Realism vs. Wish Fulfillment.

Realism in story telling is where the events and characters are somewhat scruffy, everyday. Stories steeped in realism have characters you recognize but probably not want to be (Saul Goodman, George Costanza, Ralph Kramden).


Wish fulfillment is a kind of story telling set in a perfect world or best case scenario setting. The people in it are the types your audience would either like to be, or be around. Shows like Friends, or The Brady Bunch, or Full House emulate that model.

Which way to go?

I feel that Realism is easier to build on and create. All you need to do to get new ideas is to read the news or go research the environment your subject lives in. From the get-go however it's understood you're stepping into an environment that's a bit unsavory. The depression-era Grapes of Wrath, or Cannery Row. A prison gang in Cool Hand Luke. It's also where you quickly can get to the good part of writing dramas, showing your audience what your characters are made of, the heroic aspects they may have growing out of a low-level existence.

On the other hand...

Wish fulfillment starts from the other direction. Shows and dramas of this nature welcome its audience into an ideal perfect world. Everybody's attractive, everybody dresses well. Sometimes I wonder where the writers for this type get their ideas after six or seven episodes. By that time they've pretty much used up all their ideas on what to put in the show. The trick I guess is to guide the audience along this perfect environment and focus on the one small crack in the façade, the one spot where things are going awry. The dog ran away. Car's got a flat, and you're late for the interview. Wish fulfillment doesn't demand too much from its audience. The audience comes back for more, being accustomed to the surroundings. No matter how big of a fan you are of The Honeymooners, nobody would want to live in Ralph and Alice's Brooklyn flat. Different story for Chandler, Joey and Ross/Phoebe, Rachel, Monica in their part of New York.

You choose.

Archie Bunker/Marcia Brady. Which one are you?

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