Seven Things HIMYM Can Teach Us About Writing (from Writer’s Digest)

Now that I am a little bit removed from the How I Met Your Mother finale, I’m beginning to see why so many people were happy with it, and why it made sense.  I am still a little bit unhappy, simply because I really, truly didn’t want Ted to end up with Robin.  But, alas.  There is supposedly an alternate ending on the Season 9 DVD that I’m probably going to have to purchase along with Season 8.[i]  Maybe that will make me feel a little better.  But in the meantime, I found this really cool article in Writer’s Digest about what How I Met Your Mother can teach us about writing.  And believe me, I was all over it.

  1. Everything Happens for a Reason.  This is something that I truly admire about good writers.  Everything is in the details.  Consider I. Marlene King, one of the executive producers on Pretty Little Liars.  She has said that nothing in Rosewood is a coincidence.  Which means that every single plot point has a purpose.  I would love to know that my writing was like that.

    Ugh. They were so perfect and adorable.
    Ugh. They were so perfect and adorable.
  2. Reward Your Readers.  I do love coming back to small plot points, and not revealing everything at the beginning.  I like there to be a little element of surprise.  I hope that is rewarding to the people who read my work.
  3. Never Write Yourself Into a Corner.  More than once, I have gone back and changed a part of a plot that I tied up because I wanted to return to it later.  I guess that’s the difference between novels and a television series.  It’s easier to go back and fix things if your novel stands alone.  But if you’re writing a series?  Yikes.  Good luck.
  4. Use Smaller, Compelling Story Arcs.  This was one of the first things I learned in my fiction novel class in college.  Yes, you need an overarching plot, but you also need smaller plots to keep the reader going.  Think about what I said about the Harry Potter series, back when I wrote about JK Rowling.[ii]  She was brilliant at this.
  5. Tragedy is Compelling.  I like what the author says here.  Ted is a tragic character.  But if you think about people’s lives, I think a lot of them could be considered tragic.  But that’s life, really.  Everyone is sad sometimes, just like everyone is happy sometimes.  It’s all in the balance.  It’s all in the emotion.  Making people seem real is what keeps readers reading.
  6. Endings are Hard.  TELL ME ABOUT IT.  Like I said, I’m still upset with the ending of HIMYM.  But, I can see why they did it that way.  Everything was wrapped up, but it wasn’t in the way that I wanted.  And I think that is something that is hard for writers.  I’ve been criticized, because I have the tendency to kill people off when I write.  I can’t help it.  Tragedy is compelling, after all.  And while it might make readers a little unhappy, it always feels right to me.  That’s what matters.

    I did really like that they took this picture in the finale.  Circularity.  Endings.
    I did really like that they took this picture in the finale. Circularity. Endings.
  7. Circularity.  This goes along with Rewarding Your Readers, in my opinion.  When you circle back to where you started, it is rewarding.  It makes everything make more sense, and it helps wrap things up.  It makes the characters feel more human, because they have habits and routines and are truly people.  That’s what you want.  You want the characters to seem real.

I found this article both helpful and interesting.  And while I am still smarting about Ted ending up with Robin, holding the blue French horn out to her at the end, I have to say that the writers of the show were fantastic.  They knew what they were doing.  I was hooked from the very beginning.  I watched until the very end.  That’s what a writer wants, isn’t it?

What did you think of this take on it?



[i] I already own the first seven seasons, so it would only make sense to have the full set, right?

[ii] JK Rowling


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