Friday, October 19, 2012

Revenge: Tips for a strong story

My husband was out of town and I couldn't sleep. So I snagged my iPad and went to Netflix. What could I watch that would knock me out?

I clicked on Revenge. Season 1. Now, I didn't watch this show when it came out because I wasn't crazy about the title. And I already have enough shows I'm watching.

But within the first five minutes, I was hooked.


Located in the Hamptons, on the beach. Exquisite beach houses. All things I happen to find fascinating.

Great hook

As the show opens this quote comes onscreen: "Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves." Confucius

It starts with a dead body falling on the beach while the narrator talks about two wrongs not making a right. Another bullet is fired. A party is going on.

The heroine's voice says, "Real satisfaction can only be found in one of two places. Absolute forgiveness or mortal vindication. This story is not about forgiveness."

I know immediately what this story is about. I'm lured in with this man being murdered and a big party.

"You shouldn't be here," the heroine says.

"That makes two of us," some random guy I haven't figured out says. (I now know who he is.)

Intrigue through Action

The man just got shot! At his own engagement party...or
did he?
I'm immersed the minute the show starts. The inciting incident happens. A man in his tux is shot down on the beach and I know it's about revenge, already, so I’m following closely to see why does this woman want revenge? What will she do to get it? Shoot this man? Did she shoot this man? Who shot this man?

As a writer, I'm hanging on everything that happens. I'm watching how they unfold this story. And they do it well.


Instead of simply telling me what happened or beginning with back story, they don't. They bring it in in "real time" while showing. They don't give me the answer to who shot the man.

Victoria and Conrad Grayson
Not yet. They keep me hanging on, by going into what happened before. If I want answers, I must keep watching and because it's done in real time and more action is present, I'm willing to watch to see. And even as I watch the real time backstory, they have yet to give me everything. I still have to try and piece things together and continue watching. It's a delicious thrill! And it involves the Grayson family. 


Every time I think I know something, they prove I don't. Everyone has a story. Everyone has a motive. Everyone has a secret. With every jaw dropping moment, I have to press on. And so at 2:30 in the morning on a work night, I'm on episode 7. Still watching. I must know!


This story may not be about forgiveness, which as a Christian I believe in. I believe that God alone will bring justice to injustice. But what I'm discovering is, it's more than revenge. It's about the setbacks, the consequences of choices, the no-turning-back moments. It's the story question that begs an answer: "Is revenge worth it?" She may not think she has anything to lose, but she does. With each day, she discovers she absolutely does. So will revenge drive her forward? Will she stop?

And just when she thinks she will…something happens to force her to keep going.

Great writing!

Likable Characters

I may not agree with revenge, but I understand this character's motives. They're strong. They're tied to love and family. I can relate. I may want revenge on someone who hurts those I love. I believe her. While she's making the wrong decisions, in my opinion based on my beliefs, I can sympathize.

I like her sidekick, who really just wants her to forgive, but he helps her because he's hoping that she'll realize the kind of life she could have, with a certain someone, if she'll just let it go.

Even the villainous characters at times are likable. They're motives are strong. I see their human side. I even root for them to get out of the predicaments they're put in (sometimes).

I'm about two episodes away from finishing season 1. I've Tivo'd season 2. I think I've missed two, but I can watch them online. And I will.

Writers: How about your stories? Do they have all of these elements to keep readers turning pages?

Readers: What keeps you turning pages? Any of these elements?

Everyone: Do you watch Revenge?

*I will be announcing the winner for the Name That Boat contest! You have until midnight tonight to enter as many names for the sailboat as you'd like! Hop on over to my facebook page to participate! 

*Join me Monday with Joanne Bischof, author of Be Still My Soul! 


  1. I haven't seen that one yet. It sounds interesting. My husband and I were watching a movie yesterday, and I turned to him and said, "The editors I've worked with would never let me get away with that. They would say it was contrived." It's funny how we watch everything through the eyes of a writer. I have to say Disney movies have some of the best story arcs I've seen. They have it down to a science.

  2. I have watched Revenge, most of season one but hardly any of season two. I have seen the season ender...but I won't spoil it for you:)

    I pray my characters and their journeys draw the reader in. Everyone has a secret, a flaw, a motivation...yet unlike Revenge, but much like you, I want those shown through the lens of Faith and God's grace.

  3. I haven't seen it, but you make a strong case. Page turning writing for me is all about intrigue and the release of information. Of course, romantic tension doesn't hurt either ;)

  4. I like plot twists that I don't see coming! I'm a big fan of suspense, so those are what keep me turning the pages.

  5. Well, I'm a Revenge fan. I am catching up on last Sunday's episode right now. Man, that Emily is relentless!

    Anyway, they have major cliffhangers and twists. Definitely something I could use for my book. I don't write about revenge but the twists can be put in any genre. Good thing, too. Not sure if I could make a character that bent on revenge actually likable. Have a good weekend!

  6. Hmmm. I never got started on Revenge when it first came on. Maybe I should rethink that. Thank goodness for Netflix.

  7. Revenge is awesome!!! Wait to you get to season 2. :-) You can also watch the episodes on Hulu. Great story. I think she's going to fail though. Too many variables she has to control. Can't wait to watch it all blow up in her face--even though I'm rooting for her. ;-)

  8. OH MY GOSH OH MY GOSH OH MY GOSH OH MY GOSH!! YOU JUTS DISCOVERED REVENGE?????????? I'm determined after watching it all last year and now this year that I SUCK as a writer. It's so layered it's sick. The writers of that show put even the classics to shame. I mean seriously. Come on people.


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