Hank Quense writes humorous and satiric fantasy and scifi and an occasional work on fiction writing. This material was taken from his book on fiction writing Build a Better Story. See http://hankquense.com/BABS-main.html for more details on the book.
Daytime TV: A Valuable Addition to Your Writer's Toolbox - Part 1 - by Hank Quense
(c) 2008 Hank Quense
Fiction writers need all the tools they can find, but over time, these tools can become dull and rusty. When this happens to me, I turn to daytime TV. These programs are bashed by critics and viewers, but I have a different spin on these show; I find them, especially the soaps, to be very educational. I write Science Fiction and Fantasy fiction and an exposure to the these programs improves and sharpens my writing skills. How? By providing vivid demonstrations of what happens when a writer ignores the accepted dictums of the craft. The soaps have a wealth of writing violations that can be exploited by experienced and beginning writers as a whetstone to sharpen their crafting tools.
I have no intention of disparaging the script writers for these soaps. I can’t produce a new script or story every day the way they can and I have nothing but respect for their ability to do this. However, the necessity of getting a show on the air means they can revise their scripts only for a short period of time. I, on the other hand, can revise my stories as often as I want, over long periods of time. My early drafts are sprinkled with faults such as I discuss here, but I have the time to weed them out before I submit them to an editor. This is an advantage I have over the script writers.
Using the soaps to fine-tune one’s writing skills requires a special technique. You have to listen to the TV, not watch it. By only listening, the writer will approximate the experience of a reader perusing a book. In other words, you will be using only a single sensory input, but it will be audible instead of visual. The danger in watching the screen is that is you will encounter a variety of sensations, including the spoken word, music, sound effects and colors in the costumes and settings. These multiple inputs will prevent you from getting the point of the illustration.
I have arranged my findings in three groups: Characterization Issues, Storytelling Issues, and Story Issues.
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Check back on December 1st and 3rd for Parts 2 and 3 of this article.