Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Tension on Every 'Page' - True Blood Style

I've read all of the Sookie Stackhouse books. A telephathic waitress who falls in love with a newly outed vampire in a small and sheltered Louisiana town? Umm, yeah, definitely my cup of tea, but until last week, I'd never watched the HBO show based on the books.

So, what do True Blood and Donald Maass have in common? Or more specifically, why do I think Mr. Maass would applaud the efforts of the show? Because of the constant and unrelenting tension!

Every episode, no matter what problems arise or are solved, ends in a cliffhanger. Very few shows do that. Sure, a season finale usually leaves us hanging, and To BE CONTINUED breaks our hearts every once in a while, but every, single episode? I've rarely seen such a thing. Maass teaches 'tension on every page,' so that a reader won't be able to put down your book, and television must use that same tactic (replace 'page' with 'episode') to keep the viewer coming back. That's the only reason shows go for seven, eight, ten seasons.

As a side note, there are some fantastic shows that have great tension (and story and characters and...) that get cancelled, and I severely dislike the execs who make those decisions (I'm looking at you, Veronica Mars).

But back to my point. Writers can take at least one lesson from True Blood. Every chapter, every section of a chapter, needs to push our readers forward. Tempted to end with your character going to sleep? I sure am. It's easy, but don't do it. How about ending a scene with your MC being deliriously happy? Go ahead, but you better break her heart soon. :) I'm half kidding on those, darlings, but I'm sure you see my point.

Whew! When I edit my MS in September, I hope and pray I remember my own advice. ;)




GigglesandGuns said...

You make good points but I won't be watching True Blood to find out how right you are. I'll simply take your word for it.

Angelica R. Jackson said...

I mostly treat True Blood and the books as separate entities, because otherwise it's easy to get mad at some of the TB departures. The only change I really can't stand is Jason's character--he annoys me, and is guaranteed to barely open his mouth before I hit fast forward.

But yeah, the tension thing, they have that down.