Friday, January 22, 2010

Good morning.

Well, I'm tired today. I have this sad obession with the TV show Burn Notice, and the mid-season premier was last night.

So I watched the episode, and then I watched it again, and then I stayed up half the night trying to sleep but unable to rest because I kept picking the storyline apart in my head.

I'm hoping this gave me the "Ah-ha!" moment I've been missing in my own writing.

While the episode was "good" as far as Burn Notice standards go (incredible, top-notch writing and acting most of the time) it wasn't "great." It didn't leave me with the euphoric feeling I usually get after watching the show.

I felt let down.

Which disturbed me. So I had to dissect the episode until I figured out why.

And my conclusion was something novelists are pounded with on a daily basis (which is probably why I was actually able to recognize the problem); the episode failed in the area of "Show, Don't Tell."

Each episode has three components:

A. The Burn Notice: Michael (the main character) is a US spy whose been 'burned' (fired) by the government because of a falsified dossier, and he's trying to clear his name and get back in.

B. The Relationships: Michael's on-again, off-again relationship with Fiona (do they love each other, yes; can they be together, maybe; will it last, who knows), Michael's relationship with his mother, Madeline (complicated to say the least), his brother, Nate (always the screw-up who's trying to straighten his life out), and his buddy, Sam (good-time guy who always has Mike's back).

C. The Clients: While trying to clear his name, Michael needs to make money somehow so he helps those who have nowhere else to turn, usually because they've gotten involved with a criminal element through no fault of their own and can't get out of it. And he hardly ever takes their money because he's a very decent guy who hates to take advantage of other's.

And in the latest episode The Client storyline was weak. We (the audience) were "told" about the young widow caught up in an insurance scam that got her husband killed. We were "told" about the bad guys coming to her house, threatening her and her kids. We were "told" about the bad guys coming back, roughing her up, and forcing her to fill out paperwork to scam the city and the bad guys were going to come back and collect any money she received.

All of these events happened off-stage. The Client told Michael and his team about these events after they happened, although they were happening within the time frame of the episode.

I could have cared less about this arc in the story. Because they didn't show me the young mom being shoved around by bad guys while her kids cowered in the corner. And I wanted to see that, not for sadistic pleasure reasons, but because nothing brings out sympathy faster than seeing the weak being manipulated by the powerful.

I wanted to see the bad guys being bad so that when Michael and the team brought them down, it would be that much more poignant and meaningful.

But that didn't happen, and as a result, the rest of the episode fell flat. Parts A & B were fine, but not as strong as they could have been.

So I'll be going back over my manuscript during the revision process, and looking for the areas where I would be better off "Showing" rather than "Telling."

Hope you all have a good weekend.


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