Bryan Singer’s new digital series, H+, grabs you by the gut and won’t let go: brain implants directly connect you to the web; enter network virus, instantly killing those connected. Think EMP/bioweapon apocalypse. But better.
The most intriguing part of this series is its professed storyline. Purported to be crafted so you can watch the episodes in any order, the series fascinates me as a writer. How do you craft a storyline so that all the arches, all the themes, all the subtext, all the subplots retain their continuity and poignancy no matter the order of situational events and character choices? So, in technical lingo: how the hell did John Cabrera write the thing?
I aim to find out. If I could pick John Cabrera’s brain, here’s what I’d ask:
- When he approached the storyline, did he start linear to get the pieces in place and then jumble them up?
- When did the threads of subtext and subplots come into consideration and development?
- How did he ensure continuity among all the themes, character arcs, etc. throughout?
- How did he make each episode self-contained? Was there a specific tactic he used (either within story or cinematically)?
- How did he and his team decide what non-linear aspects would be carried by story and what would be carried cinematically?
And if I could slip in a bonus question, it would be: Since he encourages the audience to engage with him online during the viewing of the episodes, how does he keep the suspension of disbelief high enough so that the audience remains an audience and doesn’t shift into armchair critics?
Regardless, I’m thrilled someone has the gall to this. Audiences are too narrative saturated: what used to be a good level of predictability in storyline for an audience has turned into boredom. (I’m pretty convinced that some movie makers are confusing narrative boredom with desensitization or visual boredom, but that’s a blog for another time.) I think this idea of truly non-linear storylines, where the non-linear aspect is in the hands of the audience, may usher in some well-needed narrative innovation.