Works That Inspire Writing Day 1: Hulu’s “Devs”

Nick Offerman and Sonoya Mizuno in Alex Garland’s “Devs” on Hulu

I decided to write a 30 day blog challenge in which I write about works that inspire me as a writer. I wanted to showcase these things mainly because I needed something to write about that would kick-start my writing day and because I just wanted to share work, hard work, that exemplifies what I see as great writing.

Writers need inspiration, but in no way am I encouraging you to binge a show or a film or waste valuable time you have to write during this crisis for entertainment. When I suggest one of these works, I suggest you go watch or read them, perhaps an excerpt or one episode, so that you can see what makes them great writing. This, in turn, should inspire you to reach the level these writers have attained and then possibly stretch you beyond what you are currently creating.

The first work in this 30 day blog challenge is the series “Devs” found on Hulu through FX Network. It stars Nick Offerman as a tech CEO and founder of a tech development company who has built a quantum computer for selfish purposes, as this computer can do something of which most humans can only dream. It is entertaining, thought provoking and thematically explores the idea of determinism versus free will.

Three things stand out about this series and these things are what cause writers like me to sit with notepad in hand:

  1. The Characters Are Multi-Layered – Just when you think you’ve figured a character out (i.e., “Oh he’s definitely a villain”) you have to rethink that upon learning new information about that character. All of the characters in this series have this well-sought-after quality. Their motivations are realistic and unique, and are filled with drivers that send them along unpredictable paths. They are unpredictable because even though you think you know a character they surprise you with many of their decisions. Even if you think you know a character and what their background and morals would dictate, they take a turn that might seem odd at first but in afterthought make perfect sense for who they have been painted.
  2. The Science Is Researched – Often I have found myself having to google many of the technical terms and theories presented in this series. Sometimes when characters are discussing quantum physics, for example, I feel like I’m getting lost in the theory and science. For some this might be a bad thing, but for me it only makes me curious about the science being presented. It also gives a sense of realism to the story that feeds into the well-woven plot. If you are going to include hard-science fiction in your writing, make sure you’ve done your research. Many of the ideas and theories expressed in “Devs” are experimental and on the cusp of current quantum theory, but much of it takes leaps with the theories that is not yet plausible. This is what makes great science fiction: fiction based on the possible leap from current science theory.
  3. Nothing Is Sacred – One thing that this series does is that it places its characters in such peril that we don’t think there is an out and then doesn’t give them that out. Several of the characters go through awful conflict that is in some ways unresolved and we watch as their ability to cope with the onslaught of horrific events is shattered. The trope of the hero somehow finding their way out of the maze and being congratulated is not something Alex Garland cares about apparently, and this is in many ways refreshing. Garland is willing to take his characters to the limits of what they can handle and then pushes them over the edge of the precipice. In our own writing we should try to do the same with our characters. It makes for more gritty realism and speaks to the real-life peril most of us face day-to-day. Sure, there is hope at the end, but it is paired with the sacrifices made to get there.

Published by Roger Colby, Novelist, Editor

Roger Colby is a novelist and teacher who has taught English for nearly two decades. He is also an avid reader of science fiction who feels, like many other sci-fi readers, that he has read everything. He writes science fiction for the reader who is looking for the next best thing, something to excite them into reading again. This blog is his journey as a writer and his musings about writing. He also edits manuscripts for a fee and is an expert at helping you reach your full potential as a writer.

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