With Covid looming everywhere, many are staying closer to home than usual. But maybe, as this is year 3 of Covid, that’s the norm. For most of us streaming is the new pastime, whether it be music, movies, documentaries, television specials or series. These days nearly everything can be streamed.
With streaming, as with anything else, you have the good, the bad, and the noteworthy. One of the things I discovered early on with the good and noteworthy is the ability to move things along. The writers or editors know how to insert necessary information without weighing the final product down. Seasoned screenwriters, in particular, have this knack. As a writer, I have found streaming to be a learning situation.
Regarding fiction, I love pilots. The promise of what’s to come unfolds before us in 30, 60, or 90 minutes. Characterizations, backstories, wants, goals, and conflicts are thrown out to the viewer in an orderly manner. Successful screenwriters usually know what to spill right up front and when to hold it back. I try to learn from that. But as I pound at my keyboard, there’s no producer reminding me of the production costs for each scene. I often have the luxury of forgetting. I don’t think the reader does, though. I think they approach each book wanting the same economy of delivery. And I have to say, when I do write in a similar way, the novel does turn out a little better. So hats of to screenwriters.
Except I have a bone to pick with some of these guys, especially the ones writing a continuing series. Take the The Glades, my latest binge-watched series. The Glades aired from 2010 to 2013, but only recently came to my attention (I am often a day late and a dollar short). Putting aside it is a tongue-in-cheek crime drama, it takes place in southern Florida, my home turf. Frankly, I miss the sunshine state, the humidity, palm trees, even the alligators. I can live without Palmetto bugs, but then, nobody’s perfect. The locale (Ft. Lauderdale) and the mystery sucked me in hour after hour. And it didn’t hurt to have a cute Australian actor playing a smartass American cop with no social skills, whatever, who recently moves from a northern big city to a small Florida town. This cutie instantly antagonizes every person he runs into but gets the job done like nobody else can. The lone wolf. Of course, he becomes less of a loner as time goes by. I became very fond of him, the surrounding characters, and even the fake town of Palm Glade, itself. There were 4 seasons, each season ending with a cliffhanger. From the writers’ point of view, it’s a guarantee the viewer will be back to see what happens at the start of the new season.
This is nothing new. It’s done all the time. It was done in 1933 with a 12-part serial called The Perils of Pauline. However, the screenwriters knew when it was going to be over, and tied the final episode up with a happy, pert little bow. Not so with The Glades. And here, if someone plans on watching the series, is where you should STOP READING.
Imagine my surprise when the last episode of the last season ended with my cute Australian actor getting shot and killed on his way to his own wedding. He makes a pitstop to throw rose petals around the new home he’s bought as a surprise for his new bride. And there he is shot dead, mid-throw. And here I am, devoted to my finally-got-his-act-together-starting-a-new-life hero and he’s shot in the back and chest with a bride and his family waiting for him at the church. I was shocked, devastated, almost dropped my bowl of popcorn. This is not how I wanted the series to end. It wasn’t very tongue-in-cheek, it came out of nowhere, and just hung there, seriously wanting.
Now maybe the writers had thought season 5 was coming up. Cliffhanger, donchaknow. Or maybe the actor wanted out of his contract and this was his punishment. You can never come back no matter what, dude, because you be dead. But I felt like I was the one being punished. Then I remembered a home truth for most of us writing lighter-weight mysteries and suspense, no matter what the media. You want to surprise your reader/viewer, not shock them. You want to have them say, ‘aha!’ not ‘what the hey?’ At the end of it all, the reader/view should feel satisfied. So here was another good reminder for me of what not to do.
But I will move on to another story, other characters, and other conflicts because I love streaming.
4 thoughts on “Learning from Streaming by Heather Haven”
Heather, I don’t stream anything. I can’t, my internet doesn’t stay fluid long enough to watch a show. I have been binge-watching some shows on DVDs I borrowed from the library. 😉 From what you said about this show, I agree with you that they either had planned a next season with the man not dying, or they just wanted to shock people. And shock for shock’s sake isn’t good. I don’t mind a cliffhanger at the end of a season that makes you anxious for the next season, but I don’t like when something ends abruptly without seeing it coming. Good post!
Thanks, Paty! Glad you agree. Shock for shock value doesn’t go well with me.
Wow, Susan! Thank you for getting it. I was out of the blue, especially as this guy learned and grew, and created a new life for himself, and this is a lightweight series! Thanks so much for agreeing with me. And it was a cheat. Absolutely.
I recently read a short story that followed one character throughout as she went about her life not realizing she was being undermined by another. The ending was so out-of-the-blue that I had to write my own story to correct it. A twist is one thing, a bizarre murder with no preparation is a cheat. Unless your series came to a Reichenback Falls moment, it sounds like it ended with a cheat. Good post.
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