Monday, March 22, 2010

How to Apply Reality Show TV to Your Writing

Hello. My name is Madeline and I admit it - I enjoy watching reality TV. Not all of it. Just enough to make me feel guilty that I should be doing something - anything - else more productive.

I watch Project Runway, Top Chef and Survivor. Three shows I would never go on - I can't sew, I can't cook, and I am not about to eat some critter's eyeballs. My favorite reality show is The Amazing Race. It's probably the only show I would consider trying out for, although my husband and I would most likely be the team that never makes it out of the airport.

But, to justify my reality TV show watching, I've discovered something I can apply to my writing: Characters are all around us. Real people, real characters. Now, I know all those shows are edited. I know we're not seeing the whole/real person in their normal surroundings. I know some of those back stories are cut and colored a bit. But so what? The essence, the idea, is still there. The nice guy who grew up in a small town, who loved to draw and sew, who never went to design school makes us root for him. The plucky stay-at-home mom who loves to cook goes up against culinary school grads. The father and son who have trouble communicating decide an around the world race will either make or break their relationship. Come on, how can we as writers not see the potential for story after story in these real life people?

And they're not just on TV. They're everywhere - in the coffee shop, the grocery store, the construction crew around the corner. They're the clerk at the post office, the guidance counselor at your child's school, the homeless man at the bus stop. They're your friends, your family, yourself.

Speaking of yourself/myself, I better go check the TV schedule. I think Survivor is on a different day this week...


  1. Sue me, I like a few reality shows myself. I can watch and check emails at the same time. :-)

    P.S. I loved Amazing Race, but when they had that Rob guy from Survivor on there, I quit watching. I wrote CBS to express my disgust at taking one of the few really class act family shows and putting that guy on there. I'm kinda famous for putting shows, restaurants, stores on my "Never again" list because of some principle. Um, so far, the shows, restaurants, and stores haven't really cared. :-)

  2. Cathy, my husband has that same sort of list, and when one or two of the stores, etc. he boycotted went under, he took all the credit. :)