1. Rumwriter

    Rumwriter Active Member

    May 11, 2011
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    The overarching call to action

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Rumwriter, Mar 16, 2014.

    I've been thinking a lot about series lately. My focus has switched from novels for the time being to TV scripts, and I'm working on a pilot. I typically prefer "serial" to "episodic" shows, because it allows for a growth in plot and character, not simply a new story opened and closed with each episode. But when it comes to series, it seems like there are further things to consider. I'm of the impression that an ongoing series with an established goal that needs to be met at the beginning is better than a series which just creates new plots and characters to keep it going. This sounds confusing, and is hard to explain, but let me give examples:

    Take a trilogy like Lord of the Rings: Each book has its own series of problems, and different character/plot arcs, but from book one, you know it's not going to be over until the one ring is destroyed.

    Star Wars: It's not over until the alliance beats the empire.

    Harry Potter: It's not over until Harry defeats Voldemort.

    And not only can it not be over until these things happen, to me it seems almost weaker if once these goals are met, the story were to continue, but the author were to simply create a new problem the characters must face. e.g. If J.K Rowling were to write a new story in which Harry has to defeat a new dark wizard. The problem I see with such a scenario is that it basically gives the author too much power over the reader -- they can of course continually create a new problem, a new antagonist, new "major conflict" that must be resolved, but then at some point I feel like we have to ask ourselves "what is the story being told here?" In the Harry Potter series it's the story of a young boy fulfilling his destiny and defeating the dark lord who killed his parents. But if we just keep creating new villains and new major problems, don't we sorta take away the impact of each previous major conflict? And wouldn't it feel strange if say, the fifth Harry Potter book had been about Harry vs some totally unrelated antagonist other than Voldemort?

    The point I'm getting at is, doesn't a story feel stronger when we know where it is headed from the get go? I mean, of course we don't want everything to be predictable, but shouldn't we have the excitement and suspense of knowing what the ultimate struggle is?

    A show like Firefly is strong because while it has constant new antagonists and problems, we know eventually it will come to a head with the browncoats vs the alliance. Avatar the Last Airbender was great because eventually it has to come to a head with the avatar ending the war and restoring balance. But even a serial show could potentially just lead characters through an advancing storyline with great twists, and the audience may never know where it's going. Isn't that weaker? With the avatar the last airbender spinoff, legend of korra, it's serial, but each season introduces a new problem and new villain that is somehwhat independent of the one before it. That's the case with the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, I think -- they need to be watched in order, (so they're serial), but what is the ultimate struggle behind them? What is the major conflict tying them all together?

    Do you agree?
  2. peachalulu

    peachalulu Member Reviewer Contributor

    May 20, 2012
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    occasionally Oz , mainly Canada
    Yes, if the audience is invested in a t.v. show that you must continue to watch. That's not always the case. I remember in the 80's unless it was a soap nobody wanted big agenda's. Like the Pirates of the Caribbean they just wanted to check in on their favorite characters. Until Twin Peaks. But as big as that show was - once they revealed who killed Laura Palmer the series struggled and finally was canceled.
    You've got a two fold problem with a big goal - will anyone stick around to see it's reveal? Once you reveal it will anyone care to continue watching?
  3. Wowzie

    Wowzie Member

    Jan 18, 2014
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    I buy that a story feels stronger when we know where it's headed from the get go, but, if that's true, it's true both for stories that last a season and stories that last an episode. Both episodic and serial are successful formats. It's fine that you prefer serial.

    I'm also doing script-writing, currently. Mine's for the web. Are you doing an action-drama?
  4. Glen Snow

    Glen Snow New Member

    Mar 8, 2014
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    Totally agree. Once the antagonist is gone wrap it up and go home. This is why I stopped watching the Mentalist, that whole Red John's dead...ha fooled you that's totes not Red John.
    Yes, without a destination the character just seem to run in circles. This makes the the viewer dizzy so they watch something else. (I used "viewer" because of talking mainly about TV scripts)
    was bro....Firefly was strong. :(

    Korra get's points just from coming off Avatar. As per the new villain every season it's a cartoon the last thing they want is a definite end. Same with Pirates people watch hem because they're entertaining. The writers will steer away from a serial antagonist as to not bring about a "wrap it up" moment when they are defeated, or`a "seriously wrap this up..." when they go 5 movies without defeating them.

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