No One is Safe… A New Take on Modern Story Telling

Posted: March 10, 2013 in Theme & Creative Devices
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Consider the myriad of ancient tales where archetypal heroes slay dragons and the princess’ meet their own personal Prince Charming. Many classic stories seem to have consistent themes of overcoming adversity, alleviating tension, and decreasing conflict. The end? Well, riding off into the sunset of course, good guy gets the girl, bad guys are defeated, happily ever after. I know there are notable exceptions in classic literature such as the tragic heroes of Euripides and Shakespeare, or even the doomed protagonists in works by Victor Hugo. I believe most people want to be involved in a story that takes them through the highs and lows of a character’s plight and is neatly resolved with a happy ending that ties up all of the sub-plots and leaves no loose ends. As some of you may be thinking this is not the case in many of the most popular T.V. shows, works of literature, and modern films.

I don’t necessarily think that people have grown tired of the classic “good guys win” story line, but I do think that they have come to expect it. Doesn’t it add more tension to the viewing/reading experience if we don’t know what terrible fate may be in store for our hero? I would say yes, and isn’t creating tension what story telling is all about? Again yes! Long story short, it is tension that keeps viewers/readers coming back for more. Soap Operas utilize this, which is why everyone sleeps with everyone else, men fight, women connive, and of course the frequent and unfortunate cases of complete amnesia.


A new trend in modern story telling has been breaking all of the classic rules. No one is safe anymore. Kill a main character? You bet. What better way to add tension than to make people question everything. Some of the hottest shows on T.V. are banking on this week after week! The Walking Dead for one has shown that they are not afraid of killing main characters, so much so that every week viewers are crossing their fingers in hopes that their favorite character will not be devoured by zombies or shot by some rival group of survivors. Every time a character is faced with any form of danger it could be the end of them. This is true for the cast as well from what I hear, all of them are terrified of getting the “you’re gonna’ die this week” phone call. George R.R. Martin is doing the same thing in his bestselling fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire, which in turn translates to the Game of Thrones HBO series. Having a seemingly revolving cast can be seen as detrimental to the opportunity for in depth character development, but when executed properly it can also work to humanize and quickly develop the surviving characters.

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