Learning the best Korean drama plots completes my duty as a writer, pinpointing which of which applies the best in my work. Before 2018 ended, I posted a thread in a great community I found on Disqus about their best Korean drama plots they love to watch out for.
Initially, I didn’t have expectations, however, their responses were overwhelming that got me off-guard. Why am I asking this to them, as viewers of Korean drama series, in relation to writing your books?
Just so you know, I learn how to convey my theme to my readers by observing how Korean writers do it. I notice every itty-bitty detail they show on television and as a writer myself, I want to see how viewers react. I love to know their reactions and their thoughts about it.
Table of Contents
17 Best Korean Drama Plots That Hook Us
- 1. Strong and smart female leads
- 2. Amazing chemistry between characters
- 3. Attention to details of the way they appear
- 4. Importance of great locations
- 5. Sense of humor
- 6. Effective (psycho) villains
- 7. Likable and relatable second lead (in case of a third triangle)
- 8. Casting
- 9. Depicting main leads’ mistakes resulting in tragic outcomes
- 10. No push and pull relationship
- 11. Avoiding abusive themes
- 12. Sincerity from characters
- 13. Relatable characters
- 14. Making readers cry
- 15. Conservative view towards sex scenes
- 16. Fast-paced scenes
- 17. Dark, psychological, and mystery well-handled plots
17 Best Korean Drama Plots That Hook Us
In the end, as a Korean drama addict myself, I compiled 17 points (originally 21, but I merged the others of the same thought), very important reminders, every writer has to keep in mind to know what their readers expect.
Are you ready, writing buddy? Let’s get started, shall we?
1. Strong and smart female leads
According to my survey, most of the commenters mentioned that they want female leads that are self-confident and adamant about what they think is best for them, without giving a damn on other people.
These characters must not be afraid to show affection to a guy, chase a dream or belief she believes in, be independent, doesn’t rely upon the main lead too much. They’ve had enough of those female protagonists that act the opposite and keep on complaining and whining albeit struggling situations.
2. Amazing chemistry between characters
As a writer, whenever you put your character to a test, you have to make sure their characteristics and other attributes complement each other. You don’t just put this and that person in the story just because.
3. Attention to details of the way they appear
And that includes the way they dress, as a way to know them and their personality. In building your character profile, it’s very, very, very important to write clear descriptive attributes to allow readers to create a vivid image in mind of how the characters look like.
Apart from their physical features, you also take note of their language. Their dialogues per se. Each of your characters must have a distinct tone. If cussing is part of him, let him do it. Let the readers hear it. This principle applies to all your characters in your story.
4. Importance of great locations
What would your first impression be if you knew the story takes place in a cemetery? You’d think it will be spooky or suspenseful. You’d imagine a villain chases the main leads with a big ax.
That means it’s important as an author of your own story to keep this note in mind. Your location, where your story will be, affects your readers’ expectations as well as their emotions at stake while reading your work.
So, it’s vital to choose the settings apt for your plot. I have no qualms with you choosing any location you want. But, it should be appropriate and related to the story you’re writing. Although it’s inspired by the nearby town where you live, it doesn’t mean you take it as it is.
5. Sense of humor
If appropriate, especially at the beginning of your story, you can incorporate silliness in between your characters. You can do that by allowing one comical character to ease the oozing tension or if you think that the scene is too heavy.
6. Effective (psycho) villains
Most of the commenters in the thread emphasized that it’s not only enough to have attractive protagonists and ugly antagonists. We’ve had enough of that cliche.
Because, in reality, there are many handsome villains that effectively scare and threaten simply using their charisma. In fact, one of them said that she wanted to have them sexy.
Setting those attributes aside, their backstories are highly significant. They aren’t being villainous because they want it. They’re humans in pain caused either by childhood trauma, injustice, or victim of a crime, leaving them helpless.
7. Likable and relatable second lead (in case of a third triangle)
When writing romance, it’s the most common sight for most readers the second lead, trying to intervene in the protagonists’ love. He or she has their own reasons behind their move, but obviously, it’s not revealed until the story heads towards the end.
Albeit their position as antagonists in the story, you also have to make them likable by giving them traits that readers relate to. As I have pointed out earlier, they don’t exist as bad guys because they want to be like that.
Most of the commenters watch Korean dramas with the best casting. The specified names of actors and actresses they think will portray a certain character the best. (Even my mother, who loves to watch Korean series, does that, too!) 😀
9. Depicting main leads’ mistakes resulting in tragic outcomes
One of a few comments I’ve seen in the thread cited is that amid the happy endings most of the readers (and viewers alike) want, there are some who preferred to have a realistic plot.
They want to see the characters as real persons who commit mistakes just like any person does. Their inevitable errors, unfortunately, lead to loss, regret, guilt.
One of the Korean drama series that perfectly describe this is Hae Soo of Scarlet Heart Ryo, wherein she thought her decision of leaving Wang So is right. But it turns out, it wasn’t.
10. No push and pull relationship
For me, this is one of the pitfalls most writers fall into. You know like the character decides to leave and returns, but then she leaves again because she thinks it’s not right for her to stay with him.
These kinds of the storyline make it dreading for your audience. If you were in the shoes of your readers, would you like to read characters acting like this? No, right? Then why would you write such a scene?
