Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Korean Formula and Writing

It wasn't long after I first started watching Korean dramas that I realized they had a certain template, or formula, that they followed that made them dang good stories. (I even wrote about my thoughts on this back then.) And then when Nano rolled about this year I thought it would be fun to try and write a story using this formula.

Imagine my surprise when I went to the latest writing conference (Storymakers back in May) and realized that they had a class addressing this very phenomenon on the list! (I should have known before arriving, but since I was sort of not very much into attending the conference this year I hadn't even looked over the classes until I got there and bam!)

This class, called The Korean Formula, was taught by a couple of authors who are also very much into this fandom, both kdrama and kpop. (Yes! This gives me hope! A person CAN do both!) They are Shelly Brown and Crystal Liechty and here are some of the interesting things they had to say.

First of all, they claimed that maybe we are all trying to tell the same stories, but Korean dramas are using better ingredients! And, they are using tropes, huge tropes, tons of tropes, that work. Tropes that we all love and look for and expect. Tropes that make the story even better.

Some of these tropes are:

  • forced cohabitation... which always intensifies the relationship that's going on in the story. Since this culture has different values than ours (we'll get to that in a minute) they are forced to become friends first and not skip right to sex, which makes this forced cohabitation so crazy and fun.
  • multi generational stories... the importance of family and the respect they have for their elders makes it so we have side stories about ALL the people in the lives of our main characters. Parents and grandparents always have a big part and our main characters are always stressed about what these people think of them.
  • Polar opposites... it seems often it's rich boy and poor girl. What one is, the other is not. You know we always like these kinds of stories!
  • Second male leads... almost ALWAYS there is a second guy who loves the girl, but the girl ALWAYS chooses the main lead. We had an interesting discussion on this and the conclusion is that the second male lead is perfect for the girl, but she chooses imperfection over perfection every time... she loves the main guy enough to choose him even with these flaws. The perfect guy, in the end, wouldn't make her happy cause he's too perfect. I like this thought. Even though it makes my heart ache every single time.
Sadly that's all time they had on tropes (in my link above I listed many more!) but they did have a discussion on the differences between our cultures that make their stories different (better?) than ours. For instance:
  • In America we have this idea of independence and self. That we are expected to go off and discover ourselves and do our own thing. In Korea they stress the importance of family and community and it matters what everyone thinks of you. You don't want to disrespect your family and you don't want to let down your community. 
  • Speaking of respect, it's a huge thing. It's built into their language. You talk differently to people even if they are just a little bit older than you. 
  • Consequences for your actions are bigger. This makes the stakes higher in situations that we might think stupid here.
  • Classic gender roles are still the norm and people are expected to act accordingly.
  • Romance is more about the slow burning developing love and not the lust and instant going to bed together. This is probably one of my favorite aspects about kdramas. 
  • In America we tend to have an idea of entitlement and it's all about me and blame everything and everyone. They have the idea that if something isn't working, your just work harder. You aren't a victim, you don't wallow in stupid things... you struggle and get yourself out and don't blame the world. 
There is so much more that we could have talked about in this class but these are the things we touched on! I loved the discussion and find it to be spot on. There is something different with the way these stories are told that make them resonate more, with me anyway, and with so many other people discovering them!

And now the idea is to use these things to write a fabulous novel! Wish me luck!


  1. Yes! I love that you're combining these two loves of yours. You're going to write something awesome!

  2. Good luck! I live this concept of a book inspired by your love for kdrama



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