Look, I’m a bonafide geek. I’ll admit it. Specifically, I’m a sci fi geek. I just can’t help it. Give me a show with some solid science fiction themes and I’ll change my entire schedule to indulge.
With that in mind, I ended up binge watching on Origin from Youtube Premium all day on Saturday. And it was sooooooo good!
I’m not going to bother to share the premise but I am definitely going to share the story telling techniques I picked up from the series.
First, make the worst happen. This was a technique used in Star Trek Beyond. In Origin, the first series started off with a bang. A group of space ship passengers wake on an abandoned space ship only to learn it’s been attacked by an alien life form that’s killing people. And they’ve got to fins a way to stay alive and make it to their destination – a newly colonized planet. (Did I just say I wouldn’t tell the premise of this show? Oh and doesn’t that sorta remind you of Dark Matter on Syfy?) Everything that could go wrong, did!
It keeps the consumer on the edge of their seat with bated breath as they wait, hoping things turn around for the characters. Even the ones they don’t really identify with or care for.
Second, create a false remedy. In Origin, the survivors think they’ve flushed out the passenger infected by the alien but…we soon learn that’s easier said than done.
There’s nothing like taking a sigh of relief only to find out you were mistaken to think things got better. In storytelling, such a head fake is great for waking up the consumer and making him/her pay more attention to the story. There’s nothing like shocking a reader/viewer IMO.
Third, slowly unroll the background stories of your characters. Never rush to tell the consumer who your main characters are. Show them in key instances where they display key aspects of their character. Then, slowly share their ‘origin story’ in bits and pieces. No info dumps though.
Origin did this masterfully. Practically each episode focused on the origin of a specific character and explained how they happened to be on the space ship. Understanding why they made those choices helped shine a light on each of them and made me feel closer to them in one way or another. Achieving that in books isn’t the easiest to do but by giving a little bit at a time, an author can avoid the dreaded infodump.
Fourth, drop another head fake in the last act of the story. Now, Origin did this so masterfully. I tend to drop additional bombs on my readers in the last few chapters of my books. In Origin, the producers did something reminiscent of the ending of Life which I discussed here. All show long, you think Planet Thea is the cast’s solution, but it isn’t.
Doing this provides another jolt in the arm to the consumer, forcing them to sit up and pay even more attention. It’s also a cue that ‘the end is nigh so listen up or you’ll miss something.’
Fifth, end on a cliffhanger. I know folks claim to not enjoy a cliffhanger but that can’t be true because when effectively utilized, cliffhangers whet a consumer’s appetite for the next installment of the story be it a book, a scripted show or a movie.
In Origin, the first season ends with a lot of resolution but some key questions that I, for one, can’t wait to see answered. So, Youtube, when’s season 2 coming?
If you’d like to watch Origin, check out episode 1 and 2 right here –
Have you watched Origin? Are you interested in doing so? Whatever the case, let me know what you think about the show and/or the #writinglessons shared above.