Further, avoid cliche with a mature theme to the point it shoos away your audience. That said, it’s best for writers to develop their characters in a way that’s mature when handling difficult situations without whining or acting immaturely. Be as realistic as you can.
11. Avoiding abusive themes
Even my editor, Sandra Haven, wants me to inform her about the possible abusive themes contained in my book “Accidental Quest.” I told her, there’s a depiction of torture for the main lead, Beth.
For a writer like me, it’s best to give your readers a warning of what’s coming. Themes like rape, drugs, torture, and sex. should be taken seriously. Especially if you’re writing on Wattpad like me.
As obvious as it sounds, most of the commenters want to stay away from Korean drama series with a hint of abuse in the plot. If you think it’s unavoidable, make sure it doesn’t intrude on the whole story, or else they’ll leave your work and move on. Even myself, I don’t like it if it’s way too much abuse.
12. Sincerity from characters
When it comes to showing sincerity from your characters, as a writer, it means you have to return to how real people react to certain situations, including the most difficult. Do they exaggerate? Take note of them. Observe these people who have gone through a lot of hurdles this year.
At this point, to make your characters relatable as possibly as they could, it’s important to portray them based on reality. Realism in fiction, they say. Given this, this leads to my next point.
13. Relatable characters
One commenter stated that the first thing he noticed as one of the best Korean drama plots he loves is the characters’ relatability. For him, to help him overcome the distress after losing his wife, he watches “Love Rain” back in 2012 simply because the character resonates with how he’s feeling at the time.
For you, as the author of your story, you keep this in mind. The important issue when it comes to building your phenomenal characters is making them real. And being realistic is to keenly observe real people.
14. Making readers cry
I love to do this in my books. As an author, I write these scenes while listening to the saddest songs for hours. I have to listen to the singer’s sentiments and his pains to keep that scene going.
While writing these scenes, I cry. If I cried, my readers did. So much. Especially when they didn’t expect a sad cliffhanger at the end of the chapter, leaving them desperate for the next chapter the next day. So, how do I do sad scenes readers love?
I only have one tip for you, my writing buddy. Make your character relatable. Place them in a realistic situation where they feel helpless. All they can do is cry and repent. Make them sob because of their faults or blames.
As you write that scene, make sure at the beginning they’re desperate not to make that “sad event” happen. But even at their limits, that “sad event” happens. It’s beyond their control and they can’t do anything about it.
To make it sadder, make them happy at the beginning and start including scenes where one by one they feel like losing their happiness to the point they’re desperate.
15. Conservative view towards sex scenes
When you’re fond of Korean drama series, you’d notice this. There are fewer sex scenes. If there are, the writers tend to include if and only if they’re needed.
Let’s take “Secret Romance” as an example. The protagonists engaged in a one-night stand, which it’s actually the main point where the conflict starts. You include sex.
In my gay romance, “The Rival,” I included a lot of sex scenes because they’re needed to get the characters going. There are steamy scenes intended to commence another conflict to the next. I didn’t add them just because I feel like it.
16. Fast-paced scenes
Don’t prolong the conflict simply because you want to reach 60,000 words. Put the conflict right away and let the story flow. Start strong and end strong.
The thing is, if you’re a pantser, you’re likely to fall into this trap. I was a pantser so I know what I’m talking about. I kept adding scenes to achieve my 1,000-word count, only to find out my story becomes boring while reading it (after 1 year of writing).
Why? Because I drag almost every scene just to keep the story long.
17. Dark, psychological, and mystery well-handled plots
This is where my books are positioned. After writing many books, I started to notice common themes. They’re all touching dark themes involving psychological with a hint of mystery. To add some spice, I included these in a teen romance. Plus, I added action. They’re intense themes in one book. It’s a risk, but my readers love it.
There are many who made attempts, without planning, they failed. Why? Most writers, pressured to create the best Korean drama plots, plan this ahead of time. Touching dark themes like this require in-depth research. I do that in most of my books.
I interview people as well as do my own research online and in print. It’s a lot of work at the beginning. But after you finalized your novel outline and you’re set for writing, the excitement sinks in. That’s the thrill.
Like most of the writers, including me, to make sure we handle dark-, psychological-, and mystery-themed plots, we have to plan and research ahead of time prior to the writing process to handle it well.
Otherwise, our characters, no matter how much they make effort to survive, will never survive and die without being remembered. That’s frustrating. So much.
For sure there are many best Korean drama plots we fail to notice, but what’s important is how the audience accepts the story as a whole. And in order to make it pleasing in their taste buds, as a writer, the 17 highlighted plots should not be taken for granted.
When writing our story, requires a lot from us. Our emotions. Our physical conditions. We get carried away scribbling chapters without noticing the time, resulting in exhaustion and at times, starvation. It happened to me.
Our emotions are at stake most of the time, especially if we have to write certain scenes – although required – we want to run away in search of an easy escape. There are times I want to avoid writing these scenes, but for some reason, I couldn’t stop myself from including those, given that my books are requiring those.
Nonetheless, we keep our stories fulfilling in our audience’s lives by creating the world we share the bond and our characters to relate with. To do that properly, we plan our novels ahead of time prior to the writing phase making sure we make them as properly as we can.
If we plan, we can see the plot holes, even the weak or dragging scenes in advance. Likewise, our characters’ illogical decisions, which we think are way too much. To create the best story, we keep them close to reality albeit it’s fiction and it’s unreal.