After reading This is the Most Over-Hyped Drama Ever – My ID Is Gangnam Beauty at hallyureviews, it got me thinking about what really drives a good story. Characters? Cast? Chemistry? Plot? Humour?
Everyone has different tastes and what they look for in a good story. But, are there must-haves for a story to work or is it strictly based on personal interests?
For me, I could never get into Guardian: The Lonely and Great God (also known as Goblin). I tried watching it twice. The first time I watched it was when it was still a recent release. The second time was a few years later. I didn’t even make it halfway through before dropping it both times.
Goblin’s backstory was interesting, yet I wasn’t invested in the characters or their relationships. The plot was also mediocre.
For anyone who doesn’t know how big Goblin was, the show received critical acclaim and won numerous awards in South Korea. The show also received a lot of love around the world.
Another example is Sweet Home. I loved the beginning but ended up dropping it halfway through. I had questions about Sweet Home’s narrative, which ultimately ruined the experience.
Sweet Home trended on Netflix’s top 10 for many countries. I believe it was the first South-Korean show to trend in the United States on Netflix.
On the contrary, I was part of the hype for Alice in Borderland. I loved the characters, the pacing, and the dark plot.
Alice in Borderland trended on Netflix’s top 10 in many countries. I’m sure some people aren’t into it for their own reasons, but this was one of the best shows I’ve watched in a while.
This brings me back to elements that drive a good story. For me, I look for characters, pacing, and logic. Let me go into more detail about each of these.
I enjoy characters with distinctive personalities. Arisu from Alice in Borderland is empathetic, and this really shows through his actions as the show progressed. Chishiya from Alice in Borderland is the mysterious and manipulative character, which again shows through his actions, especially when he betrays Arisu for his own gain.
Arisu’s biggest character development came in the beginning. His character became rather static as the show progressed, which didn’t take away my enjoyment. Perhaps it was because the plot was progressing at a great pace, revealing something but giving us more questions simultaneously.
As I get older, pacing has become a huge factor in what I look for. Depending on the plot and focus of the story, are questions getting answered promptly? Are they even answered at all? This was a turn-off for me in Sweet Home. There wasn’t enough world-building or explanations as to why things are a certain way. How do people get infected? Why are some people hybrids? How did the world become like this in the first place?
In Alice in Borderland, each episode was a step closer to the truth. You find out how the games are categorized, the supposed game masters, motivations for survival from the main characters. Season one does not answer all of the questions, but the ending is a clear setup for season two. However, at least the first half of the questions do get cleared up nicely.
What I mean by logic is this: do things make sense? I’ll use Goblin and Sweet Home as an example. Goblin, the character, has supposedly lived for hundreds or thousands of years. He’s been through a war, and you’re telling me that he can’t handle a teenager. I think I would’ve enjoyed it more if the female lead was older rather than a high school student. The show felt like a teenager trying to be an adult.
In Sweet Home, the main character is half-human and half-monster. He meets another hybrid who is part of a team that takes the main character’s allies hostage. The two have a conversation on the roof, and somehow the evil hybrid convinces the main character to turn against his friends. These friends have fought with the main character from the beginning, and they rarely showed any signs of turning against him. It was just so sudden that it felt like it was placed for the sake of conflict.
In Alice in Borderland, everyone’s motivations for survival are different. You know this because the show gives these explanations screen time, so you know why there was a giant massacre at the end and why some people are so heartless.
Though, there was one scene that I didn’t understand. Shibuki, a character introduced early on, suddenly stopped struggling to get free and ended up dying along with Arisu’s friends. She was a headstrong character. It was surprising and strange that she would just give up her life like that for people she knew for like 2-3 days.
Characters and plot go together. You could have an amazing plot, but with lacklustre characters, the plot will go down fast. But, with interesting characters, there’s hope for a lacklustre plot. There are tons of stories with a very generic plot, but the characters make it fun and worth watching. Sports animes would be an example. They all have a very similar premise with the same goals and development. Sports aside, they’re all different in their own ways.
Now, after my rant, what are the storytelling elements do you look for in a story? Do you think there are any must-haves for a story to be enjoyable?