Tuesday, October 8, 2013

TV Storytelling

I have to tell you, I'm not that big a fan of movies anymore. In the past several years, the medium of television has come so very, very far. It's not just cheesy sitcoms and miniseries specials anymore. With shows like Breaking Bad, Downton Abbey, and Game of Thrones, television is now the place to go for drama.

The medium of television is so much more flexible than movies, mainly because of the time constraints movies face. Television has somewhere between 13 and 24 hours to tell you the story, and that means there can be so much more story. For instance, the Harry Potter movies are, in my opinion, one of the best-done book-to-movie series that exists. But stop and think for a minute, about all the stuff that got cut, all the little bits and pieces that didn't make it into the movies. Now reimagine Harry Potter as, say, an HBO produced series. Thirteen episodes per book. Suddenly, the possibilities are endless.

I think writers can learn a lot from television, too. One of my absolute favorite shows is The Vampire Diaries. Not only is it entertaining, but it's one of the most useful shows to watch if you're interested in the craft of storytelling. I'm not the only one who thinks so, either--a few years ago, io9 posted an article about their successful plot pacing and story arc, which I really tried to find but it was written a long time ago and I kind of got bored looking, so sorry. I call it the, "Ask a question, give a cookie," formula.

"Ask a question, give a cookie," basically works like this: in each episode of TVD, viewers are given two things: a piece of information which fills in a bit of the puzzle (and by puzzle, I mean "story arc"), and then a new question or complication which extends the story further.

It's an excellent strategy. If you keep asking questions, and never giving answers (cookies), your viewers/readers will get frustrated (starved) and give up. OTOH, giving them small pieces of information at a time keeps them satisfied enough to be happy, but hungry enough to want more.

There's a lot more to The Vampire Diaries's storytelling (moral grey areas, the appeal of an imperfect protag who makes crappy choices), so if you haven't already, I highly recommend you check it out. Seasons 1-4 are now on Netflix, I believe.

Ok, enough deep thoughts. A few news items for you:

--My thanks to everyone who participated in the giveaway! If you didn't win, don't fret--I'll be giving another "bundle" away in a few weeks. And it's a biggie. Stay tuned.

--I have a few short stories sitting around my hard drive collecting dust, so I think I'll put some up here for your reading enjoyment, starting Friday the 18th . So stop on back and check it out!

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