I first fell in love with Gilmore Girls in high school. My father would often miss dinner because of work, so my mom and I would watch the reruns while we ate dinner. As much as I love my father, I even got a bit excited when he couldn't come home on time, so I could escape to the world of Stars Hollow. When I got to college, I would watch the new episodes in my dorm room and immediately call my mom as soon as the show was done.
What is the magic of Gilmore Girls that would cause a girl to skip college parties to slip into the world of Stars Hollow? Why does everyone want to go to a pop up Luke's Diner? After spending years analyzing the show, I came up with five reasons for the craze and how you can apply it to your own writing.
1. Write Characters That People Care About
I am really hard pressed to think of characters people care about more than Lorelai and Rory. People love to say the identify with one more than the other, and friends will also say who is the "Rory" and who is the "Lorelai" in the relationship (this also happens with a Sookie/Lorelai combo). How many shows do people do that for? Also, there is no stronger shipping than with the males in the show. Every fan has a team (I am simultaneously #teamlogan and #teamjess...yes, it is confusing to be me).
How is this deep love for the characters achieved?
I think there are a lot of factors. A major one is that they are allowed to have flaws (can I remind you of Rory in Season 4) and grow and develop. I also think the relationships that they have with other characters are huge. Humans are so defined by relationships, and people act differently with different people (see Rory with Lorelai vs. Emily vs. Paris vs. Jess). Nothing shows multiple aspects of a character better than demonstrating how he or she behaves with various people.
Your takeaway: Don't be afraid to give your characters flaws. Spend a considerable amount of time developing a character arc for them. Also, really think about his or her relationships with other people.
2. Develop a Setting that Feels Real
So many people (myself included) say Stars Hollow feels like home. Stars Hollow is so real to me that I have a travel poster for Stars Hollow hanging in my kitchen (much to my husband's chagrin).
Why do I feel like Stars Hollow is a real place?
There is SO much to love about the town. It has quirky events and festivals. The town meetings are ridiculous (especially since they are run by Taylor). The local businesses have owners that we recognize (everyone from Luke to Gypsy to Miss Patty). People who would normally be throw away characters actually feel real because of the time and attention dedicated to them.
Your takeaway: Don't forget the other characters who inhabit your setting. For example, if your characters frequent a bookstore, take time to develop the bookseller.
3. Sharp, Witty Dialogue is King (or Queen)
Part of the reason why people are obsessed with Gilmore Girls is the witty dialogue. As a pop culture lover, it is pretty much Nirvana to listen to the Gilmore girls exchange their clever banter. Some of the dialogue is so good that it has entered pop culture lexicon ("Oy with the poodles already!").
Your takeaway: If you feel like your dialogue is getting boring, do something unexpected with it. Add a fun pop culture reference. Add a witty joke. Brainstorm ideas until you find what you are looking for. One key thing to remember: the dialogue still has to be something the character would say.
4. The Best Plots Are Character-Driven
Why do people binge the episodes? Why has the show been called addictive?
Because the plots are character-driven (which only highlights how important it is to develop good characters). We keep watching because we want to know if Rory returns to Yale. Why do we care if she goes back? Because we saw how much and how hard she worked in high school to get there. There was no way we would want that hard work to go to waste.
We watch one more episode (stop judging us, Netflix, by asking us if we wish to continue watching) because we want to know if Lorelai and Luke end up together. We care because we have seen their intense chemistry together for years.
Your takeaway: When you are developing your plots, think about your characters. What do they want most? Take that away from them. Who should they end up with? Delay the happy ending and create obstacles to it (just please don't throw in an annoying love child *coughAprilcough*).
5. Being Different Helps You Stand Out
People love Gilmore Girls primarily because it is different. The teenager does not go to crazy parties, but she prefers to curl up with a book. The setting isn't glamorous New York City, but it is in cozy, quirky Stars Hollow. The dialogue is not centered around dropping designer names but literary ones. The daughter doesn't hate her mother, but they are best friends. The show broke the mold and defied all the formulas, and that is why people love it. It is fresh and new.
Your takeaway: Think about the conventions in your genre or industry (not the kind people dress up for, I mean the formulas). What can you do that is different? What small things can you do to stand out?
I watched the Gilmore Girls revival with my sister-in-law and mother-in-law. It was interesting to see how my life had changed with my favorite characters. Just like Rory, I had grown up and am making a career in editing and writing. Unlike her though, I had gotten married and was watching the show with my new family.
Still, some things never change. As soon as my mom finished watching the revival, she called me right away. She said I was the first person she wanted to discuss it with.
Do you want more pop-culture inspired writing tips? Get a seat at my virtual diner here. I will give you a real WiFi password though. ;)