Team Dramabeans AMA: Writing, Craft, & Coverage (Part 3)
by DB Staff
It’s time for the last part of our Staff AMA series. We talked all about dramas in Part 1 and Part 2, and now we get to the really fun part — all your questions about writing, how we approach drama coverage, and other fun tidbits.
Fine print: The idea behind this AMA post was for you to get to know the DB staff writers more, so we prioritized questions that leaned towards that. While we did our best to answer everything, similar questions were consolidated, and any of the more editorial questions were answered directly in the announcement post.
What is your writing process like?
missvictrix: I’ve been writing weecaps for years, and was never a recapper, so it feels super comfortable for me. I usually try to watch both episodes back to back, pausing an annoying amount of times to take notes, which are littered with so many typos I often can’t make sense of them. The notes help me remember important moments, plot points, or bits of dialogue that I want to use when I write, but really, when it comes to writing I take the more free associative approach. With the two episodes swimming in my head, I quickly pass through the story developments — depending on how the drama is structured, sometimes I do this by character/plot line, sometimes I do it more broadly and work through the drama’s themes. I’ve found how I handle the weecap really depends on the drama, but I guess what stays the same is my intention to capture the episodes in broad strokes, and then pull out some nuances or details that really landed (or didn’t) for me.
lovepark: It’s changed over the years, but currently, what I do is watch the show straight through while taking shorthand notes. Afterwards, I write the weecap with the show “playing” on the side — this part includes a lot of pauses, skips, and rewinds. Once the weecap is done, I go back and take screencaps.
quirkycase: For weecaps, I start by taking notes while watching the episodes. If I have time, I like to wait a bit before writing to organize my thoughts. Then, I write the weecap using my notes as reference. Next, I edit the copy and determine where screenshots should go, getting a sense of the images I want. After I take and insert the screenshots, I write the intro (which is almost always the final step for me). When I wrote full recaps, the main difference is I would write the recap draft while I watched the episode, jotting down any notes for overall themes/topics for the comments section. Then, I’d flesh out the comments section, edit, and add the screenshots.
mistyisles: I’m a list-maker, so I have a semi-detailed checklist I go through each time to make sure I don’t skip anything. But my basic process is: 1: Watch the episode(s). 2: Take a short break if possible to let it all marinate, so to speak. This helps me get my thoughts in order and identify the major threads I want to pull on. 3: Write the weecap. 4: Take screencaps and clean up the writing. Sometimes the introduction doesn’t get written until literally everything else is done; sometimes it’s the first thing I put on the page.
DaebakGrits: In general, as I watch through a drama, I pause periodically to take notes. Then I sit down at a computer and write primarily from memory and my notes because it’s easier to hit the high points and not get excessively wordy trying to cover all the little details and moments that made me laugh, squee, or groan.
solstices: Back when I wrote recaps, I started out writing while watching, so that I didn’t forget any details. Sometimes I had to pause after a scene to write, while other times I could write as the scene played out. Recently, though, I’ve switched to taking brief notes while watching, then organizing and expanding upon them later. This started with Insider and was cemented after Today’s Webtoon, because both shows had so many plot threads that I couldn’t just write chronologically or it’d get messy and confusing. Nowadays I generally prefer the second method, because it helps me get my thoughts in order. Plus, if I delete a plot point in the process, I’m cutting out a single sentence instead of a whole wasted paragraph. Once I’m done with the main weecap, I write my commentary (which can get very long, oops) and come up with an intro. Screencaps are always the last part of my process, since I match them to my writing.
Unit: I’ve experimented with a number of styles while trying to find a rhythm. But right now, my process is to watch the episode first – making mental notes of shots I might like to capture (most of which never make it to the final cut) and little details I think I might forget. Afterwards, I write out the highlights of the episode, trying to get in as many of them as possible. Then I flesh them out, referring to the episode to make sure the details are accurate. I repeat this process for the second episode the following day, because it’s overwhelming if I have to watch both episodes at once. After I’m done with both episodes, I join the notes together, and fuse them with my opinions and little add-ons to make it a fun read. Ish. The next step (and the one that takes the longest time) is to edit the copy, and this is where I push things around so that the paragraphs flow more naturally into each other. When this is done, I write the intro paragraph. The last thing I do is to capture the images, decide on which ones to use, and where to insert them. Btw, this is surprisingly harder than it looks lol. Then it’s submission time!
