As a writer, sometimes it’s hard to sit back and enjoy a movie or a television show. I’m constantly looking for ways to improve my craft. I examine and then break apart plot, character arcs, themes, and setting. I’ve watched two shows this past month that had me examining the plot lines in own WIPs.
Downton Abbey: I just found this show and, let me say, am in absolute love with it. I’ve only seen two seasons, but those episodes held a great plot reminder: if you eliminate the bad guys you have no plot. No plot = no story.
During the first season of Downton Abbey I wished, desperately, that George R.R. Martin was writing the script. Then there’d be the more-than-likely possibility characters would unexpectedly die, and Thomas and O’Brien (the resident bad guys of the Abbey) needed to go. I remember saying to myself after one particular episode, “If Thomas and O’Brien were fired, then half of Crawley’s problems would disap. . . ooohhh.” If they did fire Thomas and O’Brien, then half of the show’s plot would disappear, too. The bad guys create conflict and tension. Two essential ingredients for a story.
Sometimes I love my characters too much to put them in bad situations, but I must strive to be strong and mean and really hurtful.
Unexpected plot twists are a great bonus, too. This happened in the second season. I started to feel sorry for Thomas. Oh, I still hated him, but I felt bad doing it. It is the mark of a good writer that can make readers feel sorry for the bad guy and an excellent way to add to the plot.
True Blood: I fell in love with the Sookie Stackhouse books, but never made it past the crush phase with the True Blood show (which is based on the books). Husband enjoys the show, so I’ve watched it with him over the seasons. I always thought the extreme gore was completely unnecessary, but this current season’s new plot addition takes the ultimate prize: nakedness. There is a lot less clothing being worn this season. And is any of it necessary to the plot? Would viewers feel differently about bloody, naked Lilith if she was bloody, brown gingham dressed Lilith? I’m not a prude by any standards, but nakedness and gore on a show is similar to sex scenes in a book. If the sex doesn’t forward the plot then there’s no reason for it.
What do you think? Do you know of any good television shows or movies that help demonstrate what a story should, or should not, be?