Remember The Brady Bunch? It was a show before my time, but I was an avid Nick at Nite watcher in my teenage years, so I became very familiar with The Brady Bunch, Three’s Company, and Happy Days.
I watched the Brady Bunch movies of the 90s, and sometimes dreamed of being Marcia Brady (although I had a crush on Peter pre-fro), but apparently there was an additional member of the Brady clan who never showed their face on the episodes that I watched.
His name was Cousin Oliver, and he ruined The Brady Bunch.
How the Real World Affected The Brady Bunch‘s Plot
Apparently, Cousin Oliver was one of the most irritating things that happened to The Brady Bunch.
He was inserted into the cast towards the end of the show’s run, and was, by all internet accounts that I can find, annoying as hell.
The cast was aging, and so the producers decided to add a cute kid to the cast to try and keep a hold of that desirable younger demographic that they apparently thought they were going to lose with the aging of the rest of the cast. Besides, a lot of other shows were working that angle too.
The market dictated a new Brady family structure. This is what happens when the real world starts writing the plot of your story.
When World Events Intrude Into Your Story
This happens more frequently in visual media than in literature, but real life can make a significant impact on the progression of a story.
Most of us probably remember 9/11 and the collapse of the Twin Towers. Consequently, nothing set after that date can refer to the Twin Towers as being something that exists in real life.
Similarly, anything set in Berlin after 1990 can’t have the Berlin Wall as part of its set dressing.
Life’s realities don’t necessarily have to be limited to major events in history. They can be influenced by factors outside the world of the work.
Publishers and editors make demands of a story in their vetting process based on these realities.
Sometimes that means chunks of narrative have to be written in or edited out, and other parts have to be revised to make sure continuity remains and the story still makes sense.
When Fans Intrude on Your Story
Even fans play a part in writing plots.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is probably the best known example of this; after killing off Sherlock Holmes, fans were so persistent in their demands to reanimate him that he threw in the towel and brought his anti-hero back to life.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz had a similar story. Author L. Frank Baum never thought of his novel as a series, but fans loved it so much (and the sales were so strong), that he continued writing about the Land of Oz for the rest of his life, penning thirteen sequels.
“To please a child,” he said, “is a sweet and a lovely thing that warms one’s heart and brings its own reward.”
When Death Intrudes on Your Story
After L. Frank Baum died, another author continued the series, writing twenty-one more novels.
Taken to another level, even after a creator dies, their characters can live on in the hands of another.
The most recent example of this is the revelation that the Steig Larsson Dragon Tattoo series will continue on in the hands of David Lagercrantz. Whether this is generally a positive or negative thing is up for interpretation.
Can you think of an example of how the real world influenced a book or film? Share in the comments.