Tag Archives: series

On Killing Darlings: The Downton Abbey Way

Posted by February 22nd, 2013

What writers can learn about storytelling from the British TV drama.

downton-abbey_image_sm1The season three finale of Downton Abbey left me devastated.


On Sunday, right before the final credits rolled, Lady Mary’s husband Matthew died in a tragic car accident that took him away from his newborn son and from millions of fans on both sides of the Atlantic. The reason for this horrific turn of events is no other than that Dan Stevens, the actor who plays Matthew, decided to leave the show. GASP!

Honest, gentle Matthew is gone forever.


As heartbroken as I was by Matthew’s demise—after following the show for three seasons I had hoped Matthew and Lady Mary’s tortured love story would finally get its happy ending—I know that come next season, I’ll be back for a helping of Britain’s hottest period drama.

That’s because Julian Fellowes, the mastermind behind Downton Abbey, knows how to keep us on our toes. The show’s creator has story-building tricks up his sleeve that can help serial fiction writers.

If you haven’t seen it, Downton Abbey is fueled by the conflict between the blue-blooded Grantham family, “the upstairs,” and their servants, “the downstairs.” Of course, each group enjoys a great deal of friction among its members, but it’s the collision (or collusion!) of servants and masters that has brought us some of the best moments in the show. My favorite: when the jealous lady’s maid Sarah slipped a bar of soap under pregnant Lady Grantham’s feet in the bath, causing her to slip and have a miscarriage. Oh my.

The writers constantly surprise by harming their characters. Season three is no different: they killed off two of our most beloved characters, Lady Sybil and Matthew. On Sunday, Twitter exploded with fans’ outrage.

And that’s okay because a good writer must sometimes kill the darlings to keep the integrity of his or her work.

Fellowes did it because he didn’t want to risk the show running its course and getting boring. Matthew’s exit from the show had to remain true to the character. The writer released a statement to defend the shocking season finale:

Over the last three years, audiences across the world have been captivated by the ups and downs of Mary and Matthew’s relationship, culminating in their wedding. Fans have enjoyed what has become a solid and loving marriage.

It is for this reason that the Producers decided Matthew and Mary could not simply be estranged or parted, resulting in his untimely and tragic death at the end of the series’ finale.

But even if Dan Stevens hadn’t left, was Mary and Matthew’s long-term happiness good for the show’s longevity? Remember how Pam and Jim’s romance ruined The Office? The courtship drew viewers to the screen for a few seasons, but once America’s sweethearts got hitched, their love quickly became old news and just got in the way.

For Downton Abbey to live a long, happy life on TV, Lady Mary needs to suffer the tragedy of loss.

Writers, how have you harmed your characters for the good of the story?


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Constructing a Story Arc in a Series

Posted by October 17th, 2011

Book Country Twitter Chat (September 22, 2011)

Series development is tricky so we brought in the pros–bestselling author Yasmine Galenorn and literary agent Laura Bradford.

 twitter_newbird_boxed_blueonwhiteDeveloping a story arc in a standalone is hard enough, but what happens when you toss multiple books into the mix? Suddenly

you have to think about your plot in a much larger way, while still giving each book its own mini-arc that fits nicely into the big picture. Not an eask task, that’s for sure!

Book Country decided to chat with some of the best in the biz–author Yasmine Galenorn (@YasmineGalenorn) and literary agent Laura Bradford (@bradfordlit), to give you some tips and answer your questions.

Yasmine is the New York Times bestselling author with multiple urban fantasy and young addult series under her belt, including the “Indigo Court” series and the “Chintz ‘n China” series. Her upcoming novelCOURTING DARKNESS (Nov. 2011), the 10th book in her beloved “Otherworld” Series, is available for pre-order now!

Laura is no stranger to series development either, representing authors like Ann Aguirre, Anya Bast, Jennifer Echols, Megan Hart, and more. She specializes in romance across a variety of subgenres.

Please note that we had some technical difficulties with Yasmine’s Twitter feed during the chat; her tweets have been re-tweeted by our Community Manager Colleen Lindsay and myself in the transcript, downloadable below.

But first, here are some great snippets from the chat:

@bradfordlit: I like to know that a book is part of a series in the query. But remember to pitch one book at a time!

@yasminegalenorn: Most important thing is consistency. You must maintain worldbuilding/characterization in all books.

@scootercarlyle: I do fantasy, and I need the details to line up between each book or the world will fall flat. I outline them all.

@KelliLemay: Mercedes Lackey is a good person to read over for story arcs and tie-ins. Her series tend to span over history as well.

@bradfordlit: If an author is too entrenched in the series already, it can be hard to make necessary changes.

@yasminegalenorn: I always have a balance of action/intrigue/etc. Though some fall more one way or another.

If you missed the chat or want to remind yourself, we’ve posted the entire transcript as a PDF document here. The PDF will open in your browser and you’ll be able to save it to your computer if you like. You can also get to know your fellow genre fiction lovers by clicking directly on their Twitter handles.

Bear in mind that the chat appears from newest to oldest tweets, so start at the end of the PDF and work your way up.

Thanks to everyone who participated in this useful chat!

REMEMBER: Book Country Twitter chats occur every other Thursday night from 9-10 pm EST. Just use the hashtag #bookcountry to participate or follow along. Topics are announced in advance in the Book Country Discussion forums, so be sure to take a look!


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