The Walking Dead is a good show. It’s gritty, dark, often times raw, and has that gore factor that you just can’t find on broadcast television. It gets people talking.
But, as all stories, there are imperfections. I’m not here to ask why they have a 2013 Hyundai when the apocalypse happened in 2010 (something has to pay for all that gore and apparently it’s the South Korean car makers).
I also don’t care about certain characters unlocking infinite ammo mode. Let’s just assume they reloaded off camera.
“But, there was no time…”
LET’S JUST ASSUME!
Here, I want to talk about some weird storytelling flaws that you should avoid. (Probably spoilers, but, dude. Netflix.)
1. Almost every episode’s plot is launched by someone doing something stupid.
You didn’t have to be a super genius to survive the apocalypse. The law of averages says that isn’t the case. When The Walking Dead starts, Rick comes out of a coma and is thrust into a world he doesn’t recognize. It’s okay if he makes some mistakes, especially if he’s just going through routine.
“Hark, a monster! I shall shoot it!”
Gunshot brings hordes of zombies. Okay. He didn’t know any better. He learns that shooting them is maybe not the best course of action (if he survives).
In the second season, Sofia, a little girl, goes missing. She was supposed to stay somewhere and wait for Rick. He went back and she was gone. The rest of the season is spent with them living on a farm, sending out search parties. Now, when I was a kid and Mom told me to stay somewhere and wait for her, you better believe I did. When I was separated from her in the grocery store, I knew to not wander around because she would retrace her steps.
Realize I was not surrounded by zombies at the time.
Again, I can forgive an 8 year old for getting scared and running like Hell, but she didn’t even go back to the car. And she wasn’t attacked by a zombie at that point, either. See, when they do find her, she’s a zombie. And, she still looks pretty normal. Which means she was bitten and got away or she died of natural causes and the infection took her. Rick wasn’t gone for very long, so she wasn’t attacked where he left her. He would have heard a scream and the zombies would have lingered.
The real stupid thing that got me, though, was after the massacre of the zombie pets in Herschel’s barn (that’s right, I’m not addressing the stupidity of the zombie pets).
Herschel is in town, drinking away his feelings. Glen and Rick go to find him. They tell everyone before they leave:
“We think Herschel went into town. We’re going to go get him. We’ll be back later.”
Ten minutes later, Lori, Rick’s wife, is running around going “they’ve been gone too long.” Jesus, lady, it hasn’t even been an hour. So, she decides to go into town and find them. She doesn’t tell anyone she’s leaving. On the way into town, she’s looking at a map and crashes into a zombie (flipping the car because…physics?), and she’s lying unconscious as zombies start to close in around her.
Meanwhile, no one at camp has even realized she’s missing. They don’t realize it until nightfall. While I’m sure some people think, “High Drama!” I say, “No. Let the bitch die. If she’s dumb enough to A) go looking for someone before they said they’d be back B) not tell anyone where she’s going in a world populated by zombies and C) not watch the goddamn road, let the zombies eat her.”
When anyone says they like The Walking Dead because of “the characters” I’m forced to ask why. They are TDTL, too dumb to live. You like the show because people are running from zombies and there’s high tension with climatic payoff. Call a spade a spade.
It’s not drama. It’s stupidity. People don’t like dumb characters. If you’re going to get your characters in stupid predicaments, try to give them a smart/unavoidable reason to be there, otherwise, it’s dumb. (more…)
Went to a panel sponsored by The Scriptwriters’ Network on Saturday. Call that my force social interaction for the week. The speakers were Glen Mazzara of The Walking Dead, Dan O’Shannon of Modern Family, Alex Cary of Homeland, Janet Tamaro of Rizzoli & Isles, Vanessa Taylor of Game of Thrones & Matt Nix of Burn Notice. As you can tell, some hefty names in there.
They started with the usual grab bag of “How I Broke in Stories.” I appreciate these to a certain extent, but the thing that nearly all of the stories boil down to is: Know Someone.
They knew someone, They met someone at a party, such and so introduced them to their agent. It’s not easy. You have to network. So, circle this, star it, bookmark it, whatever. If you want to write for television, somewhere, somehow, you’re going to have to know someone in or around the industry. What this translates to is: get to Los Angeles. I’m not poo-pooing your dreams and maybe there are exceptions, but look deep inside yourself and decide whether or not you’re Katniss Everdeen and even she had sponsors. Peeta had to know someone to get a leg up (oh! A leg up! Snap!)
Enough with the Hunger Games references. What other wisdom did I take away from the experience?
You have to write. A lot.
You have to get used to rejection. Janet Tamaro, as a female showrunner, asked the men on the panel what the male equivalent to “bitch” was. Interestingly, the joking answer was “success.” And all the panelists were kinda like, “well…yeah.”
But let’s be honest:
Perhaps the biggest thing they hit on was Voice. (Yes, so big I capitalized it)
It’s weird, Voice. Sometimes, I feel like I don’t have a Voice. No, not sometimes. All the time. What is my Voice? How am I different? How can I be different while proving that I can also be the same?
This comes on the tail end of me pitching something in class that I probably shouldn’t have. I started the pilot writing class on Tuesday, a class that will end with a group of actors reading my pilot on stage. This is an awesome opportunity, to see what someone will do with my work. And, I pitched my half-baked idea. I had my ready to go idea. And I pitched my half-baked idea.
My heart’s in it. I love my half-baked idea. But my brain started berating me. I’m not ready to write this. Which makes it, perhaps, the perfect time to start writing it. It’s like I snuck up on this idea in the jungle and surprised it into submission. Hopefully, I can wrestle it to the ground before it gets its legs underneath it.
Well, once again, I’ve turned this blog around and made it all about me.
I guess what you really need to know is that nobody knows what they’re doing. And also no one can really tell you what to do. We’re all firing in the dark. Some people have flashlights, but when they hand them over, they don’t always work correctly.
Last note: Dan O’Shannon wrote a book about some of his comedy experiences called What Are You Laughing At? If you’ve read it, let me know what you thought. I will probably take a look at it and throw a review up here. I suppose I should get back to being “smartly droll*” about books.
* A friend of mine said I was smart droll so I’m stealing it. Welcome to the world of writing.