I never took an English course, or joined some spiffy MFA program to learn how to develop my voice and craft overwrought symbolism about a banana being a metaphor for the insignificance of humanity in the wake of the cosmos. Instead, I took a course my freshman year of college called Television Writing and Screenwriting.
It was the best course I ever took and helped me to develop my plot skills. I learned how to create a world bible, develop plots, subplots, character profiles, breaking down scenes into building blocks, and how each episode is like a chapter in a novel. It is from these lessons that I was able to create a foundation and theory on plot from television writing for my standalone fantasy works.
The premise is this: standalone novels work best in four to six parts that correspond to a four to six season television show.
Boardwalk Empire ended at season five. It wasn’t perfect but all the previous plotlines and threads came together. The story followed actual history, characters left the stage, and the ending reflected the themes and logical conclusion of characters’ actions and fates. It worked because it realized its time had come to walk away.
One of my favorite shows growing up was Supernatural. It filled my Angel void after that cliffhanger ending in the early 2000s. From 2005-2010, I religiously watched the show. Eric Kripke had crafted an American horror western with a deep myth arc, an excellent take on urban fantasy, great chemistry between Sam and Dean, and the buildup of the Yellow-Eyed demon…there’s no words to describe this amazing show. The hints, the clues, the throwaways, everything came together in a clearly defined five season story.
At season 7, the writers were throwing plots at the walls. Escalation fatigue started, new antagonists arose out of necessity. With Season 12’s Lucifer return, Supernatural reached its second nadir. When you bring back the previous Big Bad/story arc antagonist, you undermine all of your previous development, twists, and are propping up your dead professor like Weekend at Bernie’s.
You have fucked up. You haven’t just jumped the shark. You’ve launched a cybernetic Megalodon with lasers on its head straight into the sun, and the crew of Armageddon travel through a wormhole to prevent the apocalypse of 199X once more in an alternate timeline. And then you destroyed the Sun. Good job, a winner is you!
Second part will go into the mechanics behind this theory.
Seeya, space pirate.