Top Ten Stories On Television: Part 2

Here it is! The second half of the Top Ten Stories on Television, all the way down to the number one spot. These five shows have left their impact on storytelling, in so many ways, and on my storytelling for sure. I won’t bother you with a bunch of build up, or hot air, but before the weekend kicks off, here’s the top five choices for shows to marathon watch before Monday:

5. Sons of Anarchy: I immediately felt drawn to Sons of Anarchy from the first scene of the very first episode. A young, handsome, biker is in a convenient store buying some smokes, smiling flirtatiously at the pretty cashier, and considering buying a children’s book for his  soon to be born son.  As he pays, we see a large explosion in the distance, reflected in the glass door, and as soon as Jax, the main character,  sees it, you know that he’s somehow involved as he rushes out of the store with an “Oh, Shit!” Drugs, violence, sex, Harley’s, California, Ireland, and the appeal of a motorcycle club’s brotherhood that few other venues can provide. That is what this show has to offer and this show has become a weekly ritual between my friends and I. All Jax wants to do is give his son a better life than he fell into, just like his father wanted for him, and as he tries to better the club or escape his violent life of crime, everything begins to fall apart around him and truths are quickly revealed that could destroy lives, and the club his father helped to build. Tuesdays on FX, right now, and early seasons are available on Netflix. You’re welcome.

4. Breaking Bad: Now, I’ve loved Bryan Cranston, the main character “Walter White,” since I was in grade school, and seeing this show with its few throwbacks to Cranston’s old characters, like always finding a way to stand around in his whitey-tighties, immediately hooked me. But the story is what kept me enthralled.

"All hail the king"

“All hail the king”

A high school chemistry teacher, who upon learning that he is dying of cancer, decides to learn how to cook meth so that he may leave his family financially stable when he’s gone. The primary draw of this show is the battle between cancer and remission and the way it reflects his battle between the good family man and the criminal kingpin, inside of him. As he takes on the role of meth cook and his cancer goes in and out of remission, he has already broken the law, the show takes on the deeper depths of morality. Whether or not what he’s done, and continues to do, is worth the risk to himself and more importantly, his family. The series has finally ended, and has successfully left viewers with a conclusion that provided us with a sense of peace and fulfillment. It ended right where it needed to. As you watch the show, which I will most likely be watching from beginning to end again soon, each and every episode will leave you saying, “I can’t believe that just happened,” and a “What the hell!? Show us more!”

3. Game of Thrones: The HBO series based on the novels by George R. R. Martin, is an excellent piece of cinema and an very good film adaptation of the books. Each episode is true HBO quality, and the world of the novels is vividly imagined.  The primary protagonists are the Stark family and the show follows them during the decline of their rule. You quickly come to love the Stark family and when things begin to go wrong, you hope that everything will work out for them, but in true dramatic fashion, things never do.  Now, I’ve not read all the books, but I own them and can’t wait to read through all of them. But, the thing that I like the most, is that I have heard that George R. R. Martin has a great deal of influence with the show and he likes to evoke as much emotion from the viewers as possible. Without spoiling anything, a MAJOR event takes place in the latest season that had the internet stark raving mad. From my understanding, this event has a somewhat different outcome in the novels, and this new outcome that Martin has done, just about blew up the internet with fan rage. This is something that every storyteller strives for: creating characters that the audience connects with so well, that they love and hate you for what happens to them.

2. The Walking Dead: For some reason, I have always been drawn to the apocalypse, especially the zombie apocalypse. I have outline dozens of ideas for stories in a world overrun by the walking dead, where survival of the fittest, truly reigns. The Walking Dead began as a graphic novel detailing the beginning of a zombie outbreak in the heart of Georgia. What I love about the show, besides the production value, the drama, the heartbreak and violence, and a dozen other things, is the fact that certain things in the show are completely different than they are in the comic books. Characters live and die differently than they do in the comics, and certain characters on the show were never even in the comics to begin with. Case in point: the character Daryl Dixon, played by the boondock saint, Norman Reedus, was brought in as a recurring character on the show, but do to his popularity they brought him on as a main cast member and he has been a fan favorite ever since. When it comes to television adaptations of shows, those are the things that really hook me, knowing that things are new and different than they should be, without watering down the origin of the show. When the television is taken seriously as a living breathing organism that can change at any given moment due to either the writer, or show runner, wanting to get a reaction from the audience, or that things change due to the audience severely loving or hating something or someone. But, the best thing about the show is simply that the stories it tells, and the characters created within those stories are superb, gripping, and emotional. You grow a strange attachment to characters that may later be devoured by a passing horde of zombies. Try and tell me that isn’t good television.

