Craft: Writing

How to be a Better Writer, The Supernatural Example

There are so many great things a writer can take away from this show.  Somehow, I managed to narrow them down to six. And here they are:
1) TREAT YOUR CHARACTERS LIKE THEY’RE FAMILY: The premise of the show is two brothers driving across the back roads of the United States in their 1967 Impala, and battling the things that go bump in the night. You have the good son, Dean, who enjoys hair bands, fast cars, and faster women. Then you have the younger brother, Sam, the rebellious one who ran away to college to get away from the ‘family business’ only to jerked back in when his girlfriend is brutally murdered. Family is important to everyone and nothing brings out the worst in people than being stuck in a tin can for miles on end. Great premise and it’s had me hooked since the first episode.


2) KNOW WHERE YOU’RE GOING (PLOT WISE): A lot of series start out with a pilot or a first book and don’t really know where they’re going. They kinda stumble around in the dark hoping they hit upon the right path. Not Supernatural. Eric Eric Kripke, the creator, had a plan for five seasons. And man was it a plan. The first scene in Lawrence, Kansas was the pin that held it all together. In the middle of the night, a stranger appeared in Sam’s room. Why? Then season after seaon you watch as all the pieces come together in a dramatic and satisfying way. I love it when things come full circle.

3) WRITE GREAT DIALOGUE: Television relies on the things you can see and hear. This is just one of the aspects of great fiction too. Dialogue must enhance the plot and characterization simultaneously. This is where this show really shines. Pop-culture infused fun. Here are some of my favorite lines:

– From Season (1), Episode (1), “The Pilot”
Sam: When I told dad I was scared of the thing in my closet he gave me a .45.
Dean: What was he supposed to do?
Sam: I was nine years old. He was supposed to say don’t be scared of the dark.
Dean: Don’t be afraid of the dark? Are you kidding me? Of course you’re supposed to be afraid of the dark. You know what’s out there.

– From Season (1), Episode (11), “Scarecrow”
Dean: [To the scarecrow] Dude, you fugly.

– From Season (3), Episode (11), “Mystery Spot”
Dean: [after Sam tells Dean he saw him get hit by a car] And?
Sam: And what?
Dean: Did it look cool, like in the movies?
Sam: You peed yourself.
Dean: Of course, I peed myself. Man gets hit by a car, you think he had full control of his bladder? Come on!

– From Season (3), Episode (12), “Jus in Bello”
Henricksen: I shot the sheriff.
Dean: But you didn’t shoot the deputy.

– From Season (4), Episode (22), “Lucifer Rising”
Dean: I’m not sure if he’s my brother any more. If he ever was.
Bobby: You stupid, stupid son of a bitch! Well boo hoo. I am so sorry your feelings are hurt… princess! Are you under the impression that family’s supposed to make you feel good? Make you an apple pie, maybe? They’re supposed to make you miserable! That’s why they’re family.

– From Season (5), Episode (1), “Sympathy for the Devil”
Sam: So let me ask the million dollar question: What do we do now?
Bobby: Well, we save as many as we can for as long as we can. It’s bad, and whoever wins, Heaven or Hell, we’re boned.
Dean: What if we do win? I’m serious. Screw the Angels and the Demons and their crap apocalypse. Now if they wanna fight a war, they can find their own planet. This one’s ours, and I say they get the hell off it. We take ‘em all on. We kill the Devil, hell, we even kill Michael if we have to, but we do it our own damn selves.
Bobby: And how are we supposed to do all this genius?
Dean: I got no idea. But what I do have is a GED and a give-em-hell attitude and I’ll figure it out.
Bobby: you are nine kinds of crazy boy.
Dean: It’s been said.

4) APPRECIATE YOUR AUDIENCEYou gotta stay connected to your fans whether it’s through email, snail, or through the numerous outlets of social media. This show pays homage to their fans in a number of ways. One of the best examples is episode 18 of Season 4: “The Monster at the End of this Book”. The writers incorporate/mention real life online slash fan-fiction into this episode’s storyline. Sam and Dean stumble across a cult book series written by Carver Edlund, a pseudonym for Chuck Shurley who’s writing the story of Sam and Dean. Castiel, the angel, informs them Chuck is actually a prophet and that he’s writing what will become the Winchester Gospel.

5) DON’T TAKE YOURSELF TOO SERIOUSLY: A writer must be humble and above all don’t take themselves too seriously. In episode 15 from Season 6 “The French Mistake” the writers do just that. Sam and Dean become Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki, a television show called ‘Supernatural’ about their life. What’s so humorous is that the last character to play the infamous Ruby (Genevieve Nicole Cortese Padalecki), is actually married to Jared in real life.
6) KNOW WHEN TO CALL IT QUITS: This is the one thing Supernatural hasn’t done. I really believe the writers should have ended this series after season five. Writers too fall prey to the money instead of the story. For goodness sake, tell the story then let it go. Move on to something else. It’s better to go out with a bang than peter out with a fizzle.

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