This is something I need to flesh out a lot more, but I may as well start here. For an exercise for my two day workshop in PEI, I asked people to come up with story arcs for season two of Friday Night Lights. We talked about whether, for example, Coach Taylor and his wife might have marital problems, especially since he just accepted his dream job out of town and Tammi Taylor refused to move.
Various writers talk about letting their story lead them. All they're doing is following the natural story logic of what they have so far.
This is honesty in storytelling, and it's often refreshing. You can't foist an unnatural ending on a story or the audience will call bulls*** on you. You couldn't, for example, start the season with Coach Taylor back in Permian coaching the team as if nothing had happened.
But story logic is only one of three criteria for where you can take your story. There's audience expectations
. The audience also knows that the show is about high school football, and the star of the show is Coach Taylor. So while the writing staff can plot two or three episodes around whether Coach Taylor will return, we know that he's going to return. The episodes can be about why
he returns or how
he returns, but don't expect us to get too invested in the question of whether or not, because we know the show is on broadcast TV and we didn't read that the star was leaving the show.
There's also audience satisfaction
. This is trickier. While there's a lot of drama to be wrung out of a bad marriage, one of the things I think a lot of my friends like about FNL is Coach Taylor's marriage to Tammi. They love each other. They fight, but they love each other. I think any story arc where their marriage wound up on the rocks would be a big turn-off.
As you plot your spec, think about what the audience finds satisfying about the show. Think about what their expectations are. And make those work with the story logic.
Labels: Crafty TV Writing, watching tv