For the glory of the characters: Glee

GleeIn a rather embarrassing situation that I cannot entirely explain, I am a huge fan of the TV show Glee.  It’s a ridiculous show about the members of the school Glee Club and their lives in the social sub-basement of High School. They work their way through the traditional misfit hallways that almost all of us walked, but break into song far more often than I ever did. These songs are covers of everything from classic rock to current pop, and they are just endlessly inventive. The cast has a wicked set of pipes on them, and in a few cases have cranked out a cover I like better than the original.  Heresy.

“That was the most offensive thing I’ve seen in twenty years of teaching. And that includes an elementary school production of Hair.”
— Sue Sylvester

The stories are silly and often horribly contrived, but other than music the thing doing the heavy lifting on this show are the insane characters.  Nearly every one of them starts as a cliche, then dials it up just one notch into the absurd to make a thing of beauty. Sue Sylvester is the high-school cheerleader coach (the Cheerios), with an obsession for personal glory and destruction of the Glee Club, and a conviction that disabled access ramps at the school encourages laziness.  Emma Pillsbury is the school guidance counselor, with a fear of germs and an agreement to marry a man if she never has to touch or live with him. Kurt Hummel is a gay fashionista who took a Slushee facial for a friend, and a great football kicker when he can warm up to Beyonce. They’re all brilliant, and I’m endlessly fascinated by the way they are written and the energy the actors bring to the roles. It looks to me like they’re having a hell of a lot of fun.

My body is like a rum chocolate souffle. If I don’t warm it up right, it doesn’t rise.
— Kurt Hummel

Writing extreme or challenging characters is one of my biggest struggles. I can make up some crazy stuff, but then often have difficulty working it into the story. Or I fear I’ve gone too far (or added in something pointless) that will annoy the reader so I back off and they become more vanilla. I know full well that having a strong character with a specific Point of View, quirks, perspectives, and oddities is the fuel of great stories, and great dialogue, but it is far easier to say than do. So I’ll keep working on it, and in the meantime keep watching Glee for inspiration.

…provide what exactly? The understanding that money is the most important thing – or the idea that the only life worth living is one that you’re really passionate about?
— Emma Pillsbury

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About Jeff Moriarty

A dabbler in many arts, from Ignite Phoenix to Improv, and from Information Security to Screenwriting. Jeff loves creating new things, and tries his hand at many forms of writing from screenplays to prose. He pontificates on his personal blog, and helps authors get their works online.


  1. Creating characters that grab the reader I find difficult too – for me I prefer to find a good story… put any character into a good story, with difficult, conflicting situations, and their quirks will shine through.

  2. Ooooooo, I love me some Glee.
    I love it so much that I have the soundtrack and have been working on mastering each song.

  3. @David – I think story and character are intertwined. A great story will fall apart without characters the audience finds interesting or cares about in some way. I’m also much better at crafting a story, then I work hard at trying to find the right characters to populate it.

    @Leslie – I just got the soundtrack this weekend and have been listening to it quite a bit. If you get your renditions down, let me know!

  4. I hope the networks don’t up and cancel this show! From what I have seen it is very well-written with an amazing cast and interesting characters which, as we all know from experience (ie Firefly, Arrested Development, Freaks and Geeks), tends to result in an early demise for some ungodly reason.