Characters save plot

Period crime drama serial Dandelion Dead with Michael Kitchen and Sarah Miles was presented some while ago as a TV mini-series. I binge-watched one wet night. It held my attention until the end. And what an end! Its impact entirely depended on the strength of a minor character’s acting ability for one single shot of a few seconds. Chloe Turner did not disappoint and her silent reaction made the play sing.

odd faces on wall

Until then, the plot (based on a true crime from the 1920s) was simple and straightforward: fearsome, bossy wife; weak, lazy husband who kow-towed to her. He longed for a warmer, affectionate relationship; she provoked him with consistently bullying behaviour. He decided to poison her. The play followed the process of his temptation, the opportunity, the deed and its aftermath. The murder was fully predictable and so watchability did not depend on suspense. It might even have been a ‘so-what?’ ending if it had not been for that final brief key moment. It was enough in itself for the audience to know immediately what would inevitably follow…for all the characters. The beauty of this was The Look the character threw at her victim. If a writer can achieve the equivalent at the end of a chapter, or the novel or the short story, that leaves the reader feeling totally satisfied.

This plot of Dandelion Dead might seem too light to please today’s television audiences when graphic and complex crimes – real and fictional – come at the touch of a button, but the drawing of the characters and superb acting made this play memorable.

In novels, too, a light plot does not stop the read being compelling. Sally Rooney and Elizabeth Sturt don’t major on wild plots, but on meaningful relationships that move over time in a riveting manner. It’s often that key moment that remains in the memory.

Published by

Rosalind Minett

Author of historical trilogy, A Relative Invasion. Rosalind has an extensive background as a psychologist.

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