So You Want To / Write a Very Special Episode
So you have a lesson that you want to teach your audience. Good for you! But before you do you might want to read this here page.
Well, obviously there's going to be an Aesop
. After that, it depends on the Aesop you're using. Many good morals can be derived from a properly Deconstructed Trope
, from the obvious "Don't believe what you see on television", to more specific items, such as "No, you can't change him.
The world is your oyster when it comes to Aesops but just in case you're not sure what you want to teach your audience check out our handy-dandy list of Stock Aesops
- Broken Aesop: Make sure that the lesson you're trying to teach doesn't go against the entire premise of your work, or the methods used to resolve the plot. You can't have Harry Potter decrying the evils of witchcraft, or have an episode of Beavis And Butthead that has...well, really any morals whatsoever.
- Clueless Aesop: Do the research, and make sure you can reasonably fit it into the story. A Saturday morning superhero cartoon isn't going to do well with a moral on Keynesian economics. If the subject matter is particularly dark or controversial, it might be best to try and approach it from a different angle.
- Space Whale Aesop: You can use metaphor, but don't get too crazy. Having your characters get into an accident after driving drunk makes sense. Having the beer turn out to be magical and turn those who drink it into cavemen... is suspect, but useful. If the beer summons Eldritch Abominations that steal everybody's cats until the kids stop drinking, and you've lost all credibility.
- Anvilicious: You're a storyteller first and a preacher second; PLEASE DON'T FORGET THIS! When the work itself is lost in the repetitiveness, the audience changes the channel/reads something else/whatever at best and is offended at being treated like being treated like five year olds at worst, just no. Entertain AND inform.
- Compressed Vice: Don't give your character a flaw out of the blue to deliver the relevant lesson. The potential Character Derailment that will ensue will only make the episode look more desperate to gets its message across, thus eroding the audience's Willing Suspension of Disbelief.
- Glurge: A good very special episode delivers its lessons with enough tact that it doesn't deviate too far from the typical tone of the work. Going for a more serious tone than normal might be able to hammer in the moral more effectively, but it could easily backfire if the work can't handle such a Tone Shift: a Black Comedy isn't going to effectively convey a hot-button issue with a straight face, if it jokes about similar subject manner on a regular basis. Play your very special episode to the work's strengths, lest it comes off as an unwelcome Bizarro Episode.
Pick an Aesop, any Aesop, and subvert it. Space Whale Aesops
are really good for this.
Suggested Themes and Aesops
Again, the world is your oyster, but make sure that whatever Aesop you pick doesn't get cancelled-out by your premise. Also, make sure that your series can deliver an Aesop that your intended audience can handle reasonably well. If you don't think you've done that, don't dumb the Aesop down. Rather, choose a new one or shift your demographics. Don't think young children could understand your detailed morality lesson? Aim towards a teenage audience.
- If you're trying to illustrate the pitfalls of something, a reminder of the protagonist's "old life" can work very well. If a character's love interest is shown repeatedly warning a character about drugs, but she does them anyways, one can make a strong motif of a necklace that her girlfriend gave her.
- A good motif will stay with a character. For example, scars can help avoid s.
Set Designer / Location Scout
Having your Very Special Episode
take place in its original setting will drive your Aesop closer to home than if you change settings all of a sudden.
Make sure to have Aesop-related props nearby (car and booze for the drunk-driving episode etc.).
It might be tempting to bring in a Long-Lost Uncle Aesop
but it might be more meaningful if you either introduce them several episodes prior or if you use an already existing character (for example, if the drunk driving episode is one where Tonight, Someone Dies
- Gargoyles had one about guns ("Deadly Force", currently a Missing Episode), and about reading ("A Lighthouse in the Sea of Time").
- The Blackish episode on police brutality/racial violence is a good example of using material Ripped from the Headlines to create a quality VSE.
- Bojack Horseman, already a Dramedy, has episodes like "BoJack Hates The Troops", "Hank After Dark" and "Braap Braap Pew Pew", episodes tackling an extremely sensitive topic (in this case, entitled heroism, washing sins of celebrities and abortion respectively) that have no shortage of the show's trademark Black Comedy, proving that very special episodes should not resort to total melodrama to prove their point.
The Epic Fails