Once upon a time… Dr. Stranger, take notes!

Dear writers, directors and producers of Dr. Stranger, it has come to viewers’ attention that you were absent from class on the day we covered “The Fundamentals of Storytelling.” Although your actors have been bending over backwards and executing death defying thespian somersaults to breath life into the *___ you have foisted upon them, it is clearly time for an intervention – on their behalf and on behalf of well-meaning viewers everywhere.

Rather than make you reread that chapter in the textbook and submit a book report, let’s try something a little different. First, imagine all the characters that will be in the story you want to tell and then go from there.

  • What is each one like? Are they kind, generous, mean, selfish…?
  • Do they have any family or friends?
  • What do they care about?
  • Do they have special powers, or talismans that give them special powers or are they just ordinary?
  • Where do they live? Do they travel?
  • Why do they make the choices they make and do the things they do?
  • Are any of them already familiar to audiences?

Now, don’t be shy about drawing from tradition. In fact, audiences love it when they recognize a character from somewhere else; for them it’s like seeing an old friend again.

Next, you want to find a theme around which to develop your story. Love is always a good one, but you need some kind of bigger picture cause at the foundation to help sustain any craziness you might be inspired to throw at your audience. Just look at Boys Over Flowers: while they used Young Love as their story’s calling card, they made sure to set it on a foundation with considerable gravitas to hold together all the streamers and glitter they threw our way. And it worked! — even when the audience was not really paying attention to the beautifully woven tapestry of deeper issues underlying it’s fluffy narrative.

Once you have brainstormed a little – not a lot, you don’t want to overthink it – just ease into the story and let it unfold. It’s easy. Even a four year-old can do it!

Little Capucha’s Storytime

 

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7 Responses to Once upon a time… Dr. Stranger, take notes!

  1. Pingback: Curio in KDramaland… (or, Through the Sageuk Lens) | SPQ&R

  2. Curio Serand says:

    Before Dr. Stranger, I would have told anyone who asked that I was a dyed-in-the-wool rationalist with no patience for inconsistent/incoherent narratives. I would have been proud of my “give me reason and common sense or give me death” intolerance for awkward storytelling. But that was before this show.

    Through this show – which I have clearly been watching VOLUNTARILY – I can say that I have discovered a greater tolerance for spitball plotting and that everything-but-the-kitchen-sink [and then maybe even that, too] jambalaya that passes for genre identity in Dr. Stranger.

    Maybe this is because I have a 4-year old niece who excels at this sort of adhoc, improvisational, transformational storytelling where the only narrative rule is that there are no rules and anything goes and so when some new story element pops up out of nowhere or maybe some random thing gets restated exactly the same way but opposite, you don’t ask questions… you just GO with it and enjoy the ride.

    And I tell you, the pre-schooler’s adhoc, improvisational, transformational storytelling can be a real blast it you just let go and let it carry you…

    – A Newly Self-Liberated Rationalist

  3. Curio Serand says:

    How does Dr. Stranger manage to be so terrible and yet hold the number 1 spot in ratings?

    Well, context is everything – and this show made it clear from week 1 that Absolute Absurdity was the order of the day. There was really no way to know what in heaven’s name was going on by the end of episode 2 and the following weeks remained pretty consistent on that count. [In case you doubt me, just revisit the Budapest sequence from when Joon stops Jae Hee’s heart, revives her, spirits her away through the basilica-like columns of the embassy onto a nearby motorbike over the bumpy cobble stone streets of Budapest into a dead end which he escaped by gunning said motorbike UP some stone stairs and miraculously defying gravity and all things sacred in the physical universe to JUMP FLY the motorbike – (with the still-newly-resuscitated-kidney-transplantee-Jae Hee hanging on) – I say, JUMP FLY the motorbike over Cha who is waiting at the top of the stone stairs with menacing self-assurance, I repeat JUMPL FLY and LAND the motorbike to the threshold of the bridge where he will lose her to the cold, cold river…] I believe that those who, after such shenanigans, did not immediately accept that Absolute Absurdity was the rule of law in Dr. Stranger’s universe are the ones who ended up disappointed with the show.

    If, however, you were willing to accept that there would be little sense to be had from the spitball plotting and the nodding-off-on-a-drowsey-afternoon character development writing, then you are golden!

    Last week I wrote about owing this show the realization that I could sincerely enjoy nonsense and have fun doing it. If I have to be completely candid, I’ll say that of all the kdramas I’ve seen, this is among the ones that most approaches the pointlessness quotient common to American shows.

    Yet, despite all that it is lacking in poetry, art and logic, the Dr. Stranger actors imbue the show with oodles and oodles of charisma — so much so that I keep watching just to indulge in their overflowing charm and I am quite thoroughly enjoying myself.

  4. Curio Serand says:

    Zero chemistry!

    I’ve been holding out just for the hell of it but episode 19 is the one that finally lost me – or, as they say in KDrama-speak, finally ‘let go of my hand.’

    In the ‘confession scene’ Jae Hee is saying all her lines and doing her darnedest to emote away, and there is Hoon-ah emoting right along with her:

    PH: ‘Look me in the eye and tell me again that you don’t love me’
    SJH: ‘FINE. I LOVE YOU, DAMMIT!…’

    [*sobs and tears all around*] and yet… meh.

    And all the ‘s/he really, really likes you’ resolution speeches before and after, and all the last minute explanations and ‘reveals’ – UGH! Did no one ever teach these writers the first rule of drama? “SHOW, DON’T TELL!” It’s not enough to say two people love each other; rather, let us see it and you will never have to announce it. Even the Ancient Greeks knew as much. In retrospect, those endless competitions and surrounding shenanigans squandered precious time that could have been dedicated to the showing.

    I could not finish the episode. Even uri Lee Jong-suk just looked exhausted in this episode. There must be a limit to how far a person can just play along before it starts to erode you professional resolve to give it your all. As a viewer, I guess I’ll just have to phone it in for the rest of the epi and the finale. (Hey, if the writers can do it, why not the audience?)

  5. Curio Serand says:

    “Plaudite, amici, comedia finita est!”

    PS. Uri Lee Jong Suk surely deserves special recognition for utmost professionalism to the very end of this travesty. Although I kept holding out in good humor for 18 and a half episodes – come narrative hell or high water, episode 19 finally alienated me 20 minutes in. I can assure you that it takes a special kind of narrative and dramatic negligence to squander all that audience goodwill.

    But Lee Jong Suk’s impassioned defense of his father’s tragic legacy that he be “a doctor, damn it” at the beginning of episode 20 really moved me. Seriously.

    And I thought, “Wow, despite everything this drama has done to him, despite the potential havoc it has wreaked on his CV, this guy is still pulling it out of the fire…”

    Chapeau, uri Lee Jong Suk, chapeau!

  6. mywebfoot (@mywebfoot) says:

    I am laughing and wincing reading this. I went through pretty much this exact journey. I think I dropped out at ep 13, but other than that it was a case of ok, buy that, buy THAT, and then it slowly became of But, but… In the end I read recaps for the entertainment value of all the facepalming going on and to see the show to its dastardly end. I think I needed closure 😀

    • Curio Serand says:

      😀 “Closure” ! ROFL! Dare I admit that that is what kept me hanging in there?

      In the end, I just felt like Jae Hee’s insides must have felt after that keuraaaayzee motocycle escape culminating in hanging by the arm of a bullet riddled shoulder only to fall into the cold, cold, COLD waters of the river Danube.

      How wrong is it that I knew it was rubbish from the get-go and yet I still felt a bit disappointed that it did not prove me wrong by revealing itself to be profound art in the eleventh hour?

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