There are a couple of TV shows that I watch that aren't what you'd think of as obvious influences to my writing, but really are. I might talk about The Gilmore Girls and the importance of humor and dialogue later, but today is about Grey's Anatomy.
I bring it up because I just learned about the brilliant writers' blog for the show. After each new episode airs, the writer of that episode posts and explains the thought processes that went into why the characters behaved the way they did. There are also behind-the-scenes anecdotes and whatnot, but it's the character stuff that really interests me.
Characters are the most important part of any story, whether it features monsters, spaceships, elves, or hospitals. What I love about Grey's Anatomy, and what I'm influenced by, is its dedication to creating interesting, relatable characters and then having those characters behave in realistic ways.
In a post about last year's Thanksgiving episode, Shonda Rhimes, the creator of the show, talks about this: "Turkey One is the bird that Burke and Izzie spend the day cooking… What made me happy about Turkey One was that it gave us an opportunity to explore a relationship that had never really been explored on our show – Burke and Izzie. In writing the episode, I discovered how much of a gentleman Burke really is. Out of kindness, he takes over this potential turkey-making disaster and finds a way to bond with Izzie. Which tells us a couple of things about him:
1.) that he can make himself at home anywhere
2.) that he is in love with Cristina.
"Because why else would he do what he does on Thanksgiving? He loves her, pure and simple. And no one can tell me otherwise. I do wonder if they’ll make it as a couple. Because, I gotta tell you, it killed me to write that Cristina would rather spend the day in the operating room than with Burke. But it was the truth and I had no choice. Just like I had no choice but to let Derek choose Addison. People will tell you I had a choice but I didn’t. Really. I promise. I’m sorry. The characters made me do it! I’M SORRY ALREADY!"
Whether or not you know who Burke, Izzie, and Cristina are, you have to admire Rhimes's dedication to being true to her characters. The subject comes up again in a FAQ page that Rhimes wrote for ABC.com. Talking about a recent episode in which two friends slept together when they really shouldn't have, Rhimes says, "First of all, I told you that characters have to do what the characters have to do. In that one moment, Meredith was weak and George was brave and… it happened. But more importantly, Meredith is the one of only a few women on television who is truly flawed. FLAWED in capital letters…
"And here's the thing I really would like you to remember on dark nights when you lie in bed hating my guts: In movies and most TV shows, when two friends sleep together, it's a magical start to a wonderful relationship. In life, it's quite often a hideous beginning to a very long awkward nightmare. I wanted to take a leap and keep our characters honest. Come on and leap with me, people."
And that, folks, is why I love Grey's Anatomy.