Squid Game Musings

I’m wondering if anyone else is mining Squid Game for writing advice? Character studies, plot, making the reader root for/against another character, foreshadowing, “five-ones”. (Sorry, trying to write this without series spoilers.)

Does anyone know of any online articles about Squid Game and writing techniques? or am I too early for that?

If you watch any of the Youtube reaction videos, you get to hear the viewer/reader talking through the first viewing of each episode.

Warning Many Spoilers here: Squid Game Reactions YouTube

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I recently finished watching it this past week. I intended to try to study some of those things but I’m still trying to decide if some of the awkward parts are instances where direct translation from Korean or Korean culture caused something to be lost in meaning.

Here’s one scene that I couldn’t see making it to the final cut if it was written by a US writer:

(spoiler warning - click the arrow to see the text)

Jun-Ho is interrogating the other diver. When he discovers the ‘zombie’ was missing a kidney, he assumes it is his brother who donated a kidney to him. The diver attempts to convince him it was a woman because they had their way with her first and ‘we wouldn’t do that if it was a guy, would we?’

Aside from all of the cultural and sensitivity issues embedded in that scene, it is such a B-movie line. There are other examples of these, too, where I can’t decide if it is bad writing or awkward translation to English.

I watched the Bridgerton series because of some story patterns in it mentioned by another popular writing instructor. I haven’t had a chance yet to rewatch it for study. Have you seen it?

I’ve watched Squid Game with English subtitles and also dubbed in English. I’ve read about the main translation problems, but I think those are always present in any translation. Worse in movies because how do you explain the meaning behind the Korean name for the game “Red light, Green light” in a film translation? Translation is an art and nuance is often sacrificed for the sake of time. Also, they really pay movie translators next to nothing and press them for timely release of the film/tv program.

The spoiler scene you referenced (aside from cultural, sexual, and sensitivity issues) is also pretty funny. The bad guys are clueless and only partly understand the secondary business they are in. There’s a lot of bravado about how they don’t need the doctor anymore (obviously not true!) But the line you refer to is also a joke - we’re terrible but we would never do that because that crosses their standard macho rule. There are a number of jokes that the translation doesn’t make clear. (According to the actors, director/writer, etc.)

What really fascinates me is how fast the writer gets the viewer to care for specific characters and hate others while leaving doors open for the viewer to change their minds. Watching the reaction videos you can see how quickly the viewers begin to care about the characters.

if we want our readers to like some characters and dislike others, it’s important to pay attention to how other writers accomplish it. Movies can use dialogue, color, music, lighting, and editing to pull us in the intended direction. In writing fiction we can use some of these techniques in our descriptions and in the length of our sentences. A linear type of learning about each character that takes much longer than the same scene in a movie. In movies it can all happen at once. That’s what I would like to do with my writing.

Bridgerton is on my list. I’ll have to start watching it.

I myself have not to date, but now I am intrigued. (I’m off to find out more)
It sounds fascinating!

Great post!

So I recently watched it and quickly saw the use of some quick and dirty character framing tricks. They are not trying to make things subtle and yet somehow the characters take on subtle traits as the series moves forward. Course, there are some of the endings of the characters which just seem contrived and the very end where it is all explained caught me as cheeky. The people behind the games are already dispicable, and they set up a perfect redemption for the one and he just comes off as even worse than imagined.

I don’t really know why it was so successful. There is a mix of people and stories here that just works. Personally I don’t think extreme violence is necessary, but this played to it and I wasn’t turned away. Cringed, shuddered, turned it off several times and came back because the two guys and their mom’s hope in them made me want to see if they somehow overcame.

There is a lot of skillful writing here. Translation aside, the stories were all worthy of completing and none of them competed with the others.