Sheldon’s a Nerd, but Now with 50% More Nuance
By Evelyn David
I’m invariably late to the party when it comes to discovering television shows. Generally I watch the news and cooking shows. But in the last couple of weeks, I’ve been catching reruns of The Big Bang Theory. The basic premise revolves around four geeky, brilliant science nerds, who love Star Trek, video games, and physics. A beautiful blonde moves in across the hall, a wannabe actress who’s paying the rent by being a waitress at The Cheesecake Factory. Hilarity ensues as the two worlds collide, intersect, and eventually mesh.
I started with reruns of the fourth season and it wasn’t until the last few days that I caught the pilot episode. I was astonished at the differences in each of the main characters. In the first episode, they were drawn so broadly, with each one representing a different stereotype, that I almost wondered if I were watching a different show.
What has happened is that over the last five years the caricatures have morphed into characters. As a writer, I understand that sometimes an author uses shorthand to describe in broad strokes the essentials of a character. Sex and the City, another show I caught after it had ended, also had four characters. In this case, the writers used costumes from the very first scene to telegraph who each character was: Miranda, the lawyer, in grey tailored suits, white blouses, and faux ties; Samantha, the sexpot, in outfits designed to tell you all about her without saying a word; Charlotte, the preppy pretty girl, in traditional designer wear; Carrie, the offbeat writer, in tutu and mile-high Manolo Blahniks.
Julia Spencer-Fleming, the award-winning mystery author of the Rev. Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne series, said, “Ultimately what’s important about the books I write and the books I read are that they create a recognizable, believable world with characters I want to spend time with.”
Rhonda and I have had fun creating the characters and worlds of our two series. In Washington, DC, you’ve met private detective Mac Sullivan, his furry sidekick, Whiskey, his maybe-sort of girlfriend Rachel Brenner, makeup artist in a funeral home, and the supporting cast of Jeff, Edgar, and others. They’ve each got their quirks, but hopefully they’re all grounded in enough reality that you can recognize them as the folks that you know in your real life. In a world, far, far away, but also grounded in reality, is the small town of Lottawatah, Oklahoma, where psychic Brianna Sullivan, flatulent bulldog Leon, and hunky Deputy Cooper Jackson, live and solve murders and resolve ghostly disturbances. Despite the woo-woo stuff, Brianna still has the same boyfriend problems that beset all women, still needs to do laundry, pick up after her dog – no matter how strange the circumstances, our hope is that you can identify with and enjoy the cast of characters we’ve created.
Next month we’re introducing a brand new group of memorable characters in Zoned for Murder, the first book of the Sound Shore Times mysteries. We’ll be talking about this nonstop in the weeks ahead, but our hope is to make the town of Milford, NY, and the character of reporter Maggie Brooks, welcome guests in your home.
Marian, the Northern half of Evelyn David
Brianna Sullivan Mysteries – e-book series
I Try Not to Drive Past Cemeteries- Kindle (Exclusive at Amazon this month)
The Dog Days of Summer in Lottawatah- Kindle – Nook – Smashwords
The Holiday Spirit(s) of Lottawatah- Kindle – Nook – Smashwords
Undying Love in Lottawatah- Kindle – Nook – Smashwords
A Haunting in Lottawatah – Kindle – Nook – Smashwords
Lottawatah Twister – Kindle – Nook – Smashwords
Missing in Lottawatah – Kindle – Nook – Smashwords
Good Grief in Lottawatah – Kindle – Nook – Smashwords
Sullivan Investigations Mystery – e-book series
Murder Off the Books Kindle (Exclusive at Amazon this month)
Murder Takes the Cake Kindle – Nook – Smashwords
Riley Come Home (short story)- Kindle – Nook – Smashwords
Moonlighting at the Mall (short story) – Kindle – Nook – Smashwords
Love Lessons – Kindle – Nook – Smashwords
Looking forward to learning more about Maggie.
I love The Big Bang Theory! My mom was a fan and nudged Ed and me until we watched a few episodes. Usually, we catch re-runs, but we did get the first season on DVD so I know what you mean about character development. I think it's that way with most pilots that are picked up and run for years. It is a good lesson in character-building, I agree. Good luck with the new series. Hmm, Maggie. I seem to know someone by that name, and she hangs around here fairly often. 😉
Thanks Dru and Susan.
Although the Maggie of this book has the same talent and sense of humor that Stiletto Gang Maggie has :-), the name predates knowing Ms. Barbieri 🙂
Character development, especially for series television, is an evolution (like for all us real-live people, I guess?). Watch ANY show, but especially sit-coms (the effect is more evident because they are trying to bring the funny and do it in a compressed 22 min per episode), and you'll see the same thing–the first year of "Frasier" held different characters than the 3rd year and beyond. Year one with Andy Sipowicz on NYPD Blue was very different from year five, and so on. It stabilizes over time.
Also, the same is true in feature film, but we don't see the development because that isn't served up to the audience on a weekly basis. But, in franchise films you sometimes get the same effect happening.
Of course, you also have to factor in the actor to any character's development. The writer does create them, but the actor creates the character again, with other veneers. At least, the good ones do. While they can't begin with nothing, a good actor (of course with help from other strong talents, like directors and designers, etc.) can still turnaround a badly written character. And, they can really screw up a well-written character if they try, too!
Actually, almost any filmed adaptation of any written work can go either way, and so can all the characters. Good books are sometimes turned into terrible movies and many times bad books or short stories make decent films and shows. Performance and filming are just another form of rewriting, says me.
Thanks Vicky. I especially agree about the role of the actor in developing the characters on a page. In the case of THE BIG BANG THEORY, there's no question that the entire cast is incredibly talented and bring out nuance and shading to the scripts.