Entries in The Wire (1)

Thursday
Feb232012

TV Can Improve Your Writing

Been wathching a lot of television lately (it's okay; 711 Press encourages that). Watching good TV, they say, helps to get the creative juices flowing; put you in the right mood for writing. I've certainly experienced that, and I've been thinking very cinematically of late. Most of my TV-watching is restricted to DVD though, as I search for the past gems that have long gone dark on the airwaves and now find renewed life via Netflix streaming and DVD viewing. The Shield is one such show, and I can say for certain that the serialized, episodic style that they've chosen for the shows unfolding story arc works wonders. You can imagine a good book unfolding that seamlessly, and that is exactly what I saw with a recent TV show released by 711 Press called Mafiosi. It took the 13-episode arc (similar to that of The Shield) and unrolled an entirely seamless series of events peppered with drama, action, suspense, mafia hijinks, and so much more. In short, it had my imagination swimming. (It reads more like a serialized Goodfellas than The Shield though).

That's what I'm learning here. Storytelling should be a fluid, kinetic experience (and of course "kinesis" refers to motion, and activity, meaning nothing about your story should be stagnant). That is one major tip I'm allowed to give away. You can learn a lot by sitting down and watching TV (so says 711 Press co-founder Daniel Middleton, who stresses this on a monthly basis). But you can't just watch it for entertainment. You have to become a student of storytelling. Catch the flow of dialogue, gauge the story arc and plot momentum, etc. If you can capture half of the wonderful essence of shows like The Wire, The Shield, or even Battlestar Galactica, you'd have pure gold on your hands.

But it ain't easy, let me tell you, and even when you THINK you've got it down cold, your editor or publisher will tut-tut while shaking their head as their eyes run down the pages of your manuscript. "You're overreaching here." "This character is introduced without purpose." "Some of the dialogue is stilted." "Let's rework this." More often than not though, I do get a, "This is brilliant. You get what we're all about here, Joe."

Pays to learn is all I'm saying.