Writing Lessons from Twin Peaks

In light of the third season of Twin Peaks, I think it’s entirely appropriate to use it as a teaching tool. All of both Lynch and Frost’s works can be used in this manner. But Twin Peaks is especially relevant to the art of storytelling. The junction of superior writing, directing, and acting. All of these things are important to a television show or a film. Lynch is a master of storytelling, after all. But there’s a lot that can be applied to other kinds of writing. Your fiction, particularly. I know it’s unwittingly become a part of my own writing landscape. Every work you consume does.

Have a flavor of your own. This is important to any kind of creator, but especially so for writers. We can’t rely on visuals to make someone feel a certain way or think a certain thing. All we have are our words. And they matter. It’s okay if your particular voice isn’t the same as anyone else’s. In fact, it’s preferable. Your voice is the combination of all of the things that have happened to you, the things you’ve seen, and the way you think. If every work of art we have a moment with effects us, then by all means. Watch everything David Lynch has ever directed. It’s a master class in the art of being unlike other people. And there’s a beauty to that.

Every character has a story. They have a heart. They have a soul. They have desires. They have both a past and a future. All as determined by you, their sometimes cruel, sometimes kind overlord. And the way you make your readers feel about your characters matters in the grand scheme of thing. Good writing with crappy characters is still crappy writing. Crappy writing with good characters is forgivable. Almost forgivable, at least. Your hero doesn’t have to be overly good, but they can be. Invariably, you have to make horrible things happen to and around them. Kill your darlings like you kill your heroes. There really is no other way.

Setting is crucial, but don’t overdo it when you describe it. Your setting is a character all its own. Its relationship to your human characters tells a lot about it. And a lot about them. A young person at odds with the small town they’re from probably has rebellious tendencies. All the best people do, though. Explore if the problem is the setting they’ve been born into or if it’s an internal one. This really could go either way. Someone at peace in the woods probably has a strong sense of balance. Which means that they’re probably pretty comfortable with themselves, and not necessarily all that comfortable with other people. An exceptionally peaceful setting can make for exceptionally disturbed characters, as was often the case in the idyllic town of Twin Peaks. An overly structured setting can make for really unstructured human beings. See also: 1984. A fantastic setting can show you very grounded people, like Harry Potter. Who was in some ways painfully ordinary when contrasted with the wizarding world. Everything’s relative.

Not everyone is going to like an ending. But by God, you better make it memorable. Sometimes it’s better to write an ending that’s controversial. Something that’s really going to piss off a lot of people. There are mixed reviews on the ending of the second season of Twin Peaks. I for one adore it. I find it very Lynchian. But this seems to have split even avid fans of the show. My mother doesn’t like it. My father does. The more of Lynch’s work you absorb, the more the ending makes sense in the grand scheme of his pathos. I use the word pathos with love, mind you. But his mind must be a rather bizarre, dark place.

And one last thing. If people start using your name as an adjective, you’ve made it. Kafka-esque, Lovecraftian, Dylan-esque, Lynchian. Doesn’t that have a nice ring to it? And remember this: coffee and pie are an acceptable choice for any meal. Don’t ever trust owls. And always walk–and write–with fire.


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