“Mornings like this I can understand the appeal of killer high heels. How they click with command down the sidewalk: Get out of my way, I’m in charge and I’ve got the footwear to prove it.”
At the age of 28, Kat Porter has become the it-girl of British TV Production. Gut, gumption, and artistry have carried her through a dozen impossible scenarios to arrive at her first run as Executive Producer, and now all three muses point to Ian Graham’s star power as the key to Los Angeles and golden statues.
But disaster looms as Ian twists Kat into a chameleon fit for success. Ian’s young daughter is thrown into the spotlight and Kat must face the consequences of her neverending quest for acclaim.
Production Values takes a biting but fun look at Hollywood—from the way we interpret female ambition to the influence of the paparazzi on how TV shows and stars fail or succeed.
It’s only been a couple house since I saw Avengers: Infinity War (on opening weekend) and I can’t stop thinking about how the most compelling stories I read and watch are fueled not just by their characters, but by consequences.
Character-Driven = Consequence-Driven
Character-driven. It’s part of the header on livbartlet.com. Why? Is it just because characters speak to us? Because they do surprising things and a story ends up spinning out in unexpected directions? Because we tell the stories as deeply from their points of view as we can?
Without characters, without their motivations and feelings and actions, there would be no stories! Is our approach to storytelling — letting the characters tell us what they say and do next — all that unique? Nope. But in considering characters and how they drive consequences inside a story, I believe that even the least character-driven seeming stories are still dependent on this formula.
I’m going to pick on Tolkien for a moment, as my non-character-driven-seeming example. Because while I love the story and the characters of The Lord of the Rings, I abhor the writing. It’s so dense, inaccessible in ways, so full of trees and topography and geography, that the characters often get lost on the page for me. But even Tolkien, mythology and language-creation obsessed as he was, enacted this character=consequences formula. The Fellowship had to break, and had to do so believably. Without Boromir there, with his susceptibility, his belief that the ring could be yielded to protect his home — how would the Fellowship have broken? When would it have broken? Too late for Frodo and Sam to escape and have their separate adventure with Gollum? Past Rohan? Would Merry and Pippin have ever met Treebeard and awoken the Ents? Possibly, I suppose. But the Fellowship breaks at this specific time and place, because of a specific character, and the consequences cascade through, even create, the rest of the story.
Can you imagine a Pride & Prejudice where Elizabeth isn’t really Elizabeth and doesn’t give Darcy the dressing-down he so richly deserves that then serves as fuel for him seeing the error of his prideful (or is it prejudiced?) ways? What would that story look like? Would it be worth reading? Would the conclusion be nearly as satisfying?
An Outlander where Claire isn’t as smart and stubborn and passionate? Would Claire and Jamie have merited a series of books if their love wasn’t so epic and dangerous? So caught up in the politics of the Jacobite Rebellion — because Claire and Jamie are incapable of staying out of danger or trying to mess with history — that all of that love and danger drives them to a 20-year separation across time?
(Confession: the first time I picked up Dragonfly in Amber I ended up throwing it across the room, because what had Diana Gabaldon done to that lovely HEA from Outlander? But now, oh now I see — Gabaldon extrapolated incredible consequences, entirely driven by character!)
The Martian with anyone other than Mark Watney stranded on Mars? Without the humor and ingenuity of that particular character in that specific situation, do you get a bestselling novel and a movie starring Matt Damon? (That includes a Council of Elrond joke, to bring this thing full circle.) Probably not.
So what do character-driven consequences look like in the world of Production Values? I won’t spoil anything for anyone who hasn’t read it yet, but I will say this: Every choice has a consequence, and as writers we’ve done our best to see those consequences through. (Even if some of them won’t really be felt until the next book. Or even the book after that.
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Liv Bartlet is the pseudonym for writing partners Becca McCulloch and Sarah McKnight, who have been building worlds and telling stories together for more than a decade. They’ve logged hours of behind-the-scenes movie and TV footage and challenged each other in a friendly Oscar guessing game every year this millennium. Lifelong Anglophiles, their Monkey & Me world sprang to vivid life on a trip to London that included divine pastries, sublime art, and a spectacular pratfall in the British Museum.
Becca is a professor, a scientist, and a secret romantic who insisted their first order of business in London was a meandering five-mile walk to see Big Ben. She lives with her husband, children, and an ever-expanding roster of pets in Logan, Utah.
Sarah is an Army brat, an Excel geek, and has a lot of opinions on the differences between science fiction and fantasy. She lives with her cat, Sir Jack—who is featured prominently on Liv’s Instagram —just outside Salt Lake City.