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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Don’t Fall Off The Wagon

When undertaking a large project of any kind, writing, painting, animated, building, whatever, how do you keep from hitting that metaphorical brick wall? You work so hard for so long, slaving away, and then BAM! You’ve got nothing. This is a barricade that everybody encounters in their lifetime. The thought occurred to me while writing The Drive Home, how do you avoid writer’s block? This is something I had been suffering with over the last couple weeks, but I kept on and have been powering out some of my novel, hence the reason why I haven’t posted in a little while. So, after wracking my brain, scavenging through the minds of other fellow writers, and hours of research (research spawned from running into a serious case of writers block) I came up with a list of suggestions to better avoid and to scale ‘the wall’ once you’ve collided with it head on.

  1. Cleanliness is next to creativeness: Keep your writing space clean. Your desk, you laptop, your local Starbucks. Just make sure you work in a clean, clutter free environment. When you’re not worried about the smell emanating from last nights dishes or cleaning the sticky soda that just transferred from the soda ring on your table to your arm, you feel more creative. Your creativity will feel more able to flow without these types of distractions.
  2. Take a shower once in a while: Some of my greatest spurts of inspiration come when I put my head under the shower nozzle and the water rushes over and muffles my hearing. Next to the tub being an idea machine, feeling clean reinforces my point made in #1. Just like your comfort will be enhanced in a clean environment, if you don’t smell of yesterdays activities, the grunge wont be there to affect your judgment. Lastly, look the part. Dress as if you were going out of the house to work. If you sit around in your pajamas, or less, you get too comfortable and may not want to do anything productive. So as your old career counselors used to say, dress the part.
  3. Your brain needs blood too: Your mind is a muscle, and just like your other limbs, if you don’t use them they will get weak. So this one has two parts: first do something to get you mind working, besides just writing. Try reading something or trying your hand a crossword or Sudoku puzzle. Do something to make you think that will still take your mind off of your writing. Part two: Go out and be active. Go for a quick jog to get the blood pumping through your veins. The fresh air and the activity will help prepare you for a marathon session of scribbling away, your mind will be ready to get to work. Plus after you’ve gone out and run yourself ragged, sitting down and writing for a while will feel like a vacation when you get to take a seat and not move for a few hours.
  4. Whatever you do, don’t believe the internet’s lies: I cannot emphasize this enough, the internet is NOT your friend. When it comes to being productive the internet is one of two things that will completely ruin your concentration. You may believe yourself when you say, “I’m just going to check my twitter real quick,” or, “I just need to make sure I have no emails real fast.” I’m sorry, but we, myself included, are all full of shit. If you so much as crack open that Pandora’s box, you’ll get yourself distracted for at least and hour. So, best practice is to just don’t do it.
  5. Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day: Eat something good for breakfast. Plain and simple, well not so simple. I want you to eat something delicious for starters, but there is a catch. Try to eat something delicious and healthy. Grab a banana, or some other fruit, just something fairly healthy for breakfast will help. You can still eat some of the usual a couple slices of bacon, some buttery hash browns, but eating something that’s not soaked in fat or grease will keep you from feeling full and bloated, which can really ruin you determination.
  6. Early Bird: Try to get started fairly early in the morning, right after you wake up. The morning and late at night tend to be some of the most creative times of the day. The morning is great because your mind is still relaxed and rested, it hasn’t been worked hard all day long. So take advantage of it.
  7. Witness creativity: Throughout my youth teachers would chastise me incessantly about my methods for being creative and getting my work done. I would pop on my headphones and listen to inspiring, exciting music, for me it was usually some gangsta rap. So what makes you feel inspired? Look at some beautiful artwork, watch an awe inspiring movie or just play some of your favorite music to get your urge to be productive shifted into high gear.
  8. Go away: Your used to your house, your office and computer desk. You’re also too comfortable there. So go somewhere that isn’t too distracting, take your laptop or a pen and paper to your local watering hole and just sit and “go to town.” This is why you see so many people, nose deep in their keyboards, at places like Starbucks or bookstores. These places are not too distracting, unless they are excessively busy.
  9. Don’t be afraid to be unorthodox: Go about it another way, if you’ve been stuck on that one, stupid line for three hours now, try writing that section another way. Or skip that section all together. Try outlining the scene you’re writing, or the conversation, just with nice easy bullet points that get the idea across. Or you could try doing a map or just talk with somebody, use them as a sounding board or a jumping off point. The other thing to try is to skip that line, don’t worry about it being perfect, you’re going to change it again later anyway. Skip the line or even the chapter if you’d like, write something different but still related to your work. The only restriction I would place on this, is to not write the ending, if you already know and have written out the ending, you may lose that inspiration. So just be cautious and keep it up.
  10. Whatever you do, don’t panic! This one is the most important. Just don’t stress, don’t worry about your deadline until you must, just know it will get done. When you panic, you get sloppy, you get rushed, and you don’t care nearly as much. You become more worried about the deadline than the quality of your work. And that just can’t happen.

So just think about it, take your time and do what you gotta do. Don’t fall of the writing wagon, get some help if you need to. This is one addiction that, when it kicks in, it’s ok to indulge. These are just a few tips on fending off writer’s block, if you need to figure out something else, do some research. There are hundreds of different ways to keep yourself on track, find what works the best for you and keep it up! And by all means, if you’ve had a fool proof way of avoiding writer’s block let me know below!