There is something to be said about a writer who can do something as bold as killing of a “lead” character. When it translates to television, having a face and a visual to connect with, their death, if unexpected (if you’re like me and maybe haven’t read the source material to shows like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones), can be tragic and almost heartbreaking. It’s even harder nowadays to keep incidents on shows a secret when everyone is so apt to talk about it the moment it happens. So, if you’re behind on any of your shows, like I am, you scroll past Facebook posts with eyes averted for months so that when that dramatic, surprising moment occurs, we can still be shocked, angry, or sad. And the writer has accomplished something great. It takes something special to surprise me anymore and when that does happen, it creates a loyal follower. The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones are among my favorite shows ever and for good reason. (TWD has the highest ratings of any show practically ever, and GoT is second only to The Sopranos on HBO, so I’m clearly not alone in my devotion.) They keep me guessing and rooting for the characters, that’s why when one of them falls, I feel like I’ve lost friend. On The Walking Dead, as it’s a fight for survival, I want this small band of people that I’ve been following to find a safe haven and a moment’s peace. On Game of Thrones, I want vengeance, often. After the last season of GoT, it took quite a few days to overcome the sadness that I was surprised took hold of me.
Now you may be asking why I haven’t read the written works. Once I’ve started a series, either tv or film, I don’t want to know what’s going to happen, I want to remain in the dark, so I only read up until the current season (I still haven’t finished Harry Potter, I know, I know…). I’m just about to start George R.R. Martin’s series for insight into his writing style and technique. I find Game of Thrones so fascinating that it’s only proper that I read some of the novels to learn more.
After another tragedy during my viewing today, I started to think about my own stories and how I play it fairly safe. I’d like to blame my upbringing a bit because in fairytales, the layers of darkness and deception, etc. only go so deep. My sister likes to call me naive, which in part is true, because my mind just doesn’t go to certain places. This is why I need the influence of writers, such as these, to help me think beyond my own boundaries/limitations. I love the feel of that tugging on my heartstrings, the pit in my stomach, when I realize I’ve been holding my breath, and clenching my fist…I’m emotionally invested. And I want to do that for my readers and hopefully/eventually my viewers. I want them to be surprised and to worry and hope for my characters as if they were friends, loved ones. Stories are like walking into a character’s life and we should be moved by what we witness.
As writers, we owe it to our readers to take chances. We are in a unique position to create worlds that draw people in. What we do once were in there is up to us, but we should be willing to be bold and daring. I’m not saying to shock for the shock value alone, but if done well, can be among those memorable moments that people will talk about time and time again.
Here’s to taking chances!