1. Firefly: This is a show that many of you may not remember. Firefly aired on FOX back in 2002 and unfortunately, only lasted one season, due to some odd broadcasting choices by FOX and an unsure reception by viewers. The show follows the crew of the Serenity, a “firefly” class space vessel, as they travel the galaxy looking for for work, legal and otherwise. Whatever will keep gas in the tank and food on the table.  Firefly was a space western that juxtaposed the high tech society of the central planets, and the poor minimalist societies of the distant worlds. The characters often find themselves leaving the Serenity, their home, and winding up riding horseback from town to town on outlying worlds. Due to its unique premise, and only airing for one season, the show wasn’t able to hit any sort of “stride.” It opened up a number of interesting story arcs, which were unable to be delved into deeper. So, if this show is “unfinished,” why does it end up at number one?

Firefly has one of the deepest universes that I have seen when it comes to science fiction, holding it’s own next to Star Trek and Star Wars. Government conspiracies, horses, western throwbacks, beautiful CGI, guns, ships, bounty hunters, and a very important piece of the universe: “Reavers,” which are cannibals of legend, normal men who reached the edge of space and were driven completely mad, desecrating themselves, their ships, pillaging, raping, and murdering their way across the galaxy. This only scratches

 "Nine people looking into the blackness of space and seeing nine different things"

“Nine people looking into the blackness of space and seeing nine different things”

the surface of the depth of this show. I would need a lot more time and space to explain any further about the universe itself. Although the show was cancelled so early, it gained such a massive fan base, that Whedon was eventually able to make a feature film entitled “Serenity,” allowing him to give the show a proper ending and the ability to wrap up some major story arcs. The fan base is still so large, that Netflix was rumored to be in talks with FOX for the rights to the show to make it a Netflix original, I can only hope this is true.

But the real reason this show claims the number one spot, is the characters. Characters are what binds and connects us to television shows and make us care about their stories. The crew of the Serenity is comprised of nine individuals who, as Whedon once described it, “nine faces all looking out into the blackness of space and seeing nine different things.” They’re all running from something, running towards something, and they all want something different out of life. Again, it would be too much to explain all their stories, but I’ll give you a glimpse into my favorite character on the show. Malcolm Reynolds, the captain of the Serenity, is a brown coat. The brown coats were on the losing side in  a war against the Alliance, opposing their oppressive regime and their attempt to forcibly unite all the planets under one government entity. He is the epitome of loyalty and stoicism. No one messes with his crew or his ship, or they incur the wrath of Mal. On that same note, he fights the inner battle of keeping his responsibilities as the captain of the Serenity and being a war veteran, against the constant attempts from his crew to get close to him, to be a family. The Serenity is the crew’s home, and the crew are one big happy, well not always happy, family. I could go on, but I won’t, I’ll just recommend that anyone and everyone go and get the series and the movie and watch to your hearts content. I know that you won’t be disappointed.

That’s It! The full top ten. If you love these shows, or they have somehow influenced your creative works, please shout it loud in the comments! But if you haven’t seen these shows, well, you need to finish reading this post and go watch every single episode of the shows mentioned above, but be sure to come back afterwards! I’ll be looking into more “Top” lists that have had an effect on storytelling, but until my next post, find a good story to follow and enjoy.

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Top Ten Stories On Television: Part 1

There are so many good stories on television these days. With the art of storytelling reaching its climax, it’s hard to choose favorites. But, in the spirit of storytelling, I’ve chosen a number of television shows from the last couple decades that, I feel, epitomizes the idea of amazing storytelling. Now, bear in mind that this is an extremely biased top 10 list, and while there are so many others that would make “top” lists across the globe, but these particular shows have story arcs built in that seem to do everything right and have left a lasting impression on me.

