I am obsessed with a TV show. It's not a good TV show. In fact, each week, I find myself rolling my eyes at least once. But I can't turn it off.
MTV's TEEN WOLF.
Yeah, that. It's a show about a teenager who gets bitten by a wolf and spends the better part of 18 episodes trying to figure out what's going on in the world around him. It's not the Michael J Fox comedy from the 80s. Basically all it shares with that movie is a title and the high school setting.
It is much closer relative to the early Spider-man (and Ultimate Spider-man) series. Teen is given special powers, tries to save people, while keeping the secret of his power. Teen Wolf spends the majority of episodes worrying about the girl next door (or down the street) and crouching on roofs. He has a best-friend, a father figure, a single mother who's not always around. And a super-villain to face.
And that's what the show does really well. It does not resolve anything. The moment you're going to get a chance to breathe, something complicates the situation. Someone rings the doorbell at a key time. All questions during conversation are answered with other questions. The are cliffhangers galore. It really ramps up the stakes pretty well.
It's kind of a master class for writers from that aspect.
But, Dave, you said the show wasn't that good.
Right, it's not. Because the show goes all out to deliver that tension. It sacrifices logic and character to get there. Each week, characters do something dumb which puts them in jeopardy. And if they don't do something dumb, then they at least do something completely out of their established character. Not all of the plot twists make sense. It often forgets about the rules the show has already set up for itself.
But, again, it's doing something right, because I can't stop watching. And it's teaching me something about my own writing.
Because it's giving me ways to create more tension.... just in my first drafts. Smooth out the characters and the logic later. But when you really ramp up the stakes, you never know what's going to stick and work in the draft later.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go track down last night's episode.
" It sacrifices logic and character to get there. Each week, characters do something dumb which puts them in jeopardy. And if they don't do something dumb, then they at least do something completely out of their established character. "
This may be the single thing that will cause me to put a book down more than anything else. I read a book a couple of years ago by an up-and-coming writer whose first book I liked a lot. (Partial disclosure: he's not one who writes for, or has written for, DSD.) By halfway through i was rooting against the protagonists. Every choice they made was guaranteed to create the worst possible outcome, which they would narrowly avert, and it was obvious when reading this would be the case. No one that stupid would have survived against the people who were after them. nor did they deserve to.
I haven't read him since. To me, he'd made the writers equivalent of the decision some actors make, whether to be an actor or to try to be a movie star. They can go hand in hand, but rarely do.
What Dana said.
I don't mind a character doing something dangerous, or being flippant about consequences... as long as they know and don't care, or are a teenager, etc. But don't stretch it.
You can get away with this a lot more in movies than in books, like in Terminator 4 (ugh) when a 300-ton mecha behemoth sneaks up on people, and as soon as WE see it, it makes all sorts of stomping noises and clangs that they would have heard from a mile away, and so on.
So ... BAD WOLF.
As someone who still watches cartoons and reads kids' books with some regularity, I've discovered a bit of a disconnect as far as my "good taste" goes.
I will literally snort and pace and gnash my teeth like some caged beast, or point at the screen and try to yell some sense at it, when forced to endure some illogical plot jump or inconsistency.
But as soon as that part's over I'm back in my chair grinning blithely and waiting for the next bad pun or spontaneous action scene that I inexplicably accept without judgment.
I also, for one reason or another, cannot stand when they drag out scenes where the character does something embarrassing for the sake of humor. Those just make me twitchy, sometimes to the point of fast-forwarding/page flipping past (which is not something I do a lot) -- do people really, honestly find them amusing, or is it just loud uncomfortable "please make it stop and get on with the show" laughter?
Shit goes into your brain/shit comes out of your brain.
Stop putting shit into your brain.
The number one network note given to the writers' room is always, "Bigger act outs." Networks live in constant fear that people will change the channel and their fallback solution is the cliffhanger.
So, in an action story the cliffhanger will be action-oriented, but in every TV show there will be some kind of act-out to get people to come back and I think Dave is right, that's useful for novels, too.
Doesn't have to be action, but a good chapter end that changes things or hints at what's to come isn't a bad idea.
"Networks live in constant fear that people will change the channel and their fallback solution is the cliffhanger."
Among the prime reasons I so rarely (practically never) watch network TV anymore.
This can work when done well; I used to read a lot of WEB Griffin and he was a master at this. The problem with most TV is, they're so damned obvious about it. I'm not in eighth grade. That may be their target audience, so they don't miss me. Of course, I'm not missing much, either.
Careful, Dana. Dave *is* in eight grade, at least when he's working.
I think Dave makes a great point. There's nuthin' wrong with trash, as long as we learn from it -- or at least enjoy it. Plus some say we learn more from bad lit than good.
Act Outs notwithstanding, any good story gets a boost from sudden reversals. "Conflict is the music of story." I really believe that. (And Robert McKee wrote it!)
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