Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Downton Abbey - Lessons on Writing

If you're like millions of Americans, you've been enjoying Sunday nights (on PBS) at Downton Abbey - an enormous English estate in the center of an early 20th Century drama. Season 2 was highly anticipated--and highly mocked for its sometimes-outrageous storylines (as a friend warned me, the series started dipping into melodrama about halfway through--and right, she was!).

I could forgive just about anything, as long as it was wrapped up in lovely British accents, beautiful costumes, incredible English settings, and Maggie Smith's classic jibes.

Still, as a writer, I found myself a little disappointed in the writing. An article that a friend sent me details my own thoughts about Downton--and I was thrilled to see brilliant nuggets of writing wisdom punctuating it. Even if you've never heard of Downton, if you're a writer, you'll find some great advice in this article. I found myself nodding over and over again at things like this:

Here's a rule of thumb: If a story could be removed entirely from a season and it wouldn't matter because it had no real effect on the characters, it's a not a good story.

Amen! As I often tell my students: "A sentence (in this case, storyline/character) must EARN the right to live."

 Here's the link to the whole article, by Maureen Ryan. click here.

I've always believed that we writers can learn just as much (if not more) from discovering flaws in other people's works. The same is true, apparently, with something as beloved as Downton Abbey. Thank you, Maureen Ryan, for so eloquently proving this notion.

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