There are shelves of how-to writing books available in your local bookstore. Each book is chockfull of writing tips and advice. I’ve bought a few of them, but I think I’ve learned the most about writing from watching a few television series again and again and again. The two I’ve watched most often are West Wing and Gilmore Girls.
So how does watching the telly help me with writing? When you watch shows multiple times, there are stick out in viewing three that you never noticed in viewing one. By viewing six those things can be down right annoying. Let’s use Gilmore Girls for example. Here are a few things that poke at my brain.
• There are multiple episodes set in February because mother and daughter celebrate Valentine’s Day. In these episodes, there are leaves on the deciduous trees (usually green leaves). Has the set designer never been to Connecticut or anywhere in the Northeast in the winter? Our deciduous trees drop their leaves.
• Much is made of the Gilmore’s horrible eating habits. The duo live on take-out and junk food. At Luke’s they order burgers and fries and on many occasions eggs, pancakes, bacon, and more for breakfast. There are plenty of comments by people amazed by how the girls remain slim despite their diets. Well, of course they’re slim. They never eat more than a bite or two of whatever they order. Luke brings them their burgers and fries along with a warning about their eating habits (try a vegetable why don’t you) and they each take a bite and run out of the diner to go do something. (Maybe they have to go home and shake the snow off their green leaves.)
• When Laine sneaks off on a double date with Rory and Dean and they don’t tell Lorelei, Lorelei is angry. She tells Laine she can’t lie for her. In her mind that is breaking the mom code and she won’t do that. However, Lorelei does allow Laine to listen to her music, organize a rock band, and practice with her band, all hidden from her mother, in Lorelei’s home and garage. Is that part of the mom code?
There are lots more examples, but you may be wondering how these things serve as a writing lesson for me. It’s because these details matter and do get noticed. When I’m writing a scene, I need to be aware of the setting. Am I being consistent? Am I being realistic? In chapter two, a character can’t be at home enjoying the distinctive aroma of her wood burning fireplace, and then in chapter 12 be dressed in a parka and shivering in the cold because the power is out and she is trapped inside her house by a snowstorm. (Throw a log on the fire, girl!) If the same character hops a plane to Florida once the storm clears and discovers it’s only sixty degrees there, she isn’t going to throw that parka back on even if the native Floridians are digging out their ‘cold weather’ clothes. To a Northerner, sixty degrees in February is a heat wave.
I’ve also learned about character development from the shows. The audience roots for Lorelei and Rory. These are two very flawed characters, but we love them anyway. I’ve learned my characters can make mistakes, make bad choices, and not always treat others the way should, because it makes them more real.
This post has gone on for a long time and if I don’t stop here and get some work done then tonight I won’t be able to watch the two episodes of Gilmore Girls I have on the DVR. I can count that as work time, right? It will be like attending a two hour workshop on writing!
Have a great week!
PS For those who didn’t contact me, but want to know the truths from the lie. I did NOT weave a secret message into the PROVIDENCE for my kids. I do love puzzles and that is something I would love to do, but I did not.