As I mentioned here previously, I don't have television at home and I've only seen one full episode of Five-0 before last night, along with a bunch of short clips on Hulu that drew me in.
Last week, I arranged to go over to a friend's house last night to watch the latest Five-0 episode. I waited all week with great anticipation, having been impressed with most of what I'd seen of the show thus far.
Man was I disappointed. The episode had no tension (there's a reminder for novelists as well). Starts out with a tense opener that turns out to be easily solved with technology (cell phone). Then I think "Ooh! A complication of stormy weather!" That too fizzles. Steve mentions a storm, but the weather, and the episode, remain for the most part boringly calm. And a really fast med-evac, then even the murder seems to be solved too easily.
The episode was not without it's good points. I'm enjoying being fed bit by bit more insights into Steve's family and his pursuit of his family's killers. There were a few good bits of humor. While I thought it could have packed more punch, I enjoyed the insight into Chin and Kono's family and the reference to what happened with the money--the one scene was very touching. But for me, the episode fell flat on its face.
But even with great disappointment, I found myself looking at the specifics of that disappointment and asking myself what I can learn from it as a writer. I took away a few things:
1. Don't introduce what seems like a promise of conflict then not deliver. A no tension story is a boring story. If you mention a storm, there better be a good reason for it. If you make an implicit contract with the reader with a tense situation, don't deflate it like a popped baloon. Unless you've got a seriously powerful and more interesting reason for doing so. Characters who get out of difficult situations easily are annoying to the reader. In last night's episode, I would much rather have spent it watching Steve and Danny have to fight to get out of that remote location, rather than exiting faster than you can blink. The opening of the story broke the implied promise. Then think what tension that would have been for Chin and Kono--a dying Aunt, the question of the missing money, and two team members they can't get access to. THAT would have been tension.
2. Multiple plotlines are great if they are well done. But if even one of those threads are weak, chances are the whole story will be weak.
3. Make sure you don't skim the surface of your protagonist's emotions. It's one thing if the character is intentionally hard to get to know. But it's another thing to hold yourself aloof from the depths of your character's being. The reader can spot shallowness, even if they can't give voice to the reason.
Of course just as with scriptwriting, those things are not so easy to do in a novel. But when you achieve those things, it makes an emotionally satisfying story.