Wednesday, February 26, 2014

What a children's writer can learn from Breaking Bad

I think I'm the last human in the universe to just start watching
Breaking Bad.

But I made myself a promise that I would only watch it while on the treadmill.

I think I've probably walked from Boston to Akron and back again and I'm only on Season 3.

It's that good.

Although I'm totally sucked into the story, I'm still aware of the writing. 

I think about it a lot.

There are some noteworthy elements that can prove useful to any writer. (Note: I'm not going to cite examples lest I spoil the story for anyone who hasn't watched and wants to.)

1. The main character is likeable, even though he does terrible, immoral, and unlawful things. Despite his behavior, I still find myself rooting for Walter White. I care about him. I feel bad when he struggles.

Even poor Jesse is someone I care about. He's a total loser, but every time he finds himself in a mess (which is often), I feel sorry for him.

Readers want to like and care about the main characters, even when they are behaving badly (and sometimes, even more so when they are behaving badly).

2. There are coincidences - but they are believable. They don't feel forced for the sake of the plot.

3. There is a steady stream of seemingly impossible situations for the characters to get themselves out of. The viewer (reader) is always left wondering, "How on earth will they get themselves out of this predicament?"

4. There is a perfect balance of viewer (reader) emotion: fright, sentiment, tension, suspicion, worry. Just when you think you can't bear the tension any longer, there is relief in the form of a different emotion.

So, now when I spend so much time watching Breaking Bad, I'm calling it studying.

Addendum: I've been told that by Season 4, I won't like Walter so much. Maybe I'll eventually have to scratch number 1.  

1 comment:

Ann Finkelstein said...

I've only seen sporadic episodes of Breaking Bad, but I remember this wonderful high-tension scene in which Walter has been sedated by Jesse. Walter is about to confess something quite horrific to Jesse. At the same time, Walter is climbing on a stepladder that is precariously balanced on a lab bench to try to kill a fly, and he's about to pass out from the sedative. There's so much going on, and yet it all works to boost the tension.