I’ve been thinking about books, movies, TV shows that people love. I mean like love. Like they are emotionally invested in the entertainment experience. This first started when my novel-writing teacher clutched her chest talking about “The Bridges of Madison County.” Then I started thinking about it again when I saw how popular the TV show “Scandal” has become. In both cases, the final product isn’t perfect yet it’s wildly successful (and has pulled me in as a fan). I’ve concluded that they work in large part because the writers deftly craft a few moments that are really, really, really good.
I don’t want to get all analytical (after all, this is just a blog post), but I do feel like I should explain a bit more. So “Bridges” is a love story that takes place over four days. Sure, it’s a little predictable, but the short time period allows you to become invested in the romance. It’s full of these small but critical moments when the characters learn about/grow to love each other—and you as the reader end up doing the same.
In “Scandal” Shonda Rhimes (“Scandal” writer who I’ve written about before) will use an entire episode to zoom in on a very specific, defining moment. Like, for example, the last one when she shows the humanity in Huck. Or in the first season, when she shows how Olivia and Fitz’s romance went down. Most of the show is fast moving and exciting, but I think it’s Shonda’s ability to slow things down and give us an opportunity to love the characters that keeps us coming back.
What I’m saying is that in the midst of mostly good and sometimes ok these writers give us something great. Satisfying, emotional moments that stay with you after you’re done reading/watching. It’s enough to gain our loyalty and forgive any surrounding imperfections. More importantly, it’s enough to leave us wanting more.
So in my own work, of course I will try to do the best I can with respect to every chapter/scene/paragraph/sentence/word BUT it can’t all be perfect. (I actually think this desire to be perfect holds a lot of writers back, but that’s another blog post). Rather, I believe that if a writer can get these central moments in the story/character’s arc down, then that’s at least…75% of the battle. What do others think?
UPDATE: Yesterday was my final novel writing class. I asked my teacher why in the world she liked Bridges so much. It turns out she doesn’t! She clutched her chest because she hated it haha. That makes a lot more sense. I don’t think that conflicts with anything I wrote here–it still was extremely popular, and I enjoyed it for what it was.