Do you remember the writers’ strike in 2007? I do. ‘Twas a very dark time for entertainment. The writers abandoned us and we were left with nothing but “reality” TV.  Everywhere you looked, it was one elimination show after another, more and more people behaving badly. Unfortunately, this plague continues. Reality shows are the roaches of the media world. They’re here and they’ve been proliferating for years now without any end in sight.

During this time I discovered the joys of series on DVD. Lost, True Blood, Deadwood, Carnivale, Mad Men…whole SEASONS of glorious STORY right there for me any time, any day. Most times I’d go on a series binge and watch until I’d watched ALL THE THINGS, only to be left bloated on story and craving more like some kind of visual heroine addict.

HBO Go, On Demand, Netflix, Hulu, and other similar services continue functioning as my dealers. Standard prime time doesn’t cut it anymore. I need a bigger, better fix each and every time. Like so many Americans out there, I’m starving for stories. Good ones. Ones with some writing and actual thought behind them. I want plot twists and characters I love and love to hate.

Kevin Spacey recently addressed this issue in a speech he gave at the James MacTaggart Memorial Lecture at the Edinburgh Television Festival.  In it, he says:

“The audience has spoken. They want stories! They’re dying for them. They’re rooting for us to give them the right thing. And they will talk about it, binge on it, carry it with them on the bus, and to the hairdresser, force it on their friends, tweet, blog, Facebook, make fan pages, silly gifs and God knows what else about it. Engage with it with a passion and intimacy that a blockbuster movie only dreams of. And all we have to do is give it to them”

It’s true, Mr. Spacey! Yes, yes, a thousand times yes!

If the corporations and networks would stop being so money-driven and started producing quality series with kick-ass stories, the money would make itself. People would be happy to watch again. We’d have so much to choose from we’d all suffer from option paralysis.

On a deeper level we’re redefining what film and television is. Movies are getting longer and longer. Spending two to three hours in a theater is expected. Sequels are expected. The reason why sequels often fall flat is that first movie that was so successful wasn’t designed to go into depth with the characters. Everything had to be squeezed in…unless you’re Peter Jackson. Then you just don’t care and go on and on forever.

But think about it. When you’re restricted to a certain amount of time or pages and only have one shot, you can only get so deep.

With a series, there’s more forethought given to character arc, there’s room for growth. You know point A and point B and all the points in-between. A successful series of sequels are ones that are mapped out before hand. Look at Star Wars, Game of Thrones and Harry Potter. Lucas, Martin, and Rowling had a plan. They knew exactly where everything was going. The same with the Lord of the Rings. The characters had depth. They weren’t born for a stand alone book or two hour pilot. There was no “audition”.

This is what made Spacey go to Netflix to produce his series, House of Cards to begin with. He didn’t want to waste his time on a pilot, he didn’t want to cram his characters and story into a one shot wing and a prayer. He wanted it to BREATHE. He wanted the freedom to allow the story to grow and thrive, to play out in such a way the viewers could discover all the delicious little twists, turns and surprises along the way.

Isn’t that infinitely more fun for you as a viewer? This is what makes good story. This is what keeps you coming back for more. Not contrived cliffhangers, but ones that actually mean something. They keep you guessing, keep you turning the page. These are the OMG moments we live for.

Eventually the networks will catch on. AMC’s Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and Hell On Wheels is doing that. And I don’t know about you, but I’m champing at the bit for the next season of FX’s American Horror Story.

In the meantime, we still have books. Wendi and I are hard at work cranking out more adventures with the Pack and we have a little something something in store to fill in those long, empty spaces between each book. We’re definitely all about The Story, as are many authors out there. The trick is finding the good ones…and then supporting them. Let them know how much you like what they offer, take a few moments to write up a quick review (you don’t have to be a Rowling or Hemingway to write one!), buy their books, spread the news on the social networks, like their pages, drop them an email. Give them enough support and you may just see them on Netflix or HBO.

We know what you want and we’re more than happy to give it.

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Comments

  1. So true Deb. The story is even spilling out from the entertainment industry into the world of entrepreneurs. People want to connect and by being vulnerable, we create the space for that.

    • Good point, Elaine. I totally forgot how applicable this is to entrepreneurs these days. When it comes to being vulnerable, I find it much easier to open up through fiction than I do through personal life experience. Our hearts and souls are right out there in the open through our characters and our audience definitely connects with that. Things are a little different on the business side. Boundaries are everywhere. How about you? Do you struggle with how much to tell and what to keep to yourself?

  2. A woman after my own heart! Ooh I remember that strike of 2007…it was my first fall back in the US after nearly two decades in Europe and it was such a letdown!
    As for me, I have always been a story gal. Read under the bedcovers with a flashlight long after lights out as a kid. Spent my college years at Georgetown as an English major. Found a groove with blogging as a coach.
    Now I’m seeing how story affects life and vice versa. It’s like what you say here about what makes a good story, how it’s the meaningful juicy stuff that keeps you addicted. Same with life and creating our own destinies, right?
    BTW, I am loving your website design! =)

    • I bet it was a major letdown! Growing up I was like you. Always had a book in my hands. So did my Dad. Mom wasn’t much of a reader then (but she is now!) and never understood how we could sit there for HOURS reading when it was a perfectly nice summer day outside.

      Glad you like the site design. I have to say, this is my favorite one out of all of ours in the Network. Now you see why I’m on a mission for other authors out there to have the same. Every author needs a platform, and an eye-catching one at that.

  3. Deb! You’re preaching to the converted here. I’m obsessed with high quality cable television series. Ever since “The Sopranos.” Many literary colleagues of mine have moved to television. Series like “Mad Men,” “Breaking Bad,” “Game of Thrones,” unfold like novels. (Some are adapted from them.) They are all about characterization and sweep of narrative. Funny — I just binged on “Battlestar Galactica.” Can’t frakkin’ believe it took me so long to get to! Epic. And heart-wrending, too. Still unpacking. I love that you’re highlighting this exciting part of entertainment. I’m not interested in Hollywood films anymore for the most part. The blockbusters. And reality TV as roach of media, ha! You have a way with words. I resonate with your passion, here, your love of story. We need story. It is how we create meaning. And these sprawling epic series are sometimes as good as novels. Fascinating you’re more comfortable sharing your self via fiction. Makes sense — and yet I see the hunger for personal narrative now informing business. In order to stand out, you must stand in your story and share. Even if it’s carefully boundaried and curated. Love your rousing call to action to support the mainstay of all — books. My first and endless love.

  4. Deb,
    I soooo do the binge season thing:) Dexter, Sons of Anarchy, Homeland…There are so many fantastic shows out right now. And it is so true…It’s about the story. I do find myself being sad when a show ends for good. It’s that same lost feeling I get when I finish a book so well written I felt like I knew the characters. I would miss them. Thanks for sharing it from your creative viewpoint!

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