Netflix could be really irritating. There could be six months stretches of nothing new but semi amusing stand up comedies and straight-to-video “blockbusters”, during which I find other things to do with my time. Then, there could be bursts of releases that make it difficult to find the time to handle all that wealth…
There are not many shows I enjoy. I may be a snob, but I like to use the very little screen-time I have for watch worthy TV. That included shows like “Breaking Bad” and “Justified” may the good lord rest their beautiful soul and (thankfully) ongoing ones such as “Longmire” and as happen to be the case this month – “Peaky Blinders” and “Bloodline“.
When new seasons of these become available, an opportunity presents itself. Mixing business with pleasure. That means that, as a writer, I can enjoy a really well crafted TV show and at the very same time learn a thing or two.
Bloodline presents us with some of the best dialogue in recent history. It’s true that the actors significantly help make it so, and as a writer one should always remember that while watching filmed scenes, but remove the actors and you see the “economy of words” in action. Some things are said, others are implied while yet some more is simply… unsaid. Sometimes not saying, says a lot.
Another little lesson about dialogue that can be learned from this wonderful series is character voice. There’s simply no way John can sound like Danny. Completely different life experience alone should make it clear. Views, opinions, circumstances, gender, age… so many things impact the character’s voice. Bloodline makes a great example of that.
I speak with many writers and hear about how their stories are about not one but many heroes. What they normally mean is that they have a lot of characters. That may be the case, but watching Bloodline can help one see how any story – regardless of the number of characters (and in Bloodline they’re plenty) has but ONE main character. Protagonist. Hero. Does that mean we never get to know anything about the others? Of course not. Just watch Bloodline and see how it’s handled. How each character is treated by how important he is to the story. There’s no judgement here. I love Sissy Spacek and her character in the series, but I really don’t need more than the writer gives me in order to understand she’s important to the story. I love the character of Eric O’bannon (not his characteristics…) but he’s simply not a character a writer would invest too much in, in terms of back story and depth. This is a really important lesson for writers like me, who are at the beginning of the process.
What other lessons could be drawn from this simply great series? Well, I haven’t learned them all just yet.
But one other lesson I’m attending while watching season 2 is – have no mercy for your character. Don’t I know it? We love our characters. We want them to be safe and happy. We identify with them. That’s fine if you want to make up an imaginary friend and have an imaginary relationship with him/her. But that would make a really lousy story... who cares about the guy who succeeds at everything he tries? Who cares about the woman who always gets what she wants? No reader that I know, that’s who.
One final warning – Remember. This is episodic TV writing. There’s a difference.
So consider yourself informed. If you’re a writer who wants to learn – you should watch Bloodline (2 seasons available on Netflix).
If you’re not – Just watch the damn show, will ya’!
Before we part…
A TWIST in the plot!
Ha, another trick I learned from Bloodline.
I didn’t REALLY learn all of this watching Bloodline. I learned these, and much more, way before the show was created. From a really good story coach – Christina Ranallo of Penpaperwrite. Please check this link out. If you’re starting. If you’re struggling or unable to finish… do yourself a favor and go there.
Watching Bloodline really exemplifies what I’ve learned there myself.
How about Peaky Blinders?
How about recommending more shows that I can watch during the more frequent nothing-to-watch stretches on Netflix?
Are you writing?
Learned anything from TV?
Care to share?
Until next time, I’m off to watch Season 2, Episode 6.