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Unorthodox Writing Tips 17: Turn the TV on!

I won’t lie. There are times when I just love so sit and watch television. I did so tonight while I ate dinner. I watched the Big Bang Theory (still the funniest show on television), Two and a Half Men (I don’t know why I still watch this show), and The Soup (gotta watch this show). Then I sat and watched VH1 Behind the Music remastered: Ted Nugent.

Now I know I need to be writing. I get that. But there are times when watching a little quality television will help you. Personally I can feel my brains being sucked out the side of my head during certain shows that I won’t name here, but there are some good shows on. What do I look for in a shows? I’m glad you asked.

I love to watch the Big Bang Theory for several reasons. One being a major geek I love to see all the references they drop in there. Sure, that’s fun, but the interaction between the characters on the show is so natural that I’ve often said “Oh! That reminds of <insert person’s name here>.” To me that’s what makes a great show when you can relate to the characters and see bits of yourself or your friends in there and to see interaction that flows naturally instead of looking rehearsed and forced.

Two and a Half Men used to be really funny. Why? Because the main character was Charlie who basically played a caricature (ok, not really) of himself. This made the show really funny because you could see Charlie Sheen doing something like that. I’m sorry, but without Charlie Sheen the show just isn’t as funny because Ashton’s character isn’t real enough to be funny.

There are some reality shows I like to watch. One on tonight is Gold Rush. This show I like because I like most of the people on the show. I’ve been able to tell when they’ve had to reshoot a scene and there have been times when you can tell people are hamming it up for the camera, but there are a lot of times when people are just themselves. This is true for some reality shows, not all.

Even beyond that, I love to watch a good documentary. There is so much information and it’s interesting to see differing viewpoints on how something happens.It doesn’t matter if it’s about the pyramids of Egypt, China, Ancient Aliens, How it’s Made, I love a good documentary now and again. Just to fill my head with information on a wide variety of topics.

I’ve watched all the Metallica documentary videos (a couple times each) and there were many issues reported in the news and speculation as to what went down or how it went down, but to see it actually happen on camera is great. To see people who are held up as stars act like regular people at one moment and like a super start the next really broke down what the members of the band were about.

So where am I going with watching television? It’s a way to be voyeuristic and see how people interact with each other. To see what are they wearing, what’s in the background, how do they hold themselves, all the things I’ve been talking about here for weeks you can do watching television. You can combine all that people watching into a good viewing.

Don’t just watch the story playing out before you. Think ahead. Where are they going with that joke? Did you see that prop they were about to use before the used it? On the reality show, does it look like they waited for the camera to show up before they took care of something or did it look natural? How do the characters on the show hold up to your expectations?

Apply something you see in a television show into your writing. Perhaps write a reality short story where you show a scene, then have the characters talk about it after the fact as to how they really felt versus how they acted in the moment. Write a short story based on an episode of a show you watched and write an alternate ending. Create a new world and drop in someone you saw that you thought was interesting and see how they react to the world you created. Take a speech pattern of a charter and see how your character sounds in your head talking like that.

There are many exercises you can apply to your television viewing. Don’t just veg out and watch things happen. Think ahead while you watch. Store all that in your brain and see when you need to write a scene and you’re stuck, draw from that wealth of knowledge in your head and bring that scene to life.

Until Next Time!