100 Days of Writing – Day 44 (2)
Countdown to NaNoWriMo – 5 Days
Welcome to a first: the first double blog of 100 Days of Writing. This, coupled with the fact that I’ve also done some work and research on Book 2, could be evidence that the Binaural Beats referred to in the earlier post are working. Whatever, now that the spoiler alert window has passed, along with a couple of THE BEST CHARACTERS I just want to be the last person on earth to cover a couple of observations from The Walking Dead.
Some of the advice you’re given as a new writer is handed out so frequently it becomes tattooed on your brain. One such example being William Faulkner’s: “In writing, you must kill your darlings.” A mantra universally uncontested, and one that Stephen King reiterated with some emphasis in On Writing: “Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”
It doesn’t just apply to books and darlings don’t just have to be characters, they can be plot lines or chunks of text, anything the creator has made precious but whose continued presence could be to the detriment of the work. At the end of “season” 6 of TWD, we all knew a darling killer of the character variety was on the cards. (By ‘we’ I’m making assumptions that you’re fans of TWD, if you aren’t I’d imagine this post isn’t going to make sense or be of much interest. Apologies).
After a 48 hour period of Twitter avoidance to dodge any potential spoilers, I finally had time to watch the much anticipated first episode of the new series. I eyerolled when Mr H – not a fan – warned me several Twitterers had claimed the opening scenes were so traumatic they would no longer be watching the show. It’s a freakin zombie show, ffs, and a dark one at that. What did they expect?
Well. They had a point it seems.
But aside from the horrific, calculated brutality and violence in those first scenes, and the shock of discovering the identity of the aforementioned darlings, I think the writers took an even greater risk by killing one darling that nobody could have predicted.
Previously, what kept the viewers coming back for more was the sense, as remote as it sometimes felt, that regardless of how hideous and life-threatening the situation, somehow SOMEHOW Rick would have a plan up his sleeve and get them all to safety. Not this time. What the writers did this time was kill hope. Hope for the characters and, more crucially, hope for the viewers. And without hope, what is there? What’s the point?
It’s akin to messing with the three-act structure, the narrative framework that keeps readers/viewers hooked. It’s the thing you do at your peril, unless you are a proven literary genius (or, with any luck, the writers of TWD) for fear of alienating your readers, or massively pissing off your fans.
Will they turn it around? Undoubtedly. Are they testing their fans’ loyalty? Definitely. I will keep watching. For now. But if there’s even a hint of this beloved show becoming Lost-esque, I’m out.