THINGS BREAKING BAD TAUGHT ME ABOUT WRITING ⚗💎
And stuff I've straight up heard Vince Gilligan say in interviews.
- •Slow burn over big bang."My general philosophy now more than ever is to give the audience the least possible, which sounds like a weird philosophy, but you want to parcel things out as slowly you can."- VG. BB is a slow burning fuse, culminating in season 5 with what we were all waiting for. The pay-off of built up anticipation is a more long-lasting satisfaction, compared to giving the audience what they want too early. Stairway to Heaven is a classic for a reason, folks.
- •Silence is golden.Dialogue is the icing on the cake. Let the page breathe. If you can make a scene work with the least amount of dialogue possible, then more power to you. Gilligan and co never used more than they needed. The anti-Sorkin method.
- •Plot is a result of choice.Character's choices drive the story forward, rather than things just happening to them. Firing a gun doesn't solve a problem, it creates more. Breaking Bad is just Walt and Jesse reacting to the consequences of their own actions. In snowball mode.
- •What's going on in [character's] head right now?I've read many interviews with the writers, and they always recite this as an answer to the "how did you come up with that" question. Piggybacking off the previous bullet point, a great way to get your characters active is by asking where the character's head is currently at emotionally. This leads to choice, which leads to action, which leads to reaction, etc and so forth.
- •No one likes a know-it-all.BB taught me that watching characters squirm while figuring things out is infinitely more interesting than creating a "mastermind", an all-knowing, all-powerful character that has all the answers, all the time. Walt never had a real plan, he was just great at weaseling his way out of the trouble he got himself into for not having said plan.
- •"Villains" aren't all bad.Or at least they don't have to be portrayed that way. An antagonist (or even protagonist) should believe what they're doing is right. That way you can understand where they are coming from, creating more fully formed characters that blur the lines between right and wrong, good and evil— like actual people do.
- •Less is more.Personally I like a show/movie with a small group of characters in a small setting, rather than a vast world of characters and places, i.e Game of Thrones. (I love GoT, but I prefer a smaller world in the end). It doesn't mean you have to be any less ambitious with your storytelling. In fact, keeping things small and simple could open up more possibilities.
- •Don't be afraid to paint yourself into a corner.Gilligan and co have admitted to doing this on a number of occasions, for example: the flash forward teaser to open season 5A, in which Walt— full head of hair— drives a car with a New Hampshire license plate and buys another car with an automatic weapon in the trunk. They've admitted they had no idea how they'd get back to that point later on, but they had the confidence to figure it out. And look what it led to.
- •The dynamic of disunity.Character at war with himself. Walt's shame over Gray Matter, being a victim of life, a failure, an underachiever. He can never forgive himself. His meth empire is an attempt to prove his worth to himself. To achieve unity. This dynamic can be applied when writing characters! Wahoo!
- •Let characters reveal the writing process through dialogue.Those "what ifs" and "why nots" you always think of while plotting out a storyline can be spun to your advantage. Letting your characters lay all the pros and cons of why something would or wouldn't work on the table in dialogue keeps you ahead of a viewer/reader looking to poke holes in your logic. Ex: Lydia proposes Walt sell their product in the Czech Republic when he wants to cut her out. Walt's not buying it...
- •...he asks her if this is such a slam dunk, then why'd you never bring it to Gus...she says, "I did. Then somebody killed him." (More on this in the next bullet point). Walt asking that effectively hides a "hole" in the legitimacy of her proposal and why Walt would buy it as anything other than a last ditch effort to stay involved.Ever since I caught this the first time, I've noticed it quite a bit in both Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. It's a neat little trick, using the back and forth of the breaking story process to your advantage in dialogue.
- •Mine your own history.Breaking Bad did this better than anyone. They're still doing it in Better Call Saul. You can find a lot of solutions to dead ends by looking back into previous things characters have said, done, etc. (like Lydia's proposal and response in the previous bullet point). Kind of related to Chekov's gun— nothing goes unused.
- •It also makes for fun Easter egg type things. Small example...
- •First episode:
- •Third to last episode:
- •Damn, Vin.