Busting out from the rules
What I'm reading:
, by Robert Crais.
The Internet and cable have changed a lot about the way we enjoy movies. And that in turn has changed the way movies are made and changed the way they tell their stories.
If you've tried to write a screenplay, you know how rigorous the format and pacing have to be. By page 13, the inciting incident must occur. By mid-point, you should be at the reversal. It's a well-honed formula and when a script deviates from those principles, the story and our attention suffer. On the other hand, it takes a skilled hand to deftly articulate the plot points without feeling like we're checking them off a list.
One of the attractions of programs in episodic format, like The Sorpranos
, Sons of Anarchy
, and Longmire
, is that such stories get to spool out the narrative in way that keeps us guessing. In a typical movie, we know that at eighty minutes we should be circling the plot resolution. And we're certain who will live and who will die. But the episodic format has subverted the formula.
is the most traditional of the shows I watch as it follows the TV mystery trope by solving the crime start-to-finish in one episode. But with every episode the subplots and the backstories of the characters continue to simmer beneath the narrative. At some point we're expecting the dramatic fireworks. Which is the point of entertainment.
Now George R.R. Martin wrenches the story narrative further with a bloody twist. He leads us along to root for our favorite characters, then ruthlessly kills them. One of the prime tenets in storytelling is to make you care for the major characters. To knock off the bad guys doesn't buy as much dramatic impact as we watch the show to see the villains get theirs. But to make us embrace the good guys and then hack them to death seems remarkably cruel. And it is. But it stirs the plot and keeps us watching. I'm sure a lot of other writers will attempt to follow Martin's example though few have his chops.
Labels: George RR Martin, Longmire, narrative shivs, Robert Crais, Sons of Anarchy, The Sopranos