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Monday, March 5, 2012

Lessons in Storytelling—The Ensemble done right!



Who here watches Downton Abbey? Did you raise your hand? BRAVO! If you don’t you really should. The PBS drama Downton Abbey is a wonderful study in how to write multiple POV’s—WELL!

I usually stay away from stories like this because I always have the same problem. I end up liking one character’s story more than another. Then the rest of the book or I’m anxious to get back to the part of the story I really like. I end up hating the other characters.

But Downton has found a way around this problem (and why did I not think of this?)—Tangle up the storylines so that each character’s story affects someone else. I won’t spoil the plot, but…Mary’s secret affects Anna, Anna’s choices affect Bates, Bates is changed by Thomas…and on and on it goes. Like a great game of dominoes.

The best literary example I can think of that uses this principle is Lord of the Rings. The characters fates are so intertwined we care about them all.

If you want to see the ensemble cast done right, watch Downton Abbey or if you just want to be swept away for a few hours… still watch Downton Abbey.

-Angie

23 comments:

Kyra Lennon said...

Ahh, it's cool to see this British masterpiece taking over the US! :D

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I've only watched the first episode of the first season (we have the DVD, and I plan to watch the rest of it soon). My husband is hooked. He rushed out and bought the second season as soon as it came out.

You made a very important point. I've been known to skip over sections of a book if I didn't like a character and couldn't care less about what happens to them. I just want to get to the story lines that hooked me. Connecting them makes the story more cohesive, and gives your reader less of a incentive to skip over scenes.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

It takes a lot of skill to make multiple povs be equally compelling. Audrey Schulman does just that in THREE WEEKS IN DECEMBER - both povs are amazing - one male and in the past, the other female and in the present.

Brooke said...

My dad just sent me the DVDs for this - and raved about I have to watch it, and prepped me for loving it.

If you like British films, I would also check out "Cranford" - it's based on a few different stories by Elizabeth Gaskill. It was produced by Sue Birtwistle, who is an incredibly talented woman with an eye for the perfect storyline. It has the "multiple characters" you were referring to, and I love all of them. Check it out - you'll love it. In the meantime - I'll be checking out Downtown Abbey. :-)

Emily R. King said...

I haven't watched this yet. *Hides face in shame* In my house, public TV is limited to Curious George and Elmo.

ilima said...

I've been forcing myself to stay away until I have some time in my life (ha) to watch it in overload, cause I know I'll be addicted. I love those super-entwined stories though. Makes me more excited to watch.

elizabeth seckman said...

These every smartly written books depress me and awe me at the same time.

Meredith said...

Love that show! I'm a bit partial to the Mary/Matthew storyline, but you're right: all those stories affect the others, so I'm invested in each one.

Chantele Sedgwick said...

I just started watching this. I really like it so far! :D And The Lord of the Rings is one of my faves. :)

Johanna Garth said...

I was so excited when I saw this picture. LOVE, love, love Downton Abbey!

Leigh Covington said...

Good tip. I completely agree, because I run into the same problem you do. And... *hangs head* I haven't watched this yet! Seriously, I have just started hearing about it everywhere so it must be good. I might have to add it to the DVR list. Heaven knows I don't get to watch anything when the kids are awake :)

Small Town Shelly Brown said...

I have been TOTALLY avoiding this show (and Pinterest) Why? Because I know my weaknesses. I would get TOTALLY lost in both of these and spend hours and hours, that I don't have, on them.
But I love the lesson. I think that's one of my favorite ways to do subplots, too.

Jolene Perry said...

This has been on my list forever.
I'll get to it, I"m sure, lol

Sarah McCabe said...

Heh. I have been planning a post with almost the same title. Only mine was Anime: Ensemble casts done right. ;)

Brinda said...

I don't watch this but so many people I know love it.

Peggy Eddleman said...

Dang! I'm going to have to find a way to watch this show! My hubby would never appreciate it, and when in the world would I ever find the time to watch a show when it's just me? I don't know, but I'm definitely going to have to figure it out. I've heard way too many good things about this to not.

Neurotic Workaholic said...

I love Downton Abbey; it's so addicting. My favorite scenes are the ones with the servants, especially because in many other dramas like this one that I've seen or read, the servants are practically invisible. And Bates is my favorite; I love that he develops a sort of friendship with the master of the house.

Tara Tyler said...

loooove maggie smith!
i'll record & check it out!

Jess Stork said...

Yay multiple perspective stories! It's tough to sell agents on them though, since you have more than one viewpoint to focus on.

Kelley said...

I usually am wary of more than two POV, for the same reasons you mention. I'm afraid I won't care them all. I really like Ken Folliet's work, The Pillars of Earth (and others). They are all connected as well. Crazy good.

Sarah Pearson said...

I love writing from multiple pov's, but you make an excellent point. If there's no connection, there's no point. Otherwise it might as well be separate books.

Melissa Sarno said...

I think I'm the only one in the world who doesn't watch this show. I thought it was called Downtown Abbey for the longest time. I am not a huge fan of multiple POV's but, if it's done well, I'll give it a shot.

Griffinclaw said...

I love Downton Abbey! It's defiantly one of the best made period dramas out right now. And as you've mentioned, the storytelling is great! Bates has to be my favorite character from the show. :)

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