Tuesday, 30 April 2013

A-Z Challenge: Z (!)

Z! Everybody Z! I have spent a month blogging about TV, and what it has taught me about writing. 

Z is for: 

Zat’s all folks. 

It’s been fun. A month of blogging later and I have learned:

  • I watch a lot of TV.
  • I missed out a lot of well written TV Shows.
  • Following A-Z was constraining in some ways (I had a lot of shows I could do for S, not many for I) but helpful because of that very constraint.
  • I have picked up more than you’d think from watching TV.
  • I probably haven't included all of my own 'lessons' in my writing, but I will.

What TV Show did I miss that I absolutely should have featured? Are you disappointed Z isn’t about Zoe Duncan Jack and Jane? J

If you’ve read any of these: thank you. Thank you to all of the organisers and administrators and visitors to this blog and everybody for helping make it the fun it is.

Monday, 29 April 2013

A-Z Challenge: Y: Young Americans


I have been writing about TV all month which has been really fun!

I have been trying to write about what TV has taught me about writing.


I am probably the only person who watched this show, but people: Ian Somerhalder. Cary off The Good Wife. It is worth seeking out (if it’s on DVD anywhere. I taped it off Channel 5 here years ago).

I am not sure what I’ll pick out about the writing. It has some ridiculous plots, assuming that a girl could hide out in a boys school and nobody would notice. NOBODY. But somehow it got away with it.

I am going to put that down to: Ian Somerhalder.

Which teaches me a hot male love interest and you can get away with a lot. ;) Kidding. Kinda.

Of course, there is a separate debate about a love interest covering up for a poor main plot (avoid this) and do YA novels in particular always need a love interest? But in the meantime I struggled for what else to say about this other than: Ian Somerhalder.

Quotes: "What, you need directions? Oh, the way to Rawley, right? Let's see. It's right up the road. Just follow your nose. It smells just like money." 

Saturday, 27 April 2013

A-Z Challenge: X: X Files

What I learned about writing from watching TV has been my theme. I have to say it has been really fun thinking of some shows I have loved and picking a main part of them to talk about.

X only has one contender: X FILES.

A will they won’t they relationship? Tick. Aliens? Tick. Overall mystery? Tick. Main Characters whose outlook is different? Tick.

What I love about X Files – among many things – are the episodes which take an idea and run with it. The bank which explodes over and over. The bodyswap episode. The man who has good luck but causes bad. The genie who grants wishes.

The X Files took an idea which would be the whole premise of another series, and ran with it in 44 minutes. And you know what? They always did it a lot better than those shows. They thought through the premise for each episode. They weren’t lazy with the get out clause to fix things.

Excellent show.

Quotes:I’m Dana Scully. I’ve been assigned to work with you.

AHHH and so it begins!

Friday, 26 April 2013

A-Z Challenge: W: West Wing + Celebrate the Small Things: April 26

Two aims again today:

First the A-Z then Celebrate The Small Things:

A-Z: What I Learned About Writing from Watching TV: W

Ah West Wing. The obvious choice for W. 

Also: Rob Lowe. Which would make up for a lot of bad writing but in this instance, he doesn’t have to. 

West Wing is an intelligent show which doesn’t try not to be. It doesn’t assume the audience are idiots. I live in the UK and I don’t know the ins and outs of American politics like somebody who lives in America, but the show never felt the need to overly explain it to me. The dialogue was fast. The politics were argued, but not so much it overwhelmed the plot. We saw people with important jobs as people. It was witty. It assumed we could follow, and we did.

Don’t assume you have to write down and explain everything. Sometimes, people will get it.

Now to Celebrate The Small Things! 26 April Edition.

I do this every week and an awesome bunch of people join in with me. We celebrate a few small things from that week. The 'I finally lost that final 2 pounds' 'I went to the gym' 'I wrote a chapter of a new idea' type celebrations. See here  for more info.

My celebrations is reaching W in the A-Z OF COURSE. YAY!

How about you?

Here's the linky: do hop around and celebrate with other people ;)

Thursday, 25 April 2013

A-Z Challenge: V: Veronica Mars

What I Learned About Writing from Watching TV aka Justifying my TV Habit.

Veronica Mars has to be V. Has to be. Especially due to the recent exciting news about a movie.

Ah Veronica Mars One of the best YA shows of recent times.

I could praise the superb setting in Neptune. The strong ballsy heroine. The fact she has a male best friend and it never turns romantic.

What I do think is strong is the overall mystery, especially in season one. She is trying to solve her best friends murder. Not some girl in school who she’s never met. Her best friend. It’s personal to Veronica. The aim of the main character should be personal to them, and it’s easy to forget that in writing. To have them solve a mystery just because.

Ah who am I kidding? Veronica Mars is just all round GREAT. Watch it, if you haven't already. You won't regret it.

Quotes: I've got a secret, a good one. 

Could have gone for VAMPIRE DIARIES. Special mention