Things I’ve learned from Battlestar Galactica

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So I know that most writers will tell you that television is evil and you should stay away from it, but when you find a well-written show it can teach you quite a bit about writing. And since discovering (and becoming addicted to) Battlestar Galactica I’ve learned a few things. Here’s what they are:

1. The crazier the character, the more fun they are to follow. Kara and the Doctor make the best episode leads, because they are a little bit on the crazy and unpredictable side. Adama Sr. is also good to follow, because he’s a badass and you want to see what badass thing he’s going to do and say this week. His son, Lee, is a white-bread do-gooder with boring episodes. Don’t follow the do-gooder unless they are going to do-bad (like the Black Market episode, which is the only Lee episode that I’ve liked). People that you can’t sympathize with (like the President) also make bad episode leads, because you don’t care if they are lying on the hospital bed dying. You kind of hope they will die so you can get back to watching Adama and the Doctor and Kara.

2. You don’t always have to leave a chapter/episode with high drama like someone being shot into space. Sometimes you can leave the chapter/episode with people hugging and laughing and being generally happy, as long as your reader/watcher knows that something is about to go horribly horribly wrong. End a chapter with tension, not necessarily drama.

3. Everyone needs a breather every now and again. Everyone needs a happy ending.

4. The happy ending doesn’t need to last very long 🙂

5. Answer your questions. Every answer should lead to an even bigger question. This one I’ve learned from not only BSG (who does a great job of answering questions with another, bigger question) but also from Flash Forward, who left me with so many un-answered questions after a few episodes that I stopped caring about the answers and gave up watching. Piling questions on top of questions and never answering anything is a great way to confuse your reader enough to make them put down the book. They lose hope that their questions will ever be answered. So always answer questions – even if they are only minor questions – but when you do it create a bigger question/problem.

6. Do not ever make a robot with artificial intelligence and guns-for-hands. Come on humanity. That’s just dumb.

Are there any shows that you love that have helped you grow as a writer?

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Published by

Rebecca Enzor

Rebecca Enzor is a chemist in Charleston, SC who writes Young Adult and New Adult Fantasy and Magical Realism. Repped by Eric Smith of P.S. Literary.

20 thoughts on “Things I’ve learned from Battlestar Galactica”

  1. I SO love this post because I was going to do one like it for both Veronica Mars and Avatar the Last Airbender and how they changed my thinking around writing.
    For VM, similar to your point about answering questions, I actually tweeted: “balance answering questions with cliffhangers to keep the reader hungry for more.”
    And for Avatar: The Last Airbender, each season was divided into “Books” and each episode was a “chapter”, and so it gave me the aha moment to help structure the story in that way. Each chapter would be like a self contained epi with bigger story arcs that related to the book’s story as a whole.

    Those points were really two of my biggest takeaways from those shows, and honestly gave me inspiration to move forward and structure my WIPs better than any “book on writing” has ever taught me.

  2. Great post. #6 made me lol.

    Personally, I liked Laura Roslin and sympathized with her. As a woman who has occasionally been in a position of authority, I totally grokked how impossible her situation was, and how she dealt with it anyway.

    #5: brilliant. The question pile has become a new tension-building method, especially in series television. I know a lot of people were really into Lost, but I ended up bored and frustrated by its mystery within a mystery within a question within a smoke monster format.

    1. I’ve started liking Roslin more (actually, the more she becomes a badass “do this cause I said it” “NOW”) but I really did kind of wish that she would die in that episode so that the Doctor could become President. Cause that would be a lot of fun to watch 🙂

      I couldn’t get into Lost either. Too many questions, not enough answers. I don’t like being dragged along for episode after episode (much less season after season) with no carrot. GIVE ME A CARROT! 🙂

    1. Obviously #6 is one of those all-time amazing ideas and any book/movie/show that has guns-for-hands robots with arificial intelligence is going to make it big.

      Wait, why am I writing fantasy instead of sci-fi?

  3. Loving Number 4 – I always tend to think of the happy ending as ‘The Ending’, but now I’m wondering if it could also be the beginning and the middle too. Fab post.

    1. Oh yes, a little happy ending as the beginning or middle could work really well! After all, every book in a series ends with a “happy ending” of sorts. It’s just that they never last long.

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