be much harder for him to control and turn to developing something he can use to his own ends using Cauldron Lake. Not to mention it would be hard for him to get enough mentally-unstable game developers with the right skills and equipment together, especially considering he has trouble simply keeping a lid on two demented old men like the Andersons.
Alan's health meter isn't his physical well being, but his psyche. When it runs out, he's weak enough for the Dark Presence to take him. The Taken's weapons aren't exactly physically "real" anyway. Remember, the DP says it's trying to recapture Alan, not kill him. So his apparent "deaths"...aren't.
This also explains why standing in Safe Havens replenishes his health: he's thinking, "I'm in the middle of a spot of bright light, they can't hurt me." Smaller lights, on the other hand, don't restore health because they're not as reliable or safe.
Why aren't Alan's clothes or body visibly damaged by the Taken's attacks? Because they're damaging his soul, not his physical wellbeing.
Why don't the Taken use guns? Muzzle flash.
Jossed by American Nightmare. Taken are dumbasses and guns are too complex for them to use. Besides, it's not like they needed to use guns anyway. They could throw those damn axes with Cheating Bastard accuracy.
Awfully convenient that Old Gods of Asgard use so many pyrotechnics, right? It's almost as if they were meant to kill Taken. But that's exactly what they were meant to do. Odin and Tor, after fighting the Dark Presence, want to keep it away, so their band uses the biggest, baddest light show in history (aside from that of Trans-Siberian Orchestra) to do so.
Don't tempt them; they might try to oneup the T.S.O next game....
Why does Tom wear a diving suit and glows so brightly you can't even see him inside? Because Alan had to write him into the story in order to talk to him. But since Tom had already erased himself from existance, Alan had no form of reference with which to describe him by and since simply making something up or leaving it out would allow the Presence to take over, Alan simply created an appearance that represented Tom without ever having to have to try and describe him.
Plus an entity glowing that brightly would be impossible for the Dark Presence to suborn.
Plus Alan is subconsciously aware that he's stuck at the bottom of a lake, so he writes Zane into a suit that could reach him there.
The name "Night Springs" is almost the exact opposite of "Bright Falls". Night isn't exactly bright, is it? Spring is the season of renewal, fall is the season where everything starts dying. Falls and springs are both associated with water (like lakes), but water comes up from springs, while it goes down falls.
They're also both pretty subtly depressing. Brightness, or light or the sun or whatever, the only thing that keeps us safe from the Dark Presence, always falls away to the darkness. And Night always springs to replace it. You can't beat the darkness anymore then you can keep the sun from setting.
The Deerfest helps explain why even convenience stores carry firearm ammunition.
The Taken in American Nightmare aren't as talkative as they used to be, which is disappointing, since a lot of their lines were Crowning Moments Of Funny. But when you find the first TV in the game, you find out that Mr. Scratch likes things quiet (the sound of his own voice notwithstanding), so of course his Taken are pretty much mute.
Also, he is a fair bit smarter than the Dark Presence, so he may have strategically made his Taken hold off on dispensing health tips and livestock trivia in order to make it easier for them to catch Alan by surprise.
During the first Observatory level, Mister Scratch tries to talk to Alan and Cannot Spit It Out about making peace between one another. It becomes Fridge Brilliance when you realize he's struggling with the fact he's a Card-Carrying Villain in Alan's story (being a literal Expy of Alan he'd be aware of this) but ultimately can't stop being one because that's the way he was written.
Additionally, if you take the Alan Wake you play as a character written by the Alan Wake doing the writing, this makes Scratch's desire to team up even more poignant. Scratch knows he's going to die at the end of this story. But does the character Alan Wake know he's going to die at the end of his adventures, when the writer Alan Wake is able to leave the Dark Place? How does he feel about that?
A moment of Fridge Heartwarming In Hindsight; Barry found all those Christmas lights and whatnot and realized they made the perfect armor against the Dark Presence, yes? But everything that happened was written by Alan. So it makes sense to assume that Alan put the supplies there and the idea into Barry's mind to make absolutely sure, as much as possible, that his best friend wouldn't be in danger no matter how hard the Dark Presence tried to twist his work.
Some people have complained that Alan isn't a very good horror writer. That's because a)he was mind-controlled when he was writing, and b)he's a crime writer.
He also had to write all of it within a week, and had no time to revise.
And as Ernest Hemingway pointed out, "The first draft of anything is sh**."
All that Verizon product placement sure was annoying, right? However, despite being in a small rural town far from any big cities, nestled in the mountains, every characters' cell phone calls went through without a hitch. All of those Verizon ads probably mean the company recently put up a cell tower in the area and want to make sure the residents know it, so the billboards and local TV commercial are well justified.
Those weird but basically harmless pools of darkness you've been burning away? One Night Springs episode implies that these pools are actually the free will of people.
It could also be spilled writer's ink... which is basically the same thing.
Alice is afraid of the dark, and gets taken by the Dark Presence. By the end of the game, she's been in there for two weeks. Imagine being surrounded by nothing but your worst fear for two whole weeks...
This one overlaps with Fridge Brilliance, but... You know how there's all sorts of abandoned cars just waiting to be driven? Doesn't really make sense does it? Not until you remember that Taken used to be real people, so they probably got sucked out of their cars, keys still in.
And one of the vehicles left stranded by the roadside? A school bus.
On a similar note, it explains the vacancy of certain areas in the game. Why else would the train depot in Episode 3 be void of any other people? Why else would the small camp in Episode 4 be left unattended?
Another horrifying realization is that Rusty and the literally hundred or so other people killed over the course of the game did so, solely because Alan Wake felt it would make a better story that way. He explicitly mentions at one point there will casualties to make the story work.
However, if the story isn't believable, then the dark presence can do whatever it wants with the plot holes and poor writing, and would have free reign to kill and turn everyone.