Back In The Saddle

With Wolfblood commissioned for a second series, it seems like a good time to be talking about how writers approach working on a new series of an existing show.

Sitting down to begin work on the second series, you have certain advantages over a writer working on a first season. You know what your show is – who the characters are, what kinds of stories the show is good at telling, what kinds of stories don’t work for your characters and your world. If you have writers returning from the first series, they have a particularly strong grasp of your story world; and new writers have completed episodes to watch, which give them a sense of the visual style, pace and feel of a typical episode. And, thanks to viewing figures and social media, you probably have some idea what works for your audience and what they were less enthusiastic about.

Your actors are known quantities, which enables you to write to their strengths. You also have a sense of which characters, and actors, work well together and can sustain stories. For example, the fact that the K’s were strong and interesting enough characters to sustain their own little stories in some episodes, quite separate to any wolf-related story, was something we learned through writing the first series.

Interesting pairings of characters can also emerge once you’ve seen them on screen. Throughout the first season, Rhydian and Shannon emerged as characters with a surprising amount in common, and yet interestingly contrasting views and behaviour. Any time we put them in a scene together, we had a very different dynamic to play with than, for example, pairing up Maddy and Rhydian, or Shannon and Tom. Having Kara and Shannon spend time together in one episode also showed us new sides of both characters.

However, second seasons do bring a few potential problems.

All long-running drama is a process of balancing stasis and change – giving the audience what they’re come to expect from the show, while also developing the characters, introducing surprises, and expanding the story world. Most of a first series is spent setting up and developing your characters and your world, which means the first point at which you’re likely to significantly change that world is the end of the first season. (And there were certainly one or two significant developments in episode thirteen of Wolfblood!)

So the beginning of season two can be a perilous moment. Is the audience prepared to accept the direction you’re taking the show in now? Have you retained enough of what they loved, and yet introduced enough new and interesting elements to give your characters somewhere to go? Think back to Heroes, which wowed everyone with a terrific first season, then unraveled in the second, taking some characters too far in unexpected directions while keeping others stuck in situations where they were unable to develop or change.

So how can you be sure you’re doing it right?

You can’t, of course. But what you can do is trust your characters. It doesn’t matter what the writers or the producers think, what the audience claims they like, what the actors want to play, or what the budget allows for – in the end, a show will only succeed if it’s led by its characters. Every character, like every human being, has a wide range of choices in life, but in the end they’ll always remain themselves, even as they grow and interact and become wiser, fuller people. Let what they would do in that situation guide you, and you can’t go too far wrong.

So we’re going to trust our characters and see where they lead us…

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One comment on “Back In The Saddle

  1. Chris says:

    A comparison with Heroes’ unravelling in its second season would be The OC. Like Heroes its first season was great, but after that it began to come apart. The second season wasn’t as tightly written as the first and some character pairings didn’t come off (Ryan & Lindsay, Marissa & Alex), the third season was a disaster in my view.

    I’m hoping to break into screenwriting in the near future and find your blog fascinating, I really appreciate the insights you’re giving!

    Cheers!

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