Daredevil, a Netflix Original Series, is one show in the growing stable of Marvel television shows. Serious at its core, it’s sprinkled with humor like a master chef adding salt to a dish; not too little so it has no affect, but not too much so the humor ruins the vibe. The writing stands head and shoulders above competition even outpacing other Marvel enterprises, with production values on par with big budget movies. Combined, the recipe makes for the best Marvel show and one of the best television shows ever produced.
Now, yes, Daredevil is a television show and thus naturally inferior to curling up with a good book, yet through the phenomenal writing of scripts and show pacing, a writer can takeaway quite a few great tips.
Daredevil excels here. The first episode origin story that tells the audience why the hero is filled with angst and why the villain is evil and hates the hero, is skipped in favor of the natural lifestory reveal. The writers of Daredevil decided the story should follow the person; Daredevil, Matthew Murdoc, is someone who works in the shadows and by night, and his story reveal follows that work ethic.
In the first episode we are introduced to Matthew Murdoc at the end of the crash that gives him his abilities, then thrust directly into his nightlife routine of beating the snot out of criminals. It’s here the viewer is given a taste for how the show will play out: the past will be revealed, not all in one huge chunk—an infodump if you will—but over time in small bite sized pieces. It’s like when you meet a new person. That person, or you, don’t make introductions and then launch into a backstory covering from age 5 up to three minutes ago. It’s weird and unnatural. Writing should take a cue from real life on explaining backstory like the writers of Daredevil follow.
RELATIONSHIPS NEED CONFLICT
No surprise here. Romance is the largest book genre by sales volume because relationships are full of tension. Women, and men, don’t purchase romance books because they are all huge, sentimental, love struck, romantics. Some may read romance for that reason, but in general, people yearn to see or read about relationships that are full of so much conflict that interested parties would have split long ago in real life, but they continue on at least speaking terms in the story. It’s a storytelling device that the romance genre excels in, and here Daredevil follows with greatness.
The writers in our show create tension between every single character, even Foggy and Murdoc who are best friends, and the drama is built slow like a pot of water coming to a boil. Conflicted relationships that develop over time, not in three sentences, are fascinating—in real life, in movies, television, and especially novels.
It’s difficult to give an example from Daredevil about the surprises the writers use. To do so would ruin some of the most amazing scenes ever created for a television program.
The writers of Daredevil are able to produce these shocking scenes, not because they reach a point and think, “Let’s throw a twist in!”. Rather, they set a character down a path, with a morality you think you know they follow, and then force the character onto a road that could make them possibly go against their moral code.
It is difficult to envision without proper examples, so watch at least through Episode 11 of Season 1. When you do, keep in mind that twists like that cannot happen to every character in a novel or show. The more characters you toss moral twists at, the cheaper each subsequent one becomes. Going back to the salt analogy; too much can ruin a dish while too little will have no effect.
UPPING THE ANTE
Daredevil starts small and then increases the pot like an overconfident drunk playing poker.
Many TV shows and novels believe that if they lay out this massive, convoluted plot from the get go, they can coast to the end and keep the attention of the reader/viewer. The writer(s) could not be more mistaken.
Again, this is one of those that examples from the show would ruin what the writers have created. Suffice to say, every single episode throws another pepperoni on the pie, just one piece, enough for added flavor but not overpowering. By the end of the season, those single pieces create a mountain ready to topple over and create a surprise ending.
How do you do that in a novel though when most novels are not serials? You can up the plot ante with each chapter, subtly building until the penultimate chapter is a pressure cooker with the lid about to explode off.