Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Guest Post: “Confessions of a TV Series-aholic (Or, What Writers Can Learn From TV Series)” by Rowena Cory Daniells

Rowena Cory-Daniells discusses her addiction to certain TV series, and how they’ve inspired elements of her own fiction…

I’ve discovered I prefer TV series to movies, series like Boardwalk Empire, Deadwood, House of Cards and now from the UK the Peaky Blinders. (So named because according to some sources they sewed razor blades into the peak of their caps to slash across their enemies’ faces).


(Cillian Murphy plays gang leader Thomas Shelby)

If a movie is the equivalent of a short story (Minority Report was a story by the same title by Phillip K. Dick), then a TV series is the equivalent of a book in that a series has time to develop complex story arcs and in-depth characterisation.


(Breaking Bad: Walt and Jessie taking a break in between cooking crystal meth)

As someone who writes big fat fantasy books, I know the craft involved in creating interesting characters and interweaving narratives. When Walter White first found out he had lung cancer and needed money for his pregnant wife and disabled son, I could appreciate the way the audience were positioned to identify with Walt and sympathise even when he broke the law. We go on his journey with him as we see the roll-on effects of his decision to cook crystal meth. Breaking Bad raised the question: Would you break the law to protect your family?

Raising difficult moral questions makes the viewer/reader ask themselves the same question. In the first book of King Rolen’s Kin, Byren instinctively protects his best friend and this gets him in no end of trouble, but we understand why he did it. We can even like him for it.


(Deadwood’s Calamity Jane was nothing like Doris Day).

When my husband said he wanted to watch Deadwood, a western series set in a gold rush town, I wasn’t keen because I immediately thought of the kind of westerns that Hollywood produced in the ’50s or Spaghetti Westerns. But I discovered that Deadwood was probably closer to what the Wild West was really like. With no law other than brute force, society degenerated into dog-eat-dog. Suddenly the rules no longer applied and the survival of characters we liked became a whole lot more challenging.

The art to keep the reader turning the page is to give them flawed, but likeable characters, then put those characters in danger. In King Breaker, Byren faces his greatest challenge yet to win back his father’s kingdom, which is ironic because he never wanted to be king.


(Kevin Spacey was in his element playing Frank Underwood)

As we watch House of Cards, we see Frank Underwood manipulate and connive to build himself a powerbase while undermining those around him. If we met him, we’d probably find him charming, but we wouldn’t want to get in his way. Clearly, he loves his wife, played by Robin Wright. At the same time he is an utterly ruthless power broker and we find him fascinating from the safe distance of the television screen. When driven by a hunger for power, people can justify many things.

A strong villain is important for the protagonist to test himself against and Byren knows he must defeat his cousin, Cobalt. Byren starts out trying to do the honourable thing, but as set-backs mount, he must make compromises. What will Byren do to win a throne he does not want and will the journey corrupt the man?


The best of TV series deliver interesting characters, caught up in threatening situations which force them to make decisions that test their morality. I hope readers find Byren’s dilemmas as compelling as I did while writing King Breaker.


Rowena Cory Daniells’s King Breaker is published by Solaris Books, and is available now. Here’s the synopsis:


The story of Byron, Fyn and Piro picks up immediately where the cliff-hanging ending of The Usurper let off!

When Cobalt stole the Rolencian throne, Byren, Fyn and Piro were lucky to escape with their lives; now they’ve rallied, and will set out to avenge their parents’ murder.

Byren is driven to defeat Cobalt and reclaim the crown, but at what cost? Fyn has sworn to serve Byren’s interests but his loyalty is tested when he realises he loves Byren’s betrothed. And Piro never wanted to win a throne, but now she holds the fate of a people in her hands.

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