Everyone has heard it, “you are what you eat”. But have you ever heard anybody say you are what you watch? Unless you spend an abundant amount of time in circles who theorize that violent movies beget violent people, then probably not. But think about it and how such a phrase could relate to writers.
I want you to think about your favorite television shows (you could use movies as an alternative, but for the sake of this post, we’re going to be talking about television). Let’s say my favorite show is Friday Night Lights (on occasion, it is), what do I love about that show? For starters, the characters. For me, Friday Night Lights was never about football, not really. It was about these people who lived in a town who idolized football. The characters didn’t just feel real, they were real. I happen to love football today, but that wasn’t the case when I first began watching Friday Night Lights. In fact I straight up, unamerican-ly avoided the game.
Another favorite show of mine (with an admittedly stupid, but accurate name) Buffy the Vampire Slayer drew me in with it’s premise. However I never would have stuck the show out if it wasn’t for it’s strong characters. Buffy was one of the first shows that really allowed their characters to evolve. The Buffy, Xander, Giles, and Willow you see in the first episodes are barely recognizable once the show had finished it’s run. More than strong characters though, Buffy had something special. For a show about vampires, witches and demons, it was about so much more. It was about growing up. A lot of people rag on the sixth season of the show because of the dark places it dared to go, but the sixth season strengthened the show for me.
And then you have Battlestar Galactica, (the remake, not the original). What could have been nothing more than a special effects showcase will forever live on as one of the most beloved television shows ever. As with Friday Night Lights and Buffy, this show had believable, ever evolving characters but it really shined when it came to themes. The way BSG intertwined themes of politics and religion so seamlessly is a testament to the strength of the show itself. This wasn’t a story about people on a ship, it was a story filled with endless philosophy of life, and even though it took place in a place and time far away from us, it was all relevant.
The ties that bind these shows together, absolutely, is strong characters. Without them, your plot means nothing.
Obviously, since I have talked about these shows in two out of three posts so far, I love them. There is a lesson here, but as I am an unpublished author, you may not see it. I can see it though, in my own writing. These three shows have forever changed the way I tell stories. And while they may be television shows, they are still stories. Telling stories is what we writers do, no matter the medium, and lessons from one medium permeate to the next.
So tell me, have there been any shows (or movies for that matter) that have changed the way you write?