10. Vikings: Vikings is a show on the history channel that follows a father and husband as he proves himself as a warrior and a leader to himself, his family, and the rest of his tribe. This show is outstanding because of the historical authenticity that the history channel has to offer, while still presenting the show with game of thrones style cinematography. The writing really shines as we see the world unravel around the main character, even though he’s unaware of the betrayal that surrounds him. Although the main character is a bloodthirsty, savage, viking, you can’t help by relate to this loving family man.

9. Dollhouse: The writer of Dollhouse, Joss Whedon, is an outstanding science fiction writer, and although he’s moved on to bigger and better things, Dollhouse is no exception. At first the premise sounds a little strange, an organization that brainwashes “willing” individuals so they may sell their reprogrammed bodies as spies, assassins, companions, hookers, criminal investigators or the criminals themselves, or anything else a client can imagine.  As you watch the show and come to realize that, maybe the organization isn’t as evil as you first thought, and you’ll quickly be proven right and wrong in so many ways.  Dollhouse makes you question the validity of human rights and you’ll marvel as the characters create connections that bleed through their brainwashed personalities and sparks a worldwide conspiracy. Tell me that doesn’t sound intriguing.

8. Spartacus: The Starz show Spartacus is based on historical events, but given an… interesting presentation.  Spartacus is filmed in a style similar to the movie “300” and combined with excessive nudity, language and violence. While all that is great on its own, the story shines as everything he knows and cares for is ripped out from under the main character and no matter what he does to improve his situation, and to be reunited with his wife, things only seem to get worse. The story begins by exploiting the glory of combat and the death of slaves fighting in the gladiatorial arena, then quickly moving into a tale of revolution, love, freedom, humanity, brotherhood, and glory. It truly is a classic tale of tragedy and redemption, reminiscent of ancient mythos. And for those history buffs who know how the true tale of Spartacus goes, it becomes all the more interesting, knowing the fate of all those involved.

7. Doctor Who: Now, I absolutely love Doctor Who, and I would love nothing more than to throw this show into the top 5, there is only a couple things preventing this. The first is that there are still so many questions I have about the over arching story and the main character, the Doctor. The second is that a few of the most recent seasons have been plagued by a number “filler episodes” that hold little water against the episodes with climactic plot twists and huge reveals.

Doctor Who is the story of a Time Lord, an ancient alien race who can travel through space and time. The Doctor, as he is known, is the last of the Time Lords and spends his nearly immortal life traveling to and saving planets, lives, and entire civilizations. Little is known about the doctor, but throughout the seasons bits and pieces of the mysterious man are revealed, creating even more mystery while giving us a bit of insight into the eccentric, fascinating, “brilliant,” and amazing character he is. The unique thing about The Doctor is that Time Lords have the ability to regenerate when near death. This means that when they regenerate, they take on a new personality that has different looks, likes, dislikes, etcetera, while still keeping past memories. This is a great way to keep the story running and unfolding, but can be an issue when you become attached to a particular doctor and then they suddenly change into a new actor, but this does open the way for someone new to take on the iconic role and be a part of something amazing.

6.  Dexter: Dexter is an outstanding story about a blood spatter analyst working for the Miami police department, who enjoys murdering criminals in his spare time. Now, normally, a serial killer is the antagonist of a story, not someone you would root for, but Dexter is a special case. He’s one of the good guys. He rids the world of criminal trash, while trying to blend in by attempting to achieve a life of normalcy.  Dexter desires to have feelings, love, and to live a normal life, but his “dark passenger,” his serial killer side, prevents him from having these things, but it doesn’t stop him from trying.

The tale gets truly interesting as this ‘monster’ who could never achieve such things, begins to care for someone,  actually makes friends, has a family and is able to have a “normal” life.  Now, he struggles with his dark passenger competing for his time and attention against his everyday life.  If that doesn’t make you want to go buy the DVDs right now, then I’m sorry, but you’re missing out on what good story telling is. A past season did suffer from a bit of a dull streak, but the final season reared its head, started off with a bang, and ended beautifully, although some saw it as rather heartbreaking. I’ll say no more. But, life will never be easy for a serial killer; family, friends, police and even other serial killers aren’t going to let him go so easily. Good luck, Dexter.

