Writing Tips from Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life

If you're out on the road... oh, man. Being reunited with the Gilmore Girls was the dream. My mom and I tucked ourselves into the couch cushions with coffee (and tea, for her) and laughed and cried our way through the four seasonal installments. Funny enough, a Year in the Life debuted in the same week as my novel, That Was the Year. Totally unplanned. Totally clandestine. 

Recently, I wrote a post about writing tips from Hamilton, and now I'm diving into the writing of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, and exploring what you can bring to your novels and stories. 

NOTE: There will be spoilers in this post, so please don't read on if you haven't watched all the episodes yet!

Here's the challenge I see with revivals. On the one hand, you want the show to feel the same. You don't want to make any crazy shifts in your characters or else your audience will revolt, but, you do need to provide more information on what the characters are up to now. Not to mention the fact that there needs to be a plot of some kind. 

WHAT GILMORE GIRLS: A YEAR IN THE LIFE DID WELL

MOURNING RICHARD'S LOSS

I would argue that the whole show hinges on the loss of Richard. Emily tries to navigate being alone for the first time in years, ultimately finding happiness in a new city and interesting job. While the loss doesn't ultimately affect Rory's storyline, I think his loss could account for some of her questionable decisions. 

And Lorelai? Her wrestling with Richard's death is probably the most emotional of them all. She can't connect with Luke or her life in Stars Hollow, so she decides to go on an adventure to find herself. Ultimately, she finds a way to grieve. 

WRITING TIP: Pick your emotional moments. Grief is a powerful emotion to explore in your characters, and it manifests itself both subtly and overtly. 

LORELAI ALWAYS

Okay, I'm biased. I think Lorelai is the most captivating character on the show. In these four installments, we see our favorite parts of her: the wit, the fast-talking, the town antics. We also see the worst parts of her: the grudge against her parents, the avoidance of emotions, the commitment issues. 

Here's the thing, though: she figures it out. She's growing, too. Old Lorelai would never ever agree to counseling with Emily. And even though they don't get anything done, she keeps showing up anyway. Yes, she lies to Luke. Yes, she runs away. But, she finds her Richard story and returns with clarity. 

WRITING TIP: Find the Lorelai character for your story. The crowd pleaser. The one with the wow factor. (For me, that character wound up being Reese in These Are the Moments.) 

STARS HOLLOW

Oh, this town. I love that we can return right into the heart of this quirky little hollow and find that everyone is basically the same. Kirk is still coming up with zany business ideas and bonus! We get a follow-up to his first film. Rory and Lorelai have to run a paper route, which is very nostalgic, as Gilmore Girls always does so well. And the Life and Death Brigade scene? Divine. 

WRITING TIP: Don't forget about your setting! For me, setting isn't as fun as characters, but if you can treat your setting as a character, then you're golden.

WHAT GILMORE GIRLS: A YEAR IN THE LIFE DID NOT DO WELL

RORY'S BEGINNING

Warning: personal opinion coming. (Well, technically, this whole blog is my personal opinion, I suppose.) I don't believe that Rory's characterization was handled well in this series. It felt very jarring that she would be so cavalier about sleeping with an engaged Logan, when she'd already made that mistake with Dean. 

Am I saying that people can't make the same mistake twice? Nope. But I don't think that Rory's approach to this was very... Rory. I think maybe if we'd had more insight into her decision-making, this could have been cleared up. But it feels like we're intentionally kept at a distance to Rory, probably because of the last four words, and it causes a bit of problematic characterization. 

WRITING TIP: Be vigilant about your characterization, especially in series creation. If you'd had time away from your characters, do your homework! Reread. Practice writing in their voice. Do serious character work. 

THE PACING

It feels wrong to complain about more Gilmore, but the show excels at its usual 42 minute running time. These 90ish minute running times don't fare well. Because the Gilmores are so fast-talking, I don't think they need that much space for story. It doesn't work in their favor. 

Where is this most obvious? The Stars. Hollow. Musical. I know, I know. This may be the only time I complain about a musical ever in my life, but in this case, I must. For non-writing reasons, I know the show wanted to utilize Sutton Foster as much as possible, and I don't blame them. She's flawless. But this musical dragged. 

WRITING TIP: Be aware of the pacing of your story. When in doubt, get advice from beta readers. Ask yourself, "How does this serve my plot/characters/story?" 

THE CURRENT CULTURE REFERENCES

Is it fair to say that a major theme for Gilmore Girls is nostalgia? We love that Lorelai still wants to keep all her VCR tapes. We love that she doesn't want high speed Internet or for Kirk to install an alarm. We love that Emily doesn't want to be Googled, and that they can't figure out a GPS to save their lives. 

It's jarring to have real world references play such a significant role in this revival. I loved the teaser when Lorelai asks if Rory thinks Amy Schumer would like her. But I don't like that Wild played such a huge part in the plot. It recycles old material (that is very un-Lorelai, by the way) and leans too heavily on another body of work.

WRITING TIP: Be aware of your strengths and be careful about borrowing from other's work. Again, this is feedback you can ask of your readers and friends. Cater to your strengths, especially in a series, and don't rile your readers.

SUMMARY

As a fan, I am head-over-heels, heart-happy with this revival. I laughed with Lorelai. I reignited my love for Jess. (Oh, yes. Team Jess.) And I got to sit in at another town meeting with Taylor. As a writer, I think this revival had good and bad moments. But overall, it's a model for brilliant dialogue, impeccable characters and stellar setting. Oh, and there's coffee, so it wins by default.

So, what's your analysis? Was it everything you wanted it to be? Let's chat in the comments!