Tuesday, January 7, 2014

What I've Learned From Downton

Since the Downton Abbey Season 4 premier was this weekend, I thought I’d post some thoughts on what I’ve learned from the show.  Writerly things, that is.

    1. Character arc, character arc.  
    This is something Downton does really well. Even minor characters show growth. Evil O’Brien grew just a tad last season. Mary's and Matthew's character growth is what made their story so compelling. Lesson: Don't make your main character all good so he/she has nothing to grow into.          
    2. Subplots. This is another area where Downton shines. I love how the stories below stairs and above stairs intersect. No character is too minor to have a story.
    Lesson: Don’t be afraid of adding subplots. They can add a lot of interest to your story and give the reader someone besides the main character to root for.           
    3. Pull the rug out from under your characters—again and again and again.  This is something I love and hate about this show. Surprise is good—you always want to keep your readers or viewers on their toes--but often the surprises on Downton come out of nowhere.  
    Lesson: If you’re going to surprise your readers, make sure it’s organic to the story, believable, and consistent.
    4. Just because something could really happen, if it's not believable in the world of your story, it’s not believable. There are so many plot points that been too easy: Matthew's recovery, Lavinia's sickness, Matthew's letter in Season 4.  
    Lesson: If you are going to include an extraordinary event in your story, make sure you set it up earlier in the story, otherwise it just seems convenient.
What have you learned from watching Downton?


  1. Thanks for the follow! I love Downton Abbey, but I feel this season doesn't live up to the previous ones. Maybe the novelty has worn off? Or I just haven't forgiven Julian Fellowes yet for getting rid of main characters in such a terrible way. :)

    I have to agree about Matthew's letter this season being a tad too convenient. But his miraculous recovery in Season 2 was the most ridiculous. TV shows seem to be able to get away with this stuff (witness Lost), but as long as the characters are memorable and likable, I stick with them.

  2. Glad you stopped by, Joanne! I am feeling the same way about Downton, although I really enjoyed the first two seasons. I think I'm growing tired of the sledgehammer-like plot twists. Perhaps that's a TV thing as you said. I don't see authors getting away with that in novels. :)

    It is similar to Lost in that way. Lost was great for the first two seasons, but then its storylines pushed the limits of plausibility.