From Sarah, With Joy

Writer of all things kid lit.

Here there be poems.

Monday, July 28, 2014

6 Things Writers Can Learn From Scrubs

I recently finished going through the series Scrubs.

Guys, I'm a little in love.

With all of them. Seriously, the writers and actors on this show knew exactly what they were doing. The deftness with which they moved from gut-busting laughter to tear-jerking poignancy was mind-blowing. And they did it every episode. So what lessons can we writers take from this hilarious and well-done show?

1. Sarcasm + Vulnerability = AWESOME. Dr. Perry Cox was my first love of the show. I have serious thing for grumpy, sarcastic, hilarious old men who you just know have a mushy, kicked puppy center. In other words, Dr. Cox was basically tailor made for me. Somehow characters who are for the most part hardened and witty and then stumble into these desperately vulnerable moments make both the wit and the vulnerability that much more piercing. It is really this character (and the genius that is John C. McGinley) that can take the show from this

to this

and back again faster than you can say Percival Ulysses Cox.

2. Running gags make the audience feel included. I don't know about you guys, but this show made me want to Eagle and drink appletinis and start giving people titled high fives. Because I could laugh along at the inside jokes, I felt included. These guys were my friends. And I think this can work in books too, including stand alone novels. When you know the characters' inside jokes, you start feeling like you know them intimately.

3. Let your losers win one every once in a while. Often we have characters that spend the majority of the story being downtrodden. Often its humorous, like with Eeyore, and my maybe other favorite character in Scrubs, Ted Buckland. Yes, I admit, it's funny to see him be Bob Kelso's whipping boy, but seeing him get a win is extremely satisfying. And kinda freaking adorable.

4. Know what drinks your character likes. Saying that JD drinks appletinis is basically a shorthand. We get a glimpse of who he is just by that detail alone. It's all those little details and quirks that make us as an audience feel like we really know the character. It's like how, if you notice, 93% of the time the camera pans to Ted, he's doing this:
That constant hair-pulling, that little appletini, almost tells us more about these guys than entire paragraphs could do.

5. There's just something about buddies. We love watching their antics, and rooting for them as they conquer the world together. Watching a buddy pair that you just know will never, ever be separated...there's just something so comforting and so bolstering about that. And there's just no buddy pair...okay we'll say it, guy love, quite like Turk and JD.

6. Feminine strength comes in different forms. There was no shortage of strong women on this show. I mean, in their own way, every woman was strong. Carla was strongly grounded in her identity. Jordan was strong in her sharp and wacky ferocity. And even Elliot was strong in owning up to her own neurosis and not letting any of them stop her for long. So just remember that "strong woman" is not a character type, because every strong woman is strong in their own unique way. When you recognize that, it might even help you dig deep into your female leads to see what special thing about them actually provides them their strength.

I hope that helps, even if you aren't super familiar with the show. For those of you who are, are there any other lessons for writers that you might take from it?

Write on!

This Week on Social Media:

For more frequent updates, writing tips, and funnies, follow on FacebookTwitterGoogle+,YouTubePinterestTumblrGoodReads, and/or Instagram.


  • North Dakota Quarterly: "North Dakota Quarterly, an interdisciplinary, peer-reviewed journal, seeks contributions for a special issue on the theme of “Slow.” We invite nonfiction essays, short fiction pieces, poems, and artistic images that address or are inspired by this concept of “slow.”..." Due Oct. 1.
  • The Drunken Odyssey: "The Drunken Odyssey, an amazing writing podcast, needs personal essays for its “Book that Changed my Life” segments. Send pitches for essay ideas to For approved pitches, essays should be between 500 and 800 words..."
  • Snake Nation Press: "A prize of $1,000 and publication by Snake Nation Press is given annually for a poetry collection. Submit a manuscript of 75 to 100 pages with a $25 entry fee by August 31. E-mail or visit the website for complete guidelines..." Due Aug. 31.



  1. I agree the writing was amazing on this show. I love comedies that can make you cry - and (although it's not usable in fiction) their use of music was spot on. (I have the album, and it always gives me a Scrubs montage daydream.)

    1. Agreed :) Comedies with soft spots are the best. And yeah, that music was pretty amazing :)

  2. Loved Scrubs - interesting that Zach Braff has continued his friendship with Donald Faison through his two movies. Both movies have some of the inanity and characteristics of Scrubs.

    1. Bromances are the best :D :D :D Quirk and inanity is the best :)

  3. I admit I've never watched the show. The losers do need to win now and then though.

  4. We love Scrubs! In Switzerland, TV was in Swiss German. But, with Scrubs, we knew what they had said, and when to laugh.
    Great characters.

    1. Aww, yay :) The characters were some of the greatest ever on television.

  5. I loved Scrubs too, and like you I like to applaud great writing wherever it appears. Funny because in the UK the few films that make it big often do so because the writing stands out, but it's the US that has shown the way with brilliantly written TV shows. I wonder if it's easier to get someone to take a risk on a quirky new idea in TV than in movies?

    1. Hmmm, interesting. I suspect you're right. I bet TV is a bit less of a risk. I hope the US can put out more great shows like this :)

  6. Love the post. So many insights into characters and what brings them to life. :-)

    Anna from Shout with Emaginette

    1. Glad this is helpful :) The show is such a great example of living, vibrant characters.

  7. I never really followed Scrubs but used to catch an episode once in a while. I have to agree though, the characters were brilliant... of course now I'm going to have to go and watch the whole lot on Netflix. Thanks for that. ;-)

    1. Its worth it :) The characters become your fast friends :)


I absolutely love hearing from you! Thank you so, so much for your thoughts and comments, they really do make my day. Consider yourself awesome. Also, I do my best to respond to every comment within 24 hours, so I invite you to come back and continue the conversation :)

To have weekly posts delivered to your inbox, just sign up here!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...