In the world of literature and television, there is a contract between authors and readers, writers and TV viewers: some details are fiction but others must be real.
I love shows that revolve around the high-stakes world of big business and capital markets, like Billions (especially the early seasons), Succession, and Partner Track. But I DNFd (Did Not Finish) one British show (scroll to the end of this email to find out why and which one), that I felt wasn't authentic and sophisticated enough.
In Recode Media, Peter Kafka’s excellent podcast about technology and entertainment, he once interviewed Melissa Merr - a Wall Street Journal veteran and an advisor on Succession.
Merr talked about how showrunner Jesse Armstrong wanted Succession to be as realistic as possible, constructing a comprehensive framework for the fictional company Wey Star Roco. They defined its businesses, shareholders, holdings, and its corporate structure.
There always was and always will be tension between fidelity and drama, i.e., how much we stick to the facts, and how much we can stray away for the sake of the story. But Merr said that when she told Jesse: no, this kind of corporate action would never fly, he would always listen to her.
I'm glad he did. I believe that even if viewers don't grasp every detail, they sense the reality and depth and eventually every fallacy behind the narrative.
I face similar dilemmas in my stories.
In my book Crunching Her Numbers, the lead character, Kelly, works in an investment management firm (that greatly resembles a firm I used to work at). Israeli law mandates the presence of a VP Investments, a role I held for many years, who is responsible for managing portfolio managers and is accountable to clients and the Israeli Securities Authority.
I didn't want Kelly to be a VP Investments, and I also didn't want her to have to answer to one.
After much deliberation and conferring with friends from the industry, I eliminated this role.
Did it compromise the realism of my story? I don't think so. I adhered to other Israeli laws and regulations and told my story pretty realistically.
Here is the Recode episode with Merissa Merr.
The British show I disliked was Industry. I quit watching it after one episode for two reasons:
The economic discussion was too basic.
A young woman was sexually harassed by an older woman. There are very few women who work in the industry and even fewer who are rich and powerful - and this is what you choose to show?