Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

The sun is out and it's unseasonably warm today. My kids are playing in the yard and loving life. I'm enjoying having some reprieve from endless repeats of Dora the Explorer and the opportunity to clean my house.

Valentine's Day for me is a non-issue. When I was younger and single, I wanted to have a Valentine. I was always jealous of the others who got chocolates and flowers and dates. I thought that I would just die if I didn't have a Valentine. Now that I'm married, I have a Valentine every day, so I don't think as much about needing flowers and chocolates and fancy dinners to help me know that someone loves me. In fact, yesterday, my husband said, "Do you have any plans for tomorrow?" I told him that I didn't. It only occurred to me an hour or so later that he was asking if there were Valentine's Day plans. So, that's how my day will be today, I'm sure.

In honor of the love that should be abounding on this day, I wanted to mention a lesson I learned. It's from the TV show that's all about love... the Bachelor. That's right. I watch the Bachelor. I watch it on my computer while the kids are watching the same episode of Dora for the 7th time. Strangely, I'm learning a lot about writing from watching an "unscripted reality show."

First of all, if you have characters that are relatable, people will be invested. Even when the character is the "tramp" or the "drama queen", people will tune in to see what happens next with that person. Have you ever gone to the website of a show like the Bachelor? There are discussion boards in which people spend inordinate amounts of time talking about what's going on in the show and why so-and-so should have gone home or stayed. And a lot of the people commenting really do care about it. People get into virtual cat-fights over the people they have connected to. In writing, we have to have characters that people will be invested in, even if it's the bad guy.

Second, people need emotions. The Bachelor wouldn't be as successful if there wasn't an emotional payoff. We watch to get lost in the wonder of finding true love (or maybe the silliness of trying to find true love in that setting.) We watch to see the girls who get rejected crying. Or whatever reason. We want to see something with emotion in it. Our writing needs to evoke an emotional response; happy, sad, love, fear. We have to leave people feeling something.

Third, editing really is important. They film hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and ... you get the point. They only air two hours (with commercial breaks) of footage from a week of events. The editors have to figure out what is important, what to leave out. which camera angle of the shot will be the most effective. They have to hide the end until it really is the end. They have to grab your attention and leave you wanting to come back next week. In writing, we can't just write the story and think that those are the only words that need to be written. Or even that those are the best words to tell the story. We have to edit the story so that we get the best end result and leave people wanting more of what we write.

So, friends, what have you learned from TV? (I won't just assume that everyone watches the Bachelor, because, really. It's the Bachelor.) Do you have any special plans for Valentine's Day? Hope it's amazing for all of you!

1 comment:

Shannon said...

I'll confess: I watch the Bachelor, too. It is contrived and sappy and over the top...and that's why I love it. Funny that you mention the editing - I bring that up all the time. ;)

Have a great Valentine's Day!