I’m an addict. Ok, there, I admitted it. I suffer from the withdrawal to shows like True Blood and Vampire Diaries. Luckily for me, as soon as True Blood had its season finale (which, unfortunately, I wasn’t very impressed with), the season premier of Vampire Diaries came on. And I have to say, that was one of the best season premiers I have ever seen for any show. But that didn’t surprise me at all. After all, Vampire Diaries delivers consistently from episode to episode. And this consistency is in big part thanks to the show writers. I believe any writer can learn from that.
Based on the books by L. J. Smith, and with Kevin Williamson and Julie Plec as the head writers, Vampire Diaries captured its audience from the first couple of episodes of Season 1. And it never let go. That is never an easy task for any show. But what’s more impressive for them is that this show managed to break through the notion that all of the CW shows are flighty, teenag-y soap operas such as “Gossip Girls” (no offence to the fans). While many of the characters on Vampire Diaries are in high school, the writers managed to make it a mature show that has grabbed the attention of the 20+ and 30+ population with its dark and realistic portrayal of human emotions and relationships – vampires and werewolves notwithstanding.
So what is their secret? It is taking into account and putting down on paper (and TV screen) all the great parts of writing that we always discuss on blogs and in chats as writers. The components are:
- Tension – the proper amount of tension between the characters and in the story as a whole. Vampire Diaries has managed to consistently build and hold the tension in each episode. And it changes from character to character, from situation to situation. There are multiple examples but here’s one: the tension between Caroline and Tyler – they are attracted to each other but can a vampire and a werewolf have a normal relationship when they are natural enemies and can potentially kill each other.
- Stakes – what is at stake for each of the character? This is what drives them, what motives them to do certain things, take certain actions. Elena’s and Damon’s lives are the stakes for Stefan currently. If he doesn’t do what Klaus wants him to, their lives may be in danger. Elena’s love for Stefan is what’s at stake for her. She wants to be with him but will she be able to find him and bring him back from the edge of the darkness he’s walking now. This is only a couple of examples.
- Delivering the unexpected, not being predictable. This is one of the shows where you can truly say you don’t know what’s going to happen next. Or who’s going to die next.
- Forgoing clichés. We all use them from time to time. They didn’t become clichés for no reason. However, it’s important to use them extremely sparingly. Elena not picking up the phone when Stefan called because she didn’t heat it (in the season premier) would have been a cliché. Instead, she eventually heard it and picked it up. Again, just a small example of good writing.
I enjoy watching this show now not only for entertainment values – which is great for me personally – but also to learn as a writer what works, what keeps the audience’s attention. I really recommend that you try that as well.
Do you watch Vampire Diaries? What do you think of the show? Of the writing? Are there other shows that you watch where you feel the writing is great? Please share.