Monday, December 22, 2014

Looking Ahead to the New Year: Some Literary Advice Out of a TV Tragedy

by Kasey Tross

Poor Matthew. He was far too pretty to die.

Friends, I did it. I finally got myself sucked into Downton Abbey, and on Saturday I watched the last episode of the third season. And a little piece of my heart broke.

(If you have not watched Downton Abbey yet and you want to, please stop reading now because there’s no way for me to continue without spoiling it for you. Trust me.)

Anyway, I knew it was coming because I had accidentally come across a Downton Abbey Who’s Who  on Pinterest which listed the fates of some of the characters, and so every single time Matthew ever got into a car the entire show my heart rate increased by about 40 bpm. And then it finally happened.


Because I’m a complete nerd, I felt the need to remind myself that it was only the character in the show who had died, not the person himself, and I thought I might feel better if I checked up on the actor and assured myself he was alive and well.

He is. Just in case you were wondering. ;-)

Anyway, in the process I discovered that the actor, Dan Stevens, is also a writer (isn’t it nice when someone turns out to be just as intelligent as the character they portray onscreen?) and I read a few of his pieces*. In one piece written in January of 2013, he discusses the role of the front porch of a home, and how it seems to be this intriguing combination of the familiar and the foreign, the home and the outside world. In his musings he said something I found enlightening: "The comfort zone is the great enemy to creativity; moving beyond it necessitates intuition, which in turn configures new perspectives and conquers fears.”

My questions for you as we approach the new year are these:

Where is your comfort zone?

How can you defeat this “enemy to creativity” and push yourself to a place that will trigger your intuition?

How might doing so push you and help you improve as a writer?

When January 1st arrives, I encourage you to find your own front porch, and if you’re feeling particularly brave, maybe even step off of it. This might mean writing in a different genre, offering up your work for more criticism, or even just writing in an unfamiliar location.

As for me, I’ll be re-watching Downton Abbey and dissecting it to figure out how the writers (and the actor, of course) created a character who was so hard to say goodbye to. And then I’ll try in my own feeble way to incorporate some of that Matthew magic into my own WIP.

Maybe I’ll go write on my front porch.

*I also discovered we’re the same age and both have children the same ages. Very reassuring for the whole alive-and-well thing.


  1. I love Downton! We've just finished season 4 here, and are eagerly awaiting the Christmas special. No spoilers from me. There is a death in the series, but given current world events it's predictable from episode 1.

    Have you seen Call the Midwife? That's pretty darn good too. And Sherlock?

    1. Haven’t seen those...I’ll have to look into them!

  2. I'm addicted to Downton too! I was actually more upset with Sybil's death. She was my favorite sister. The show is so well-written!

    1. Oh I LOVED Sybil! I’m getting worried- they’re killing off all of my favorite characters! It is very well-written, both in the lines spoken by the characters and the way the plot unfolds.



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