3 Reasons Writers Should Watch Television.

woman watching tvI’ve read advice in the past that writers should either cut down on watching television or don’t watch television at all. In order to get more writing done, we need to prioritise and make the most of our time. That’s a very valid point as the key is to live by the old rule ‘everything in moderation’. However, it would appear that this is the ‘golden age of television’, so there are still valid reasons in which to make the most of our television viewing as writers.

1. Research

One of the more enjoyable ways in which to start your research is by watching television. Things like documentaries and real life stories can not only provide you with interesting facts, but can also help fire your imagination and allows you to dig deeper. I have a tendency to watch television shows that explore the darker side of life, and therefore, there are some situations where I need to catch a glimpse of first-hand accounts. Through watching such shows, I can envisage certain situations for my characters and assist with certain elements within my stories.

2. Characters

Like some of the books you read, one of the first things you may think of when it comes to television shows is the characters. Some can be larger than life, like Gene Hunt on Life on Mars or maybe a group of characters that work so well together they almost feel like family (Firefly and Criminal Minds for example). There are also times when a character leaves the show, that the show may never be the same again – think Mulder in The X-Files. My husband said at the time ‘Mulder IS The X-Files’ (and yes, happy dance that it’s staging a comeback 🙂 ), which demonstrates the importance of characters within a show; sometimes you can’t have one without the other. When it comes to writing our own characters, we really have to work hard on making them as unique and realistic as possible. We need to ask ourselves what makes ours different? Watching television can help.

3. Genre

Watching television can give us a good insight into particular genres, including our own and allows us to ask questions about our own stories. What shows in particular genres have become popular and why? What has been done differently within this particular genre and how can I apply something similar within my own writing? Sometimes you can take an idea from a show and ask yourself ‘what if?’ and apply it to a different genre with a completely different outcome. We can learn from watching television, not only for our own writing, but it can also give us an idea of what the public wants.

Since getting pay television installed in our house last winter, I’m the first to admit I have been watching more television that I used to. I am, however, watching shows that not only interest me, but I know they will help me with my writing projects. Next time you watch television, remember to put your writer’s cap on – you just might learn something. 😉

Has watching certain television shows helped you with your writing? Do you find watching television a distraction from your writing and not watch it at all? Were you disappointed to see the end of Firefly? Are you happy to see the return of The X-Files? What shows/characters do you like best?

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8 thoughts on “3 Reasons Writers Should Watch Television.

  1. I missed Firefly when it originally aired, but am now very upset about its demise. Bones is my current favorite show, though, and the characters on it have formed their own kind of family unit, the same way that the crew of Serenity did. I’ll be sad when the show ends, but only till I can buy it on DVD. 😉

    That said I think TV can be a great research venue. I’ve been watching Reign with my stepdaughter, and it’s been fabulous research for my fantasy trilogy.

    1. Debbie Johansson 01/04/2015 — 3:44 am

      Hi Kay.

      My husband put me on to Firefly a few years after it was cut and it’s a shame it ended too soon. I have to admit I was a bit reluctant to watch it at first because I thought ‘Westerns in Space?’ How wrong was I? Thanks for the mention about the show Reign as I haven’t heard of that one. That’s a period of history I also find of interest, so I hope it’s helping you with your research. Being a couch potato can be good for you sometimes. 😉

      Thanks for your comments Kay, it’s been good to meet you.

      1. My husband turned me on to it, too, but we didn’t start watching it till closer to 2011. I was reluctant to watch it, too – the first episode just didn’t do it for me, but “The Train Job” was fantastic and after that I was hooked. 🙂

        And you’re welcome! Reign tends to be a bit of a soap opera, but I can’t stop watching it, and that period of history is just fascinating. Plus, you know, research. 😀

  2. I think you’ve nailed it. I watch for research all the time. Its raises questions that get me thinking on where to start. 🙂

    Anna from Elements of Writing

    1. Debbie Johansson 02/04/2015 — 12:47 am

      Thanks Anna. Television can be a great source for research – a great excuse to watch it. 😉

  3. I so agree with this! I wrote a related post about how watching my favourites (Homeland, GoT, 24, etc) made me understand how a plot is nothing if you don’t care about the characters. 🙂 I won’t put the link here because I know how that annoys people!!!!!

    1. Debbie Johansson 07/04/2015 — 2:04 am

      Hi Terry. I have to agree with you that plot is nothing without the characters. When we think of our favourite shows/movies/books, we generally think of the characters first. And that’s okay about the link – I’ll vist your blog anyway. 😉 Thanks for stopping by.

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