Roger Wolfson has been writing for television for 40 years. Either in a group or with solo projects, he has enjoyed his conceptions come to life on screens across UK. Successful comedies like After Henry and Citizen Smith later gave way to more realist programmes like Line of the Duty as well as guest collaborations in soap operas like EastEnders and Brookside.
Beginning any creative endeavour, the common piece of advice is to find your own voice through own experiences. Wolfson however provides a little more meat to the bone by signposting key aspects on what to consider when starting to write a television series in his recent podcast ‘Advising new writers’.
What, where and why? These are vital questions to ask oneself when first starting to write.
The context of the programme will self-perpetuate all other componants to the story. Whether it is set in a police station in East London covering the thorny issue of modern day policing in urban areas or a Beer Brewery in Scottish Highlands handling the challenges of cottage industries, these things will form as a rivet to the story and allow more transient aspects to develop and grow.
Chemistry in literature is often about the striking of 2 or more polarities. Whether it’s general sense of good and bad, wealth and poverty, rural and urban, creating a space where there is an almost chemical reaction between forces, forces the story to integrate interesting and difficult terrains. ‘The Universe is in a balance between opposing forces’, Wolfson suggests, ‘so to this end, our human interactions are aligned with this universal law. Setting scenes, characters, ideologies in opposition creates a dramatic tension.
Comedy in situation.
Whether intentional or incidental, comedy can arise in many social interactions. From the darkest corners as well as the lightest circumstances, human nature requires comedy as a survival mechanism and a life affirmation. Structured by cultural values of what is ‘funny’ Wolfson identifies with some universal comedic values and implores self-deprecation, slap stick, surreal and double entendre when the story allows for it.
Wolfson asserts that fictional characters have 70% solid unwavering character attributes but that 30% is malleable and affected by circumstance and situation.
Rather than simply base characters on persons one knows, look for strong characteristics and where possible, their inherent contradictions. ‘Everyone is a hypocrite’ says Wolfson, ‘and looking for the fallible and malleable in someone’s character is an inspiring journey into the human condition’ he concludes.
Movement, progression and ends.
Avoid cul de sacs. Everything is in motion. Where there is life, there is always death. Things are in flux constantly.
These are major aspects to overall narratives, explained on Wolfson’s podcast.
The relationship between characters and location are ever changing and in his way, the story and dialogue can at times write itself. Embracing death can be extremely creative to allow space for new life to grow. What better way to witness this than through writing?