I am a self-proclaimed pop culture follower, and a Netflix addict. While I am working on adding more reading time into my video-packed schedule, I think there is a lot I have learnt about writing from watching shows and movies. A single camera shot may convey more effectively the setting of a place that may take you more than a page to describe, the similarity lies in the nuance, the detail and a vision for the bigger picture – all needed if you have to write a “good” story.
So here goes my top 4 recommendations if you want to appreciate good writing:
I. The 100 – to appreciate how a plot evolves
Season 1 picks up 100 years after the first apocalypse caused by a nuclear war destroyed earth. The last of the human race has been living in space, waiting for the day when it’ll be safe to return home.
I started watching this show because Stephen King recommended it and when the King himself tells you to go watch it, you go watch it. Apart from the world building, rituals, rules, characters, this is one of the few shows that has improved every season. The plot has grown very organically and logically and what I absolutely adore about this show is the lore it has created, the meditation on what it means to be human and does the human race deserve to survive and live.
PS: it is based on a book which I will not recommend. The show has gone above and beyond and truly understood what it means to write a good dystopian drama.
II. Downton Abbey – for character sketches
I am a sucker for period British dramas and had earmarked this long ago but it wasn’t until March 2019 that I started watching it. When I began, I knew I would like Maggie Smith and she was absolutely smashing but what I did not expect was to fall in love with all the characters that appeared and disappeared on the screen. The beauty of the show lies in how the writers have made Downton Abbey – the home to the characters – a character in itself.
Apart from the costumes and set designs, if you want to study how to write characters, how to imbue them with life, tragedy, villainy and yet make you root for them all throughout the 6 seasons, watch this show.
III. Made in Heaven – creating story and character arcs
If the big banners spewed across Bombay’s skyline and the trailer put you off this show, I wouldn’t blame you because that’s exactly what happened with me. What changed was when I realized it was made by Zoya Akhtar, whose Gully Boy I had only then seen, and a friend’s proclamation, “don’t go by the trailer.”
Thank god for friends and Zoya Akhtar!
Apart from showing human fallacy in all its technicolour exuberance, this show did not shy away or downplay or skim over some of the details you would expect, especially when dealing with homosexuality or the lengths someone will go to, to secure their future. Add to this the main leads’ friendship and you have yourself a nuanced show that tells you that we are capable of both kindness and violence.
IV. Chernobyl – what storytelling is all about
I will remain eternally grateful to Twitter for bringing this show to my attention. A fictionalized version of the actual nuclear disaster that occurred in Chernobyl, Russia in 1986, this show will catch you in the first episode and not let go till the end credits roll. A friend of mine, and rightly so, said that this is what true horror looks like.
An action-packed thriller, which doesn’t have any cars flipping over, nor does it have any ghosts jumping at you, this show will get under your skin, much like the sound of that radiation detection instrument, and increase your heart rate every time the professor mentions a number followed by roentgen.
This is one of the few heavy-duty shows you won’t mind binge watching, or re-watching. As MP would say, “this is what pure good writing looks like.”
Have you seen any of the above shows? What are your thoughts? Have you seen a show which made you appreciate how well its written?
The whole of September, I will be sharing posts on things I have learnt about writing. I am taking my blog to the next level with Blogchatter’s #MyFriendAlexa.