Sometimes, what a writer needs is Michael Weatherly in a wheelchair or Jessica Alba on a motorcycle. I’m a big fan of watching TV series in quick succession on DVD, and if you throw in genetic manipulation, a post-apocalyptic world, and some great pseudo-science, I’m hooked. (For other evidence of this phenomenon, see my penchant for the shows Sanctuary and Grimm.) So here they are, the five writing lessons I take from Dark Angel.
5. Consistency of Character. Max is always bad-ass, even in an evening gown. Logan is always conflicted, always.
4. Intriguing and Recurring Supporting Characters Sketchy, Herbal (if you haven’t seen Alimi Ballard do a Jamaican accent, the show is worth that alone), Normal, and Original Cindy, not to mention the other X5s (including a young Jensen Ackles) help not only flesh out the story line but give depth and complexity to the protagonists.
3. Conflict. Obviously, the conflict in Dark Angel is a little heavy-handed. Genetically-modified kids being hunted by their “science” daddy, but it is that constant threat, that persistent potential for change – i.e. capture or literal genetic mutation – that keeps the show interesting.
2. Multiple Storylines That Mesh Well. There’s the BIG story – people trying to recapture Max – then the MEDIUM story – Logan trying to bring justice – then the SMALL stories – each weekly episodes particular plot. All of these work together to keep us engaged as viewers, but they also help complicate each other.
1. Characters that Gain Our Sympathy. There’s nothing worse than a show where you hate all the characters. Even if they are despicable people (take Dexter, for example), we still have to find a way to sympathize with them. Characters don’t have to be all sweet and nice, but we do need to understand their motivations and be able to relate to them for us to appreciate and tough it out throughout the whole storyline.
So there you have it, my justification for lots of hours staring at Michael Weatherly. . . I mean, um, some insight into the way TV can help us as writers.
What would you add? Did you watch Dark Angel? (If not, why not?) What do TV series show you about what to try in your writing and what to avoid?