TV Drama and The Art of Storytelling

If there's one thing I love doing, it's analyzing stories.  More often than not, I find myself analyzing television shows, not because it's my favorite medium (nothing beats a good book....right?) but because it's still the best cultural touchstone.  Chances are not many people in your immediate vicinity have read your favorite book - there are too many out there and they take time investment to read.  Not so with TV:  It's easily digestible, and if something isn't working, TV execs will pull the plug without hesitation.  Before you know it, everyone on your block has seen at least some How I Met Your Mother or Big Bang Theory.  You can talk about it and feel confident others are in the loop. 

Normally I like to go in depth (right after Christmas I'll be diving into my thoughts on Sense8!), but just in time for a bit of  holiday down time, author D.M. Cain is here to give us some quick thoughts and recommendations on what you should be watching right now. 

- Isaac

* * * 

One of my passions is good television—particularly science fiction, fantasy or drama series. In recent years there have been some exceptional television series and they have helped me to understand more about myself and my own interpretation of the art of storytelling.

Some people say that watching television can squash creativity, that it’s passive and brain-frying. I think that’s true if you spend your time watching reality TV shows and repetitive, predictable soaps. However, some TV shows have challenged, inspired and moved me more than I ever expected.

As a writer I’ve learnt a lot about the art of storytelling through TV dramas of recent years. Below is a list of some of the best shows (in my opinion!) and what they have taught me about telling a good story:

 I almost included a picture of Robert Downey Jr. instead, but I feared the internet would burn down my website. 

I almost included a picture of Robert Downey Jr. instead, but I feared the internet would burn down my website. 

-          Sherlock – People love a clever plot/protagonist. Set the precedent for intelligent problem solving and the viewer/reader will love trying to solve the mystery before the protagonist.


-          Gotham – There is nothing better than a thoroughly awesome bad guy. After all, who doesn’t love the Penguin?

-          Homeland – Keep your readers guessing about characters’ motives and intentions – right to the end if possible. Set clues and hints along the ways, but make sure you throw in some red herrings too, and see if your readers can identify where loyalties truly lie.

-          Utopia – Not every character has to be likeable for you to care about their journey (in fact, some can be annoying, unlikeable or even despicable but if the plot is strong enough, people will keep watching/reading)

-          Wayward Pines – Misdirection is crucial. Make people think one thing all the way through, then rip the rug out from under their feet.

-          Game of Thrones – Never hesitate to shock your viewers/readers. Let them know that no character is safe from death...


 It's like X-Files, if X-Files were a better show.  Yeah, I said it. 

It's like X-Files, if X-Files were a better show.  Yeah, I said it. 

-          Fringe – People love the eerie and mysterious, particularly if it’s backed up with a little scientific theory so they can debate the issues introduced.


-          The Leftovers – Watching how people cope with a situation is much more real, emotional and gripping than seeing the situation itself.

-          Lost – There is an incredible allure to impossible mysteries and the supernatural. Also – a long, thoroughly explained chunk of backstory is sometimes not as good as one gripping hint at somebody’s past.

-          Heroes – People love to escape their daily lives by exploring unique and impossible situations/powers. 

-          Doctor Who – Make your viewers/readers care, really care, about your characters. Make them laugh at their jokes and weep when they die or are separated. The story will then become secondary to loving your protagonist.



 There's so much cool stuff in this show, I feel like it gets overlooked that Breaking Bad does the best montages in TV history.  Seriously. 

There's so much cool stuff in this show, I feel like it gets overlooked that Breaking Bad does the best montages in TV history.  Seriously. 

-          Breaking Bad – Nothing beats fantastic character development. Take your protagonists on a long and difficult journey, and show exactly how they develop and grow through their experiences. Make them barely recognisable as the same people they were at the beginning of the journey, and the viewers/readers will feel like they were part of that journey all along.


There are bound to be lots of fantastic series I haven’t acknowledged here (possibly because I haven’t watched them yet!) so I would like to know: Which series do you feel demonstrate great storytelling?


* * * 


The brand new edition of dystopian, psychological thriller The Phoenix Project by D.M. Cain was re-released on December 11th. Originally published in May 2014, this new Booktrope edition has had a complete editing overhaul plus a stunning new cover design.


The book is available to buy from a wide range of digital and paperback distributors

Get the nook version here.

The Amazon (US) version here.

Or on Amazon (UK) here


D.M. Cain is a dystopian and fantasy author working for US publisher Booktrope. She has released three novels: The Phoenix Project - a psychological thriller set in a dystopian future, Soren – a middle-grade fantasy, and A Chronicle of Chaos – the first in a dark fantasy series. She is currently working on the next novel in the series, 'The Shield of Soren', and a novella to accompany it.

D.M. Cain is also a member of the International Thriller Writers and is one of the creators and administrators of the online author group #Awethors. Her short story ‘The End’ was published in Awethology Dark – an anthology by the #Awethors.

Cain lives in Leicestershire, UK, with her husband and young son, and spends her time reading, writing and reviewing books, playing RPGs and listening to symphonic metal.



Mailing List: