Wednesday quickly became one of the Netflix most-watched shows after the series accumulated 5.3B minutes viewed from November 28 to December 4. The success of Wednesday can be attributed to several of factors, including its compelling storyline, relatable characters, and high production value.
There’s much that screenwriters can learn from Wednesday’s success, so here are some things the hit Netflix show can teach you about storytelling — things you should really keep in mind when crafting your own stories.
Well-Written Supporting Characters Get Their Own Spin-Off
Anyone who has taken any of my screenwriting classes has heard me utter those words. Smart writers live by those words. The secondary characters of your film or television show could be the star of their own series at some point, but only if they are well-developed and interesting. Secondary characters exist to support the protagonist’s journey and story, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be their own person with their flaws and desires, so make sure to write three-dimensional people any chance you get.
The Addams Family started as a cartoon in The New Yorker in 1938. The eccentric family first appeared on television screens in 1964. There have been many iterations of the family since then in different mediums. The latest reimagining focusing on the family’s oldest (or youngest, depending on the version) child might have not existed if the other members of the family weren’t so fascinating.
A great writing exercise is to think of what the story would be like if it was told from the perspective of a supporting character. Not only does it expand on any story so that you can look at it from a different perspective, but the writer might make some interesting discoveries throughout the process.
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Wednesday is a Family Show
Although the show is rated TV-14, I have first-hand information that 8-year-olds love it. My daughter and her friends have all seen it. The show walks a fine line between being interesting for adults who are fans of this genre, but also appealing to children, especially considering the different animated films about the Addams family that have come before the Wednesday series.
When developing a story, think about who the audience is for your material. The show could have easily been more violent or had a darker tone or sex and nudity, but the choice to keep it safe enough for younger viewers opens up this material for a larger audience.
Make Bold Choices When It Comes to Characters
In season one of Wednesday, no character was safe. SPOILER ALERT: Some of our favorite characters are killed off and the reveal of who was behind the murders proves that not all storylines are predictable. Making bold choices when it comes to characters in TV shows can create a sense of unpredictability and keeps the audience engaged and invested in the story.
Including Thing is also one of the best inclusions to the show and an opportunity to see another side of Wednesday. For a character that never shows emotion, watching Thing communicate through body language that might suggest that he is affected by Wednesday may be a greater impact than anything else. The bold character choice of introducing Thing and showing a vulnerable side to the character adds depth and complexity to the story, making for a more compelling and relatable character.
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Opposing Personalities Make for Great Drama: Wednesday vs. Enid
Pairing up Wednesday and Enid highlights both of their personalities; the audience can sense a clash is inevitable. Imagine if Wednesday’s roommate had been another girl who only wears black and never shows emotion. Would that work? Probably not. The contrast is what makes them both shine as individual characters.
Two Enids would probably not have the same impact either. The conflict would have to come from somewhere else. There’s also a lot of great comedy that comes from the exchanges between these two characters.
Those two clashing personalities; light and dark, sunny and dull, emotional and rational will always clash, but watching them find common ground and accept each other for who they are is cathartic for audiences. Think of the yin and yang symbol when developing characters, who is the polar opposite of your protagonist? How can you throw those two characters together in a situation and watch them have to find common ground or work together?
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Ask Yourself, Could This Go Viral?
As you may already know, the show has been deemed a hit. Because it has generated a lot of buzz worldwide, people can’t seem to stop talking about it. From Gen-Z recreating Wednesday’s dance to the numerous memes depicting Wednesday’s witty and self-assured dialogue to YouTubers recreating scenes from the show. It’s hard not to find references to the show on the Internet even without searching for them.
I’m not saying we should all be writing screenplays for shows and films, but thinking about which aspects of your material could resonate with audiences enough to inspire them to talk about your piece is something to keep in mind always.
You Can Write a Buzz-Worthy Screenplay, Too
Aspiring screenwriters can learn a lot from the success of the Wednesday on Netflix and use these writing lessons to create their own killer scripts. By focusing on well-written supporting characters, creating a family-friendly show, making bold choices in regard to characters, and using opposing personalities to create drama, screenwriters can write a script that will keep audiences engaged and coming back for more.