I know I’m in a minority, and admit that I finally started watching the first few episodes of Breaking Bad only a few months ago and stopped. Why? Because I realized, right away, that this was serious acting and serious writing and if I was ever going to fully enjoy it, I’d have to give up more than I could at the time to focus on just how amazing the show was.
Now that the series has ended — and I’ve been spoiled over how things finished — I’m itching to finally sit down and watch it from Day One. But, even without having watched the series, I can tell you I learned a few things from this outstanding piece of work:
- Great storylines do not need a happy ending. They do, however, need closure.
- The best storytelling involves lots and lots of conflict. And then a bit more.
- Engaging the audience comes only when a character’s decisions feel real. Captivating that audience happens when the character’s decisions force other situations that invoke even more difficult decisions.
- In a story, doing the right thing sometimes means doing the wrong thing. And that makes for major fireworks.
- Foreshadowing can be powerful. Writing is, in many ways, all about the subtext.
- Same with well-placed symbolism.
- Knock ’em dead writing pulls no punches. It will wrench the audience’s gut and twist their hearts, and by the time they realize they’re biting their nails it’s already too late. And they’ll love you for it.
- It also offers characters, or personality traits, that hit too close to home sometimes.
- The best storylines take the implausible and make it real. They will never take the wussy road or a shortcut. If there’s drama to be had, it’ll shove it right in your face.
Now it’s your turn. As a viewer, reader, or writer, what did you get out of Breaking Bad?
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I haven’t seen any of it either, and don’t want to. Like the Sapranoes, glorifying these people disgusts me. OTOH, all your comments about the process of writing were right on. And since I love great endings, (I write the first two chapters and then the last to see where a story will go) I’ll have to go beg a friend or two to tell me What Happened?
I can understand what you mean, Pat. Not every show or book is for everyone. That’s why there are genres. 🙂 That said, I started watching Breaking Bad last night, and am HOOKED.
And that’s the thing — Breaking Bad doesn’t glorify these people. It’s about as real as it gets.
All of your dramatic points hit the mark, Terri, whether it’s acting or writing. Of course, genre also matters…and I’m weary of “crime dramas.” I don’t watch those shows on TV or read those kinds of books. Based on your observations/recommendations, however, maybe I’ll try the series when it comes to Netflix.
Honestly, I think the only difference for genre might be the happy ending. Otherwise, I’m thinking it all applies. Gotta make those readers want to turn pages! Or watchers sit through the commercials. 🙂
Terri – I couldn’t agree more with this post. Closure, in any story, is a must. Even if it’s not happily ever after. In all the polls I’ve seen today, true fans of the show have all agreed—it ended the way it should have.
I know – I haven’t met a dissatisfied fan yet!
Another great post, Terri!
I have to admit I didn’t watch it either. The tips you listed are all so very important. I strive to do all of them but I’m still in my toddler stage of writing. This post is a keeper, a reminder of what I need to discover. The hardest one: Foreshadowing can be powerful. Writing is, in many ways, all about the subtext. When I can do this well, I’ll shout it to the heavens.
That’s the thing about writing – we’re always learning and finding ways to tell an even better story. But Breaking Bad is magnificent. From the little I’ve seen, I was sucked in big time.
Breaking Bad had the best series finale in recent history – bar none! Thx for sharing!
and thanks for stopping by!