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Saturday, June 13, 2009

TV is My Classroom

What? Did you read that right? Did a writer mention television in a blog that's all about books?

Feel free to be confused.

I've had a long love affair with the written word. Since grade school. But I've also had a side fling going on with television. (Sh, don't let my muse know!)

After school I started out watching Bugs Bunny cartoons and Popeye, then I graduated to "Star Trek" repeats and "The Outer Limits." Night-time TV ran the gamut from "Little House on the Prairie" (had to keep up with the Ingalls family, even after that ridiculous twins plot with Nelly...one would be raised Christian, the other Jewish? Yeah. Okay.) to "Scarecrow and Mrs. King" to "Beauty & the Beast."

Back then, though, I wasn't writing books, not even short stories.

When I think about those days, now that I'm a published author, I recognize that television was my education in storytelling--in plot, character, and motivation. In 30 minutes or an hour I could watch an entire storyline from beginning to end. Faster than reading a book. (Don't worry, I was reading a lot of books, too.)

As an avid tv viewer I had many chances to plot in my head. My favorite game (and it still is today) is to take a tv storyline and run with it in my own imagination. Don't like the ending? Change it in your own head. Wonder what the mystery is? Make up your own to answer all the questions. Television was a great tool for me to learn about good writing. Yep, the idiot box!

I've never really liked procedural shows...the Law & Orders, the CSIs, etc. I never understood why until recently. These shows, to me, are very predictable. The character development is light and the emphasis on the 'mystery of the week' is pretty heavy. To me, it's too formulaic for my crazy creative brain. After about 10 episodes, I'm done with whatever the hot new procedural show is.

Shows I never get sick of? Plot heavy or character heavy ones like "Lost" or "Battlestar Galactica" with detailed worldbuilding and a complex cast of characters I'm always trying to pick apart. Those are the kinds of shows that spark my imagination. While trying to figure out exactly where something like "The Sarah Connor Chronicles" is headed, I inevitably come up with plot ideas of my own. (Damn FOX for canceling that show, by the way...it was just getting good!)

I don't see tv viewing as wasting time at all. I view it as a class for writing right in my living room by some of the best entertainment writers out there. So if you're an aspiring writer looking for some tips on how to write a good story, turn on your tv and start watching!

Kris Eton


Read my Arctic Heat series now available from Cobblestone Press:


1 comment:

Glynis said...

I am not a TV watcher,but I have a few shows that I love, because the storylines are not predictable. Stargate, Ugly Betty and Desperate Housewives will get me to put down a book, they are cleverly written.