Writing lessons from a Korean drama

Last night, I watched the final episode of The Fugitive: Plan B, a Korean TV drama starring K-Pop superstar Rain. I had seen most of the series, something that is very rare for me.

I’m not a big TV person. The last TV show I rearranged my schedule for prior to this show was Prison Break seasons 1 and 2 (because let’s be honest, we all pretty much left season 3). TV shows cannot hold my attention for very long.

That’s why The Fugitive: Plan B is such a reprieve. Nevermind that Rain is handsome, or that it is almost all in Korean, or that Daniel Henney is handsome…yeah, um, forget all of that. This show’s writers did a lot of things right, a few things off, and made it all work. Here are the lessons I learned from this TV drama:

1. Keep the audience guessing. This was their biggest asset. Every time I thought I had figured out the plot, something new happened or someone I suspected got killed. I was guessing the outcome all the way up to the last five minutes…literally, the last minutes of the series.

2. Give the characters depth. There were two main protagonists, Jiwoo and Jini. Jiwoo in particular looked at first to be a cocky, self-centered, investigative genius. He was handsome and charming, but not necessarily likable. Then a close friend of his was murdered in front of him, and another side of him was revealed. This more complete Jiwoo carried the story, because the Jiwoo preceding the death would have never completed his case. All of the characters grew during the show.

3. In lieu of number two, relationships are key no matter what kind of story it is. Every relationship in the series was critical to the central plot, and every relationship change set another plot point in motion. Jini was betrayed by her boyfriend Kai (she found out that he was working for the man who killed her family, and that he knew this). This broke her trust in him and their relationship. It also allowed her to fully trust (and love) Jiwoo. This new trust is what makes Jini and Jiwoo push and succeed in bringing the killer to justice.

4. Give options. All of the character had choices throughout the series. Every decision had rewards and consequences. Sometimes they were even given the same choice, and their decisions revealed their personalities and motives. Gold was at the center of all of the murders and deceit, and that metal revealed everyone’s true nature. All of the characters had the choice to walk away from the entire situation; half of them stayed for justice, and half stayed for selfish reasons (gold or power).

5. Remember what the focus is. The Fugitive could have easily spiraled into The Misadventures of Jiwoo and Jini Who Eventually Fall In Love And Live Happily Ever After blah blah blah. The writers kept the focus on Jini’s quest for justice and the truth, and Jiwoo’s quest to clear his name. Everything centers around those goals. I was happy that Jiwoo and Jini’s budding relationship was kept on the back burner until the end. They accomplished their goals first, gave small hints throughout the series of their affection, and then finally admitted their feelings in the last episode.

There are things that I sometimes has issue with, among them being the “Gloria” piece that kept playing during intense scenes. We get it, this is a dramatic moment. The choir isn’t needed.

Ahem, anyway…I really enjoyed this show. It’s been awhile since I have really followed a TV series, and I learned quite a bit from the show’s writing.

Look at some of your favorite TV shows. I bet that some of the things you admire about those shows appears in or inspires your writing. Unless it is reality TV, then I really don’t know what to tell you…

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One Response to Writing lessons from a Korean drama

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