Coming very soon, because I know you can’t wait to see which show has the honor of sitting in the number one slot, will be part two of this epic list. Some show placements will be obvious, others may surprise you. If you think you know which shows made it into the top five, or think one of these should have, speak up!

Who Says Unorganized Is A Bad Thing?

What type of writer am I? Am I a romantic awaiting Juliet in the pages of a book, or a serial killer lurking in the shadows of the dust cover? Do I journey beyond the stars or send readers back to a simpler time, lacking modern technology? Deciding to become a writer can be difficult, trying to decide on a writing style, a genre, or an audience can be even more difficult. How do you know just what to write about? Well, that’s where the problem comes in doesn’t it? You don’t.

When you begin writing you often times don’t know the answer to any of these questions. People will often tell you to plan out your story before you begin writing. You should decide on an audience. Then you should decide on a genre for your story and then decide just how gritty, or not, it will be. This is one train of thought that really does make a lot of sense. Usually this mind-set goes hand in hand with outlining your story, either in great detail or just a chapter breakdown. This method really does work, I’ve used it myself. The method I prefer though, is sitting down and just starting to write something, anything and eventually the story will form.

It’s a much more unorthodox method for writing but for many people all the planning and outlining doesn’t do any good, some just need let the creativity show up when it decides to. For the novel I’ve been writing, I have been doing a mixture of both. I began planning and outlining to get myself started.Wrote a few chapters that stood out in my mind. Then I hit writers block. So to get past that I just started writing, I began with character descriptions or lines I could hear them saying. Then I moved onto descriptions and impressions of locations and eventually the story pieces began to just form.

So try some different methods to generate creativity for you writing, see which ones work best for you. How do you get started writing something? Do you use one of these methods I talked about above, or do you have a different way to get the creativity flowing through your pen or pencil? I’d love to hear if one of these has worked for you, or if there is something unique that you do when writing.

Time To Embark On A Journey

My first novel, as well as others I’ll write, will be based on a popular story structure: “The Journey”.  You’ll often times find me referring to a journey, primarily due to the relation to my first novel, but also due to the many emotions and story variants it can accommodate.  The arc of a journey has been used by many writers: J.R.R. Tolkien in The Lord of the Rings, Steven King in The Gunslinger, and Douglas Adams in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. All these authors and more know what it means to embark on a truly fascinating adventure.  The concept of the journey is fascinating in that it presents so many different possibilities and challenges for the hero to encounter and overcome.  The hero may run into many different characters along the way, and because they’re travelling, they can be as diverse and unique as the author can fathom.   They can run from something, run to something or simply be travelling for survival.  They’ll be forced to deal with hunger, assailants, nature and mental stability. All of these things and more are perfect reasons to have your protagonist embark on a journey, and they all share one common theme: “Overcome”.  The characters’ ability to overcome or even to fail to overcome obstacles is something that every human being can relate to.

In addition to all of the obvious, physical aspects of the journey, there is one thing that encompasses all of the above and more: the mental journey.  Being able to overcome yourself, or your own mind, whether dealing with a mental impairment, such as amnesia, or a more basic emotion like an overwhelming fear of spiders when your goal lies deep within a dark, web-ridden cave.  Movies with big twists where it was all in the mind of a mental patient take the concept of overcoming ones mental deficiencies to an absolute extreme, but still hit the “mental journey nail” on the head and are often having the character overcome many of these mental obstacles at once.  But again, that similar underlying theme pokes its timid head out. The journey to prevail over something is not only one of the most intriguing and promising aspects of story architecture, but it is also one of the oldest.  Tales told by our ancestors thousands of years ago were about a person overcoming a large beast or retrieving a great treasure from a god and are still told and replicated today.

As you can see, this is something that is prominent throughout our entire history and will make a prominent return in my book, which is the reason I chose to write about this interesting bit of story structure. Hopefully you will be able to recognize it in my tale as well.  You may or may not have already known about this concept, but hopeful this helps shed some light on how it is prominent in our everyday lives, even if we don’t immediately recognize it.