Friday, August 21, 2009

Choosing your hero's friends wisely

I am in television heaven right now. I just finished the second season of Mad Men, am still in thrall to True Blood (even though Molly has given up on the show) and have episodes of Generation Kill and Nurse Jackie to look forward to.

Every exceptional TV shows blows my mind in some way. Mad Men is no exception. It's a largely character based show, and the magic to this show is that the interactions between the characters illuminate their personalities. Very little back story, no telling, just these characters showing you themselves piece by piece.

And who these characters choose to tell their deepest, darkest secrets is also fascinating. The choices are always interesting, usually unexpected and always tell you more about both characters in the conversation.

Going back to Maureen's post about plot and expectations and surprising your reader, this is another way to reverse expectations in a really subtle, but unexpected way.

Too often the best friend in romance novels, the one the hero or heroine unburdens themselves to, is a bland, unexceptional character, there simply to encourage narrative through dialogue. Or to start interest in a sequel.

Spoiler Alert: Stop reading if you have not season Season 1 or 2 of Mad Men.

Don, the central character tells no one of his secret identity (and no, this is not a superhero show), except one woman and when he sits down next to her, we physically see him unburdening himself of all his secrets, his face lightens, his shoulders relax and for the first time in two seasons we see him completely relaxed, and possibly happy.
It's an amazing moment.

Or his wife, after she kicks him out for cheating, tells none of her friends and instead tells the divorced woman, she's been at odds with for over a year. Another interesting choice, she's not looking for sympathy, she's looking for understanding.

Every character on the show has secrets, and the people they tell these secrets to are always a fascinating choice.

It's showing me that I can put surprise into my story in ways that aren't huge plot reversals and are more emotional, and character driven.

Love this show.


Maureen McGowan said...

Very clever, Sinead. And damn you. Yet another thing to think harder about. :-)

I'm finding Nurse Jackie like that, too. Falling in love with this show was a bit of a slow build. If the actors hadn't been so interesting I might not have been so keen to watch after the first episode... but all the little details. WOW. And especially with regard to friends and secrets. LOVE your insight about that.

Nurse Jackie is a woman with a very complicated life, riddled with lies. And finding out who knows which lies and who doesn't, in spite of some characters initially being portrayed as confidants, and seeing what lengths she'll go to to protect some of her secrets. I'm hooked.

Molly O'Keefe said...

oh man - I've been totally shamed. I've been writing the most pat gay best friend that every other romance novel has. Very ashamed.

Eileen said...

But I think that still works! You can totally write the stereotypical gay best friend, but how about if that ISN'T the person she really confesses to. That decision to tell your secret to a near-stranger or someone who doesn't really care about you is a REALLY interesting one. In essence, it's still a secret then, because the people you really care about still don't know.

Maureen McGowan said...

That's what's cool about Nurse Jackie, Eileen. She's told different little bits of her real life to different people. And the one you assume knows everything... doesn't. LOVE IT.

But ultimately, all this has to serve story, right? I mean... no point in adding stuff like this if it doesn't, well, add anything. But so often these smallish things can add a lot.

Molly O'Keefe said...

I feel like any interesting small thing that feels extra or not terribly relevant should be played with and left hanging around, because who knows and when so much of our books feel pat and tried and true, the more times we suprise or interest ourselves the fresher we write and the more interesting we are to our readers? Right?

Thanks Eileen. You make me feel better about my laziness!!!

Eileen said...

I haven't seen Nurse Jackie yet. I'll have to wait for the DVDs, I think. I worry, though. I have to have someone I can root for. How flawed is she?

Maureen McGowan said...

Nurse Jackie is someone a lot of people will have trouble with, I'm sure... But I'm so fascinated by her, the ethics of what she does, haven't bothered me at all.

Mmmm... thinking I need to think about this more and do a blog on it.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...