by Camela Thompson
If you haven't seen Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, run to your television, laptop, or tablet and open Netflix. As someone who grew up watching Murder She Wrote and is a bit of a (raging) feminist, this show is close to perfection (minus Episode 9 in Season 2). A woman driven to solve murders simultaneously makes a stand against the conventional expectations women are held to in the '20s by living her own life to the fullest. I sprinted through the series, which makes me a little sad now that I know there has not been a commitment for another season (but there has been chatter around a potential movie, so I have hope!!).
The only solution to deal with the withdrawal was to start the series over again.
When I watch a movie or television, I can't help but notice what works for me and what doesn't. Maybe a small part of this behavior is my need to feel like I'm accomplishing something, even when I'm supposed to be relaxing. Which is counterproductive to the implied purpose, which would be: RELAX. I also realize that we can always learn things that apply to writing. What makes a character resonate with us on screen isn't all that different than what we relate to in a book. With that in mind, here are some things I've learned from Miss Fisher.
A Strong Woman Can Be Interested in Men
In Miss Fisher's case, the more men the better. The character challenged the double standard: A sexually liberated woman is considered a slut where a man is considered accomplished. She loved freely and she did it without giving up her freedom.
A Little Romance is a Good Thing
The sexual tension between Jack and Phryne was wonderful. I'm not a romantic, but I loved how the two played to one another. Even more so because they were opposites. The straight edge, traditional man challenged by a stubborn, intelligent woman who showed no interest in settling down. The two worked well together, but Phryne's untraditional approach to life created realistic issues. Jack had to decide whether his love for her was strong enough for him to reconsider his position on a lot of topics. The two extremes pulled one another closer to moderation.
Character Development is Key
A strong main character is a must. Developing peripheral characters that the audience grows to love makes the show even better. Initially, Aunt Prudence seemed like a little much, but as the seasons went on, I grew to love her good intentions and big heart. Variation and contrast force the character to grow, and people are a great way to push the issue in a manner that feels organic. This requires a peripheral character to have a back story and grow as well.
Many Mistakes are Forgivable
Pushing people away, acting out, and making critical judgment errors aren't necessarily the end of a character in the viewer's eyes. If the person means well or earnestly attempts to make amends, it can go a long way. The key is to give the character redeeming qualities. Perhaps the woman who lied to the police and had an affair only did those things to protect the person she loved fiercely from blackmail exposure.
Some Mistakes Cannot Be Forgiven
A misstep in an episode can be overlooked, but it's important to correct quickly. If the audience begins to despise a character, especially the main character, your series may never recover. Major missteps around social issues or other problems may be avoided with feedback.
These lessons can be applied in writing, especially applied to a series. Now I need to get back to petitioning Netflix to pick up the series and retain the original writers.
Random question: Can you believe Essie Davis (Phryne Fisher) was also the mother in the The Babadook??
Freelance writer and Dark urban fantasy author featuring vampires with bite.