1 I like my romance dark. Give me the-world-is-ending, I-could-be-dying high stakes backdrop and I’m there. Theme in a little ‘what is it to be human’ and existential angst and we’re looking good. Add in a few brooding bad-boy smoulders and black T-shirt clad muscles aand...I’m your girl.
Bring on the star-crossed lovers and beautiful bittersweet moments....sigh. (Yes I’m looking at you Damon and Elena dancing on the bridge at the end of Season 6.) Go on, I know you wanna watch it:
2. More on bad boys. To me the appeal of the bad boy (among other things...ahem) is that there is so much scope for change. We’re talking character arcs. Your characters are going to change from the start to the end of your book. Getting them from point A to point B is what makes the story. What’s going to happen to change them? Oh the delicious possibilities.
What happens to Damon to change him from selfish, look-after-himself killer to someone who develops friendships and relationships and will sacrifice his own happiness for others? Of course, falling in love with Elena is a big part of that. I always want the bad boy to be redeemed but of course it’s never that simple!
3. When you combine high stakes with conflict the story has the impact of a freight train.
Exhibit A: The story question goes something like this: Yes we can save Bonnie from the prison world where she is stuck with bad guy witchy-type Kai. (Season 6). But if we rescue Bonnie then Kai might get out too and then he’ll hunt down and kill Jo, and that would make her fiancé Alaric (who has suffered much, including death, to get to this happy point) very unhappy. Who gets to live? Bonnie or Jo? Oh the suspense!
4. If your characters are well-motivated, the audience will trust you to take them to weird and wonderful places. Every character in this series has their motivation revealed eventually. Liv (twin witch from Season 6) puts off Tyler with her brash and blustering manner. She can’t afford to get attached to anyone since she’s slated to become the head of her coven and is not in the slightest in charge of her destiny. So we then do try to get it together, we know what’s at stake and how impossible it is for them to get their happy-ever-after, but that won’t stop us hoping!
5. The story engine that keeps on chugging. A story is not just one thing happening after another. The character’s choices and actions have consequences and this is what advances the story. Exhibit A: Elena survives the car crash, but now she is what she really didn’t want to be. A vampire. (Season 3/4). How will she cope with her new nature and how will it effect her relationships? Greatly, of course!
Exhibit B: Elena isn’t coping after Damon’s (apparent) death. (Season 6). She asks Alaric to take all her memories of Damon. And oh, what’s that? Damon’s not dead. What happens when he comes back and you don’t remember him as the love of your life?
6. Sensual tension. Oh yeah. I’ve even been to an author talk where the author used the scene with Elena and Damon in the hotel room to teach us how to use sensual tension. First there is the eyes. Elena watches Damon from the bed. Eyes meet. There’s hands rubbing and deep breathing and running out of the room and finally...a kiss. Pretty masterful! Here it is from Season 3:
7. Symbols have a nice way of tying stories together and gathering them around a theme. The Bridge on the edge of Mystic Falls is used to great effect to tie in story arcs through the seasons. Journeys, life, death, change, growing up, moving on, belonging. It’s where Elena lost her parents in a car accident. We find out it’s where Stefan rescued her from the car accident. This is the start of a new life for Elena. It’s also where we find out a lot later that she met Damon for the first time. Being in her own car crash again off the bridge is what sets in motion her journey to becoming a vampire. It’s the boundary where magic beings can’t cross into their homes in Season 6. And we circle around again to when she’s saying goodbye to Damon in their minds dancing on the bridge at the end of that season.
8. I don’t love love triangles. I struggled with this in the first few seasons. But I did enjoy the way the series explored thorny issues such as what happens when two brothers love the same person. Can one person really love two people?
I really enjoyed Elena exploring the dark parts of herself and I liked that in the end (so far) she ended up with the perhaps unlikely choice Damon.
The way they tied up that thread was really satisfying to me. I liked that although Stefan loved Elena, he thought that she’d been in his life to show him that there was good in his brother and that she brought the two brothers back together. In the end he needed his brother more than he needed her.
9. I do love a flashback. They way they are used in this series gives us insight into characters and their motivations and deepens the current story thread. Remember when we find out in an early season that perfect and moral Stefan was the one who turned Damon into a vampire? Cue Damon’s misery and hate for Stefan. That was an a-hah moment.
10. Satisfying endings and reversals. I’ve only watched until the end of Season 6, but I felt like a few ends were tied up quite neatly.
Damon is still a bad boy, but he’s learnt to love and sacrifice and accept love from others. Bonnie, who throughout most of the series has sacrificed herself for her friends finally gets her day. Her friends will make the ultimate sacrifice to make sure she lives a long and happy life. Stefan and Damon have endured many challenges to their friendship to come out solid as brothers.
What have you learnt from your favourite TV show, movie or book?