The Narrative Squeeze

In my 5 years of experience making web series, I’ve found one thing to be true: it’s difficult to write 5 narrative minutes that has strong character development and useful story development. Television episodes have the luxury of time to do both (sometimes too much of it), but I’ve fallen into a pattern of concentrating on one or the other in a given episode.

One of my episodes where I feel I did a decent job of both still clocks in at almost 7 minutes: Family Tree

How do you balance your storytelling tasks? Or do you disagree?

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I don’t know if I agree necessarily, I think it’s more about the type of story and the type of character though. Not all stories/characters can be contained by those time stamps, but if your intention is to design a story and world for 5 minute episodes I think you can absolutely do it. I feel like Brains did this ok- Alison was constantly evolving in both good and bad ways, and every episode moved the plot forward because there was a mystery or conflict both seasons that demanded constant attention even amongst other smaller plot arcs

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I think that vlog-style scenes allow for this more rapidly, since you can have direct exposition of plot elements and direct access to the inner monologue of characters.

Telling is definitely faster than showing. I don’t think that’s as easy with traditional narrative though.

Intertwining the character development WITH the storyline development is how I go about it. How your characters deal with the conflicts you present them with can often reveal character development for you. Then you find yourself with a story and characters that you easily feel write themselves.

True that dealing with conflict can reveal a lot about characters.

Plot isn’t always about conflict, though. A lot of times (especially in science fiction and fantasy) it’s factual information that needs to be communicated to the audience. That kind of exposition, when done gracefully, takes time.