Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Write the Ripples

I love DVD commentaries. They give amazing, behind-the-scenes insight, don't they? It's like watching the movie/show with the actor or director or writer, sitting right there in your living room!

Well, the other night, as I watched the "Thirtysomething" episode about Michael writing a story (see yesterday's entry), I decided to watch it again, using the commentary. Joseph Dougherty, who wrote many of the episodes, gave his insight into this script. And it was fascinating. I wrote down a couple of "writing gems" and wanted to share them with you.

One thing he talked about was plot. He referred to Ed and Marshall (creators of "Thirtysomething") and said they had a very specific way of looking at plot. It's nothing brand-new or earth-shattering, but I loved the way Mr. Dougherty worded this: "When dealing with characters and plot, you take a huge rock, throw it hard into the middle of a pond, and write the ripples."

Yes. Take your characters and make something happen TO them. Then - write all those lovely ripple effects - what happens to them after the rock has been thrown.

"Thirtysomething" writers did this time and time again: Give womanizing-commitment-phobe-Gary a baby and watch him deal with it. Give Nancy cancer and watch her struggle (and triumph) over it. Let Michael lose his job and see how he copes with it. Let struggling-photographer Melissa taste some success and see how she handles it.

There are so many more examples of this, but the point remains the same -- give your characters something to react to, something to deal with or fight for, and voila! You have plot.


  1. Great advice! I've been asking, "What else can go wrong?" - I love the image of the ripples.

  2. Oh, that was a terrific way to put it. Great post; thanks for sharing :)

  3. Great post. I never thought about the ripples properly but I am now:)

  4. So glad y'all liked that, too - I had a real "lightbulb moment" when I heard him say it that way, writing the ripples. It makes so much sense!

  5. Include me.....'the ripple effect'....a point to remember.