Dramaddictally: Since I’ve only been doing it for a few months, I’ve toyed with various methods and just now feel settled on a process that works for me (though I’m still not as fast as I’d like to be). Generally, I watch the dramas, pausing and taking notes as I watch. If I can give it a day until I write, the posts come out better because I’ve had time to think about the main points and how I feel about the episodes overall (and maybe calm myself down before I overreact). I then write the post, and screencap at the end. I used to try to screencap and take notes simultaneously on the first watch, but I got very distracted that way and it took me forever. Now, I know which scenes I want to capture before I go back in. At the end, I edit (and get very perfectionistic and nutty) and then format and submit.
alathe: It’s a haphazard routine that involves a lot of stewing in the show. I’ll be consciously lazy on my first watch – the idea is to enjoy it without thinking too hard. Then, I’ll make a list of the main scenes; if I’m feeling productive, I’ll note down a few lines and observations before I get started for real. Later, I’ll narrow down which sections I want to cover, and rearrange them into a working order. I’ll rewatch each section as I write, to make sure I’m getting a decent feel for the tone, and provisionally mark where I want the images to go. After that, it’s screencap time! By then, I’ll have a pretty clear idea of which images I want to capture, but I’ll often settle on a couple of possibilities before I choose to go with, say, a wide shot, or paired images focusing on facial expressions. The introduction and final paragraphs are always saved for last – and the first image that’ll appear on the article preview is generally the final touch. Oh, and chocolate! Chocolate is an integral part of my process.
Are there any restrictions you impose on yourself while writing?
missvictrix: Outside of trying not to ruin other people’s fun (if they’re enjoying a drama I’m hating, as with Forecasting Love and Weather), I don’t really restrict myself. That being said, I’m also a very forgiving drama viewer. Rather than pick something apart and point out what’s wrong with it, I find it more fun to try to answer why the drama might have done X or Y and work with what they gave us, so to speak.
lovepark: This is advice I received a while back, but no matter how much I dislike a particular show, I always try to remember that someone somewhere enjoys it. It helps me keep my critiques in check, and while I never pretend to like something, I don’t want to be cruel in my writing, either.
quirkycase: My goal is to write authentically and be honest about my opinions, so I don’t impose any specific restrictions. But I do have guidelines that I follow. Although I want to be honest, I also want to be as fair as possible in my critiques, particularly when I don’t like the drama. I’m willing to lay out my issues with a drama, but I try to be balanced about it and not overlook the positives just because it may not be to my taste.
solstices: I think I try not to be too negative unless the drama really warrants it? I don’t want to spoil the fun for people who may genuinely enjoy the drama, and everyone has different tastes after all. Though I do enjoy viewing my dramas with a critical lens, so the above restriction doesn’t apply to constructive critique.
Unit: I generally have an upbeat attitude when covering a drama, and I do more praise than criticism. I try to keep most of the disappointing feedback towards the tail end of the drama, so that I don’t discourage the people following it. Then, unless an actor is really really bad, I stay away from making comments about poor acting. But when an actor does a fantastic job, I don’t hesitate to say so.
Dramaddictally: I definitely impose limits on my screencapping. I don’t like violent images. I also don’t want to show actors making weird faces (sometimes I need to show them mid-cry but I try to be mindful). No matter what is happening in the drama, I have a tendency toward the pretty. In the writing, I try to stay away from commenting on the actors if I think they’re doing a bad job. For me the story is the most important thing, so I prefer to only discuss the actors if they are doing particularly well.
alathe: This isn’t a hard and fast rule, per se, but if I’m being funny, I’ll try to laugh with the show, rather than at it. If there’s a joke, I’ll aim to accentuate it. If the tone of a particular scene is comedic, there’s more leeway for me to be ridiculous too, and poke a little fun – but, if I’m doing that, it’s ideally in order to show how much I’m invested in the characters and their quirks. Not so much, “wow, isn’t it stupid that they did that”, as “hah, isn’t it fantastic and ridiculous that this is the case.”. If it’s super dramatic or serious, I’ll try to capture the mood rather than deflating it. I’ll critique anything particularly egregious, but overall, my goal is to give a sense of my own immersion, and to come at it with enthusiasm.
Which types of dramas are the hardest to write about?
missvictrix: Ironically, the ones I love the most and/or the ones with a lot of nuance and subtext going on. With a standard and more lightweight show it’s easy to pull out the narrative each week and highlight certain details (good or bad). With a show that has a lot more going on, though — A Piece of Your Mind comes to mind here — capturing it (and adequately) is a lot more difficult.
lovepark: Dramas with a lot of subtle details and foreshadowing (especially when things happen in the background). There’s only so much you can include, so dramas that are full of secrets are hard to cover. You never know what might be a relevant plot point but you also don’t want to focus too much on the little things.
quirkycase: I find highly detailed or technical dramas the most challenging. Even though I loved covering it, I’d say Forest of Secrets 2 was likely my most time-consuming and difficult recap experience to date. How do you capture all the important details clearly and concisely without being overly dry in the writing? It’s a hard balance to strike.
mistyisles: I find that the more I love a show, the more pressure I subconsciously put on myself to do it justice. For example, Twenty Five Twenty One was for the most part so beautiful and had me so emotionally invested that I wanted those weecaps to be absolutely perfect.
DaebakGrits: Personally, I find it harder to write about dramas that are mostly serious and melodramatic. Even though I enjoy watching a variety of genres, my natural writing voice is humorous, so anything that requires a more reserved tone feels kind of like I’m forcing myself to be someone that I’m not.
solstices: Mysteries and thrillers are a given because of their red herrings and nonlinear storytelling, but I think the hardest challenges would be the dramas I love. When a drama is just that good, I want my writing to do it justice, which means I put extra care into crafting my piece to evoke a similar atmosphere. Through the Darkness is the best example of this; the final weecap took extra long to write because I wanted to give it the send-off it deserved. Similarly, when I love a show (or a particular actor, ahem) I end up wanting to include everything — cutting out scenes in The Golden Spoon felt like killing my darlings, haha. It’s always a struggle deciding what to leave in — I want my readers to love the drama as much as I do — and what isn’t all that necessary.
Unit: In terms of technicalities, episodes (and dramas) where a LOT of things happen are harder to write about. It’s always a dance trying to decide how much detail to put in, and the ones to leave out – and stressing over the fact that something I leave out might be important later on in the drama. In terms of emotions, it’s always the episodes where things take a turn for the worse. The dance here is swaying between being “professional” and bringing out the pitchforks.
Dramaddictally: As I’ve just discovered, it’s hard to write about action, thriller, mystery-type dramas. Since I’m writing weecaps, which are not the same as a play-by-play recap, it’s hard when you can’t see how something ties into the overarching story or you don’t know which details are going to matter later. Also, I find it difficult to write about anything where relationships are not the center of the story. When every week is more about adding up the clues than about the dynamics between people, it gets tough for me.
alathe: Investigation scenes! It can be hard to sink your teeth into a scene with lots of mini reveals – you’ve got to give a comprehensible outline of how the characters get from A to B without including too many extraneous details, and there’s no time to linger on small moments. I also struggle to cover those long, ambiguous conversations where two characters trade meaningful witticisms or build on each other’s metaphors. They’re absolute gold to watch, but they can be murder to try to capture: you find yourself wanting to include everything, to do the tension justice.
What was the worst drama you covered?
missvictrix: Oh, but there are so many! I think top terrible three are: Melting Me Softly, Forest, and Rugal. That being said, those three are also the most fun I’ve had writing.
quirkycase: I have to say, I’ve been pretty lucky with the dramas that I’ve covered over the years – most of them have been good. If we’re talking my least favorite, I’m going to have to say… The King: Eternal Monarch. *runs and hides*
mistyisles: I wanted to like it, but Jinxed at First was kind of a trainwreck…
DaebakGrits: I think people are expecting me to answer Why Her? (lol), but I honestly struggled more with Again My Life. One way or another, I had a lot to say about Why Her?, but I was extremely apathetic about Again My Life from nearly the very beginning. My general indifference translated to my writing, and I feel bad because I know there were still some Beanies actively enjoying that particular drama.
solstices: I feel like the answer most readers probably expect would be Jirisan, since the drama was met with such disappointment, but I actually did enjoy parts of it! It was quiet and contemplative, and I liked the exploration into humans’ relationship with nature and spirituality. Or maybe I’m just nostalgic since it was the first drama I covered, haha. As such, my answer to this question would have to be Doctor Lawyer, because it was just so bland and predictable. Shin Sung-rok was the best part of the show, and even then his talents were wasted!
Dramaddictally: I’ve only covered three dramas so far, so this might be unfair in such a small selection, but Big Mouth. It was the worst for me personally because it was outside the genres I usually watch, which made it hard to cover within the context of those genres. More objectively, it was the worst because the story was all over the place. It was heavily focused on tripping up the viewer and placing red herrings, even to its own detriment. When misdirection is used well, you reach the conclusion and say, “of course. I should have known. The answer was right there all the time,” and then blame yourself for missing it. But misdirection that is not well handled makes you blame the writing instead, and that was the case with Big Mouth.
What is it like to cover a trainwreck of a drama, and how does it change your approach?
missvictrix: As mentioned above, it’s a lot of fun actually! I like to write about them in such a way as I’m trying to get them to make sense, or just having fun with all the silly and nonsensical things that they do. I approach weecaps for these shows like a friendly elbow jab as opposed to the voice of a furious and unhappy viewer, so I think that’s what makes it so fun.
quirkycase: I wouldn’t call any of the dramas that I’ve covered a true trainwreck through and through, but there were a few I didn’t like or that went downhill. To stay sane, I had to just stop taking it too seriously and have fun with it.
mistyisles: To use my above example, I remember reaching a point where I accepted that the show wasn’t going in the direction I’d hoped, and that I could at least make writing about it fun. I also made a point of looking for positive things I could talk about alongside the critiques, which actually helped me appreciate the show overall more than I probably would have if I were only watching and not writing about it.
DaebakGrits: I’m more likely to procrastinate — on watching the drama and starting my weecap. When I’m covering a show I genuinely love, watching it and writing about it isn’t a chore, but when I’m not interested, it kind of feels a lot like homework that I drag my feet to complete.
solstices: I wouldn’t call any of the dramas I’ve covered so far trainwrecks, but there have been instances where a show was disappointing, or it wasted its potential. I admit it does get disheartening, and it certainly adds to the inertia before starting my weecap. In such cases, I try to make the most out of it by critiquing what the show isn’t doing well; if I’m not enjoying the show, at least I can enjoy writing the analysis.
Unit: I haven’t covered a trainwreck so far, but if I were to answer this as a viewer, I suppose I’d have to make lemonade out of lemons. (Or squeeze them into the production’s eyes as I yell at them from behind my screen.) But it can’t be 100% bad; there has to be at least ONE redeeming quality about the drama that will make me tune in each week. An actor, the OSTs, or even the color palette – just something to be fixated on that will get me through the drama… and now I hope I haven’t jinxed myself. *Bathes in salt to ward off looming trainwrecks*
alathe: I’m lucky, in that I’ve absolutely loved the shows I’ve covered so far. Of course, it’s early days yet! Hypothetically, I think I’d try to make the most of its good parts – present a case for it, whilst still being honest about my opinions. Generally, focusing on an episode in close detail makes me like it more regardless. I’d gesture towards some points of critique – and point out things like sexism, homophobia, or anything else offensive – but, I’d largely keep it light and optimistic.
HOW DO YOU MOTIVATE YOURSELF TO COMPLETE COVERAGE OF A SHOW THAT’S NOT GETTING A LOT OF ENGAGEMENT?
missvictrix: The only time low buzz in the comments bothers me is when I know the drama is worthy of attention it’s just not getting. But regardless of engagement, you can be sure I’m having a good time writing.
lovepark: I don’t feel discouraged by low engagement, so there isn’t anything I do differently to motivate myself. I do feel slightly disappointed if a show I like isn’t getting a lot of love, but that just makes me want to write more about it.
quirkycase: I often go for less popular dramas, so I don’t expect tons of engagement for everything I cover. It can be frustrating when you love a show that isn’t getting much love, but that often makes me feel even more determined to keep writing and hopefully encourage people to watch. Also, I used to be a lurker, so I know that not every reader comments. And then there are those who discover a drama long after it airs. As long as someone is getting value from the coverage, then it’s worth it for me.
mistyisles: Even when the engagement is low in terms of numbers, just seeing that a few people are enthusiastically following along makes it worth it. I also keep in mind that just because more people aren’t watching that show right now doesn’t mean they won’t in the future — and if they do, my weecap will be there waiting.
DaebakGrits: Low engagement isn’t much of a factor for me. I mean, it’s certainly nice when a show is popular and there’s a lot of conversation in the comments, but people are going to watch what they want to watch. With so many dramas hitting the airwaves these days, it’s understandable that people will prioritize what interests them.
solstices: I’m not very fazed by low engagement, given my tastes tend to run so niche (think crime mysteries and dark thrillers) that I’m already used to not having many fellow viewers to discuss shows with. As such, I’m very grateful for every comment I get, and it’s always nice to see recurring names! In some cases (Insider, Grid) the motivation came from my genuine interest in the plot; in some cases (Doctor Lawyer) it was the responsibility to finish the show. And in the best of cases (Through the Darkness), there was a small but loyal community that grew through word of mouth, and it was so rewarding to watch the drama steadily receive more love.
Unit: That the engagement is low doesn’t mean there aren’t people reading – I was once a ghost, so I know this. I do my best with the weecaps regardless of engagement because seeing my writing gracing the pages of Dramabeans is motivation enough. For fewer comments, it’s always nice to see the same set of people coming in every week. It feels like a little family of sorts. 😊
Dramaddictally: I guess it depends how you define engagement. Even when there are few comments on a post, it can be just as fun to have the same people come back every week to have an ongoing discussion, which feels very engaged. To answer the question more broadly, I love writing, and dramas, and writing for Dramabeans, so that would be my motivation even if I felt like I was writing into a blackhole.
Which writers are fluent in Korean?
lovepark: I’m “fluent” in Korean when it comes to small talk and dramas. I don’t necessarily need subtitles to watch a show, but they definitely help for medical and legal dramas.
quirkycase: Fluent would be a stretch, but I am conversational in Korean.
DaebakGrits: Sadly, I am not fluent in Korean. I’ve always struggled to learn other languages because I’m not great at memorization; I’m better with patterns. So I pick up grammatical structures easily, but I have a hard time retaining the actual vocabulary.
solstices: I’m fluent in Korean, so I’ve covered dramas without subtitles before (such as The Good Detective 2 or King of Pigs). That said, if the drama uses a lot of dialect or industry-specific jargon, I get lost, HAHA.
Unit: I know how to say the five magic words in Korean. That should count for something, right?
Do any of you have an account under a different name so you can secretly mingle?
missvictrix: I’ve thought about it, but never pulled the trigger — I was always a lurker before joining the team so commenting was a whole new world for me. Now, I just prefer to comment openly as myself, which is usually in the news posts for some reason…
lovepark: Nope. I’ve always been a lurker, so I never saw the need to have another account. I mostly go around hitting the like button, and make the occasional comment if someone mentions one of my favorite shows or actors.
quirkycase: I actually do think I still have an active account from before I became a writer, but I don’t even know if I can remember the login. So no secret mingling here.
mistyisles: I can’t say I’ve never considered it, but no. I was semi-active as a Beanie in the past, though, so those comments and posts are all still there, for better or for worse.
DaebakGrits: Before I became a Dramabeans writer, I had a different username, but I was very much a lurker. My comment history was literally a single comment that I posted back in 2007. When I became a recapper, I decided my new role deserved an updated username. Daebakgrits replaced my old account, and I do not have another secret account.
solstices: I’ve always been a lurker ever since I started reading Dramabeans years ago, so even though I enjoy reading the comments, I don’t usually feel the urge to participate. While I’ve been trying to be more active in replying to comments on my posts, time (or rather, a lack thereof) often gets the best of me. Still, I always read them all!
Unit: I was a ghost hovering around Dramabeans before becoming a writer, so this is my first and only account. I do more of reading and liking comments than making them, but I try to interact in the comments section.
Dramaddictally: Haha, cute question. Before I started writing, I had a Dramabeans account where I also went by Dramaddictally, but the @ handle didn’t match. As a writer, I created a blank slate account where I could be tagged by the same name. I had the idea of using my original account to keep my reader/viewer comments separate, but realized it didn’t really make sense (and I no longer had time to comment!). The now-defunct account is renamed Over-Dramaddictally @cu2701.
alathe: Hah, nope. I’m an inveterate lurker, and far too prone to overthinking any comments I make as is! I love reading and liking posts, though.
- Team Dramabeans AMA: All About Dramas (Part 2)
- Team Dramabeans AMA: All About Dramas (Part 1)
- Team Dramabeans: Staff AMA – Submit your questions!
- [Staff Spotlight] Get to know alathe
- [Staff Spotlight] Get to know Dramaddictally
- [Staff Spotlight] Get to know Unit
- [Staff Spotlight] Get to know solstices
- [Staff Spotlight] Get to know DaebakGrits
- [Staff Spotlight] Get to know mistyisles
- [Staff Spotlight] Get to know quirkycase
- [Staff Spotlight] Get to know tccolb
- [Staff Spotlight] Get to know missvictrix