Jed Mercurio‘s Bodies — a visceral and heartbreaking look at just how little separates life and death in a maternity ward; and
David Simon‘s The Wire — its novelistic approach to presenting a criminal investigation, showing us every shade of grey between the police and their adversaries, as well as the world in which both operate, is something to which I can only dare aspire.
And if it’s all too much and/or I want to procrastinate for hours I just need a little kick, I never go wrong with any of these:
Quentin Tarantino‘s Jackie Brown — a small-time crook’s One Final Score;
and David Mamet‘s Spartan — a rogue agent’s attempt to Do The Right Thing.
It’s not necessarily the story I worry about — it’s how I’m going to make it interesting. I want to grab and hold the reader’s — and, eventually, the paying audience’s — attention, take ’em for a ride, and then afterwards, drop ’em back in their seat, exhilarated, exhausted, and begging for more.
All of the above touchstones do exactly that.
Most times, soon after referring to any of the above, I’m back at the keyboard, writing.
1 But oh how The Goddess rolls her eyes when I talk about superior subtextual story-telling amidst well-choreographed ass-kicking.
Jed Mercurio, creator of the excellent, visceral, Bodies, wrote this about adapting novels for the screen. What I found most interesting was –
Cynics argue that drama adaptations for television demonstrate a lack of enthusiasm for original material or, worse, a lack of quality in original scripts. I disagree with both propositions. Commissioners crave original drama, and many (if not most) writers prefer to create their own material, and most (if not all) of them feel more attached to their original script than an adaptation. But marketing original drama isn’t easy. … The audience doesn’t know the story or the characters. That’s hard to explain in a trailer or a billboard poster.
As an audience member, I must confess to a double standard: I want more of the same – but different.
I work hard at trying something completely new though. How else could I have found and sworn by Bodies or The Wire – or even Green Wing or The Insiders Guides to Love and Happiness?
What I admire most about these series is the sheer depth, and complexity of story and character that’s packed into each forty-five minute episode. It didn’t matter if it was a procedural or soap. The writing, directing and acting is so good that the underlying structure is barely noticed.
Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman are my poster boys for giving more of the same… but different. They showed that even the tired superhero, horror and fantasy genres of comicdom – and their audiences – could be treated just as seriously as any other form of ‘real’ literature – with maturity and intelligence.
I returned to comic-reading in the last few years – one could hazard that it was a precursor to my true return to reading. And upon my return I’ve found the pleasures of Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson‘s blistering Transmetropolitan, Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon‘s heart- and gut-wrenching Preacher, and David Lapham‘s mindblowing Stray Bullets. These – and more – are just proof-positive that, just as the good doctor purred,