Who Wrote True Blood? Differences in Books and Film

Before I go farther, I’d like to discuss a couple of points: My first point is that since True Blood is a TV show, and thus a visual and auditory medium, a whole bunch of the show is going to be impossible to imitate in written fiction. Some of the techniques that True Blood uses to create unity between scenes—like color, musical motifs, or facial expressions—can be imagined by a reader, but the effect will never be the same. Our brains process sight and sound faster than symbols on a page. A written “banner can only reappear, rhythm can develop, and the little phrases” can develop lives of their own within the poetry of language, but the experience for the reader is going to be more akin to thought—originating from inside—rather than experienced on the outside (Forster 167).

Fiction is better than film at replicating thought and creating the connective tissue between ideas. The novel-form excels at a certain kind of expanding perception, but cannot do the same things a movie can (Forster 81).

Even though there are many cinematography tools writers can’t use, a writer can still learn from watching a TV show like True Blood. Writers can learn storytelling techniques, such as the use of myth, plot, dialog, and pacing. Those are the tools I hope to deconstruct here.

The second point I’d like to make is that True Blood has many authors and I think it is the multiplicity of voice that gives the show its magic. The actors, the directors, the writers, the producers, the sound and set designers, the cinematographer…all of them are working together to create a unified vision.

What does this mean when it comes to picking whose name goes first on the credits? Far from being egalitarian, cinema is also a capitalistic enterprise and most good sales pitches involve some form of branding since “the author’s name is not simply an element in a discourse” but also “serves to characterize a certain mode of being of discourse” (Foucault 109). This is why True Blood is often referred to as belonging to Alan Ball even though he only wrote two out of the twelve episodes in season two—the rest of the episodes were written by Alexander Woo, Raelle Tucker, and Brian Buckner. Perhaps one of the reasons Alan Ball is given so much credit for True Blood is that its “gay-friendly conservatism” is found in some of Ball’s other projects, such as Six Feet Under, and American Beauty (Tyree 34). It’s part of his brand.

Even so, I think there is a lesson about cinema that shouldn’t be lost on aspiring authors: that truly vibrant stories are almost always the product of more than one mind much in the same way that myth is a part of our collective consciousness, even when it is being channeled through one person (Barthes 143). The more I learn about writing, the more I realize how much of a collaborative effort it is. It takes a village to raise a good story: from supportive spouses, to patient proofreaders, editors, publishers, and readers.

  • Forster, E.M. Aspects of the Novel. New York: Harcourt, 1927.
  • Tyree, J.M. “Warm Blooded: True Blood and Let the Right One In.” Film Quarterly, Vol 6, No 2. pps 31-37. 2009.
  • Barthes, Roland. “The Death of the Author.” Image Music Text. New York: Hill & Wang, 1977.
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About E.S.O. Martin

E.S.O. Martin is a writer, a California native, and a graduate of SF State's Creative Writing MFA program.
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