Why Watching More TV Can Make You a Better Writer
It’s often been said that too much TV or movie viewing can be bad for your mind. But if you’re a writer looking to expand the depth of knowledge you have for storytelling and character building, maybe you’re not watching enough.
In truth, a lot of today’s TV shows or feature films lack any depth at all but there are some in recent years that can offer a great wealth in information when it comes to developing your craft as a writer. Yes, you should read and read often but a lot can also be learned from simply watching. Isn’t that what we do as writers anyway, people watch?
When it comes to building story, especially for a series, it takes great attention to detail. That’s where you can settle down in front of the TV and watch your favorite show seeking the complexity of keeping it fresh week and after week while also delivering on character growth ( a very important but often overlooked attribute). Some of the best series to learn this trait from are the ones that were derived from literature in the first place. The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones are the first that come to this readers mind. Even though I really don’t get into The Walking Dead any longer there’s something to be said for a series that’s been on for as long as it has. As Game of Thrones approaches its final season I can easily say this is arguably the best TV show ever made. Both shows took their source material and adapted it to the screen in a way that made audiences want to tune in week after week to see what would happen next. A big reason for this is the characters.
By now, you should know that creating characters readers resonate with is an important (if not the important) part of writing. If the audience doesn’t care about the characters they’re not going to want to go on this journey with them. And this goes for the entire supporting cast as well. Everyone from the hero, the villain, and the best friend should be flushed out with nuances all their own. No one did this better in recent years than Daredevil. Sadly, the series will no longer be airing but in its short run Daredevil’s entire cast and crew put out a piece of art. Each character, large or small, had depth to them that made them real and real means relatable. They did such a great job of giving each character multiple layers that I actually found myself rooting for the main villain The Kingpin. This was also largely in part of Vincent D’Onofrio’s performance but still they made Wilson Fisk come to life because he had a purpose. They gave each character a “why” that made sense to them to drive them forward in the story.
TV and movies can be a great resource for fight scenes as well. I teach a workshop on how to write fight scenes that are more realistic in nature. One of the criteria in the workshop is to study fight scenes in film and TV and see how the characters move. These fights are put together from choreographers through a technique called “blocking” before they reach the page. It becomes a dance of sorts with each character in the scene knowing their exact steps. Once again I call back to Daredevil as they had some of the most ambitious fight scenes every explored! But they depicted realism which is a driving force in all creative endeavors. Be real in your approach and you’re more likely to reach your audience in a way that makes them want to stick around.