Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Never Satisfied

I hope soon to post about how I got my agent, so that others will not despair in their own quests.

However, am a bit slammed - working the day job, family stuff, sleep, and trying to write a TV pilot.

I've got ideas for another YA book, but scripts are faster to write, and I think I've got an interesting pilot idea.  I hope to get a first draft down in another six weeks, depending on how crazy my already crazy life gets.

So, as is my usual wont, I'm taking a class to help along in this writing endeavor.  I favor's classes - so far all three have been very much worth my while.  They feature professionals as teachers, who can pass on their real life experience as well as their more academic insights to their students.

My teacher in the TV Pilot writing class gave me a great insight I thought I'd share to any readers who either watch or write TV.  It's very simple, and maybe I'm simple for never quite seeing this before but...

In TV, the protagonist wants something they can never have.

Lightbulb!  I'm always thinking about my protag's desires and how active she is, and inner and outer goals and so on.  In books and films, usually the inner desire is fulfilled (in an unexpected way, hopefully) by the end.

But TV doesn't really end, does it?  You want an idea that a network will see possibly going five years, if not more.  So you must give your lead character a driving inner goal that can never be fulfilled. 

I just watched the ending of Big Love, and even before (spoiler alert!) Bill was killed, I kept thinking - he'll never get what he wants most, which is to live openly as a polygamist, in peace and harmony with his wives and society.  "How the heck can they end this?" I pondered.  They can't give him what he wants.  It just wouldn't be believable.  Sure enough, instead they got rid of Bill at the end.  That provided us with a conclusion without violating verisimilitude.

And think about it - all the most successful TV protagonists will never be satisfied.  Even the cops on shows like Law and Order and CSI have a driving desire for justice.  This can never be completely fulfilled because there will always be another murder to solve, another killer to find.

So I gave my protagonist an impossible goal that I think will work for the TV idea I have.  That's just one little step, but I think it helped me keep moving forward.

Do you have a desire that can never be fulfilled?  Atter all, life doesn't come to a conclusion either.


Paul said...

That is a great insight. Most of my ideas that I think, "Oh, that will be better for a series," have that unattainable goal, but I had never put my finger on it either.

Nina Berry said...

It's weird how things lurk in your subconscious as a writer, isn't it? As soon as this was put into words, I realized I'd "known" this too - just like you! But it helps when someone articulates it. Makes it easier to put into action in your writing.