What I’ve Learned about Writing from Watching The Librarians

Even though I’ve blogged plenty about older sci-fi shows like Babylon 5, Star Trek, and Stargate, I occasionally watch newer shows, too (it’s rare, actually, but every now and then I find a show that I consider worth my time to watch).

The Librarians just wrapped up its fourth season (and, sadly, final season, unless another network picks up the show). The Librarians is about a magical Library that is the repository for all the magical and supernatural artifacts in the world, and the Librarians protect the Library and jaunt around the world gathering artifacts and fighting bad guys. It’s clever, campy, family-friendly adventure.

Since I’m a writer, I can’t help but look at things from a storytelling point of view and analyzing everything, even as I’m being entertained. (For anyone else who wishes to be entertained, the first three seasons are currently on Hulu).

I believe the practice of watching/reading things from a writer’s perspective helps me to become a better writer. And so, here are some things that I’ve learned about writing from watching The Librarians:

It’s Okay to Tell an Old Story in a New Way

The idea of a magical storehouse is not a new idea, nor is the “secret superhero protector” idea. It’s been done before and it’ll be done again. But what makes an old or even clichéd idea new is the way it’s told. Characters, situations, unique elements of world-building – all of these are what can make an old idea new. This is why writers shouldn’t be overly concerned with someone “stealing an idea.” Ten people can take the same idea and tell ten vastly different stories. Go ahead and take that old clichéd idea and your own unique spin on it.

It’s Okay to be Funny

The Librarians is nothing if not funny. From the nerdiness of Flynn Carsen to the dry sarcasm of Jenkins to the frustrated millennial attitude of Ezekiel Jones, the show is full of hilarious lines and witty dialogue. Add in the borderline-campy situations they often find themselves in, and nearly every episode will have you chuckling. This show is also a great reminder to me that things can be funny without being slapstick and without being crass. If adult-oriented humor is what you’re writing, that’s fine – but there’s also room in the world for light-hearted clean comedy.

It’s Okay to be Serious

Despite the humor, The Librarians does touch on some more serious topics like betrayal, distrust, fear, grief, and terminal illness. The comedy does not cheapen these serious moments – if anything, the serious or sad moments can seem even more powerful when contrasted with the humor. I’ve learned that it’s okay to combine comedy and drama – you can tell a serious story and still have humor, or tell a funny story and still include more serious elements. I think a good story has some elements of both.

Characters are the Drivers of the Story

One of the things that makes The Librarians different from any other story about a magical storehouse or magic-hunting superheroes is the characters. Each character has a vastly different background, different strengths and weaknesses, and even different views of right and wrong. They’re thrown together and forced to fight a battle they didn’t even know existed, and have to learn to work with each other.

Characters, I believe, is the biggest element that sets apart any “old” or “clichéd” story idea and makes it new. You, too, can write a story about a magical repository and its secret protectors, but if your characters are different from Colonel Baird, Ezekiel Jones, and Jenkins, then your story will be different from The Librarians.

The Librarians is a show I never get tired of re-watching, and I learn something new about storytelling each time I watch it, too. And for your viewing pleasure, here’s a glimpse into the world of The Librarians:

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