I’ve been watching a BBC series: CALL THE MIDWIFE. Just started season nine out of nine. Sad it’s about to end… The show aired in Britain beginning in 2012. Now it’s on Netflix. I could write an entire book about this wonderful series and the myriad of things they do correctly.
The show takes place in 1950s-1960s London’s East End, an area of woeful poverty. In a small Anglican convent live eight or nine nuns. They are midwives. Four or five nurses, also midwives, live there too. They go out and serve the district, delivering at home healthcare for free, superb advice for free, and they help women give birth. The series certainly delivers a stunning example of the wonders of socialized medicine.
One teeny tiny little thing that bears mentioning is their uncanny ability to add an extra element to a scene, making it a wee bit more interesting. Sometimes that lagniappe is baked in from the moment the need for a scene first appears, but most of these improvements come while rewriting.
Last night’s episode’s first scene takes place in a high-ceilinged, grim bedroom room in a low-end building. A midwife is helping a woman in labor. The scene is short and the delivery is successful. As there’s no anesthesia, there’s lots of strenuous breathing and yelling and pain. There’s also, at the end, an explosion of joy.
At the scene’s beginning, while the midwife is encouraging and the mother-to-be is howling, we hear a huge rumbling background sound and plaster dust sifts from the ceiling, all the way down to the bed.
What the hell?!
Between contractions, the mother mentions that the wrecking ball has been nonstop all day long. As this woman struggles to give birth, the building next door is being demolished. Life and death at the same time, adding weight to a continuing urban renewal story thread.
What a deft, scene-deepening touch! What a nice piece of writing. Not hard to think of, if you’re concentrating on tiny, interesting details to make the read just that extra tad more interesting.
No reason why you, as you peruse your outline or pages, can’t burn a few gray cells, make a delicate flick of the pen and add a bit of zing to your scenes. For more on this, visit chapter 39 of Your Screenplay Sucks!.
Watch CALL THE MIDWIFE. As the show is essentially lighthearted, it’s precisely what I need in these unsettled times. The stakes are gigantic because the show is about the most important moment in a family’s existence: the birth of a child. But! The overall tone is light, which I need. It’s worth your time.
Also, it has delightful in-scene details that instruct and give pleasure.
Happily, Season 10 is rumored to be showing up in the fall.
One response to “Add an Extra Layer”
Wow. You just boosted that series to the top of my viewing list! And with your screenwriting insights, it’ll be even more fun to watch. Thanks Will. Your writing is always such a pleasure. In those first few scenes of season nine, you depict so clearly the woman in labor, midwife and plaster dust. I really don’t want to wait for eight seasons to watch those scenes. I may have to cheat and skip ahead, just to see how it compares to the picture in my mind. Love your tips on the writing process and rewriting, especially your fun-to-read book, Your Screenplay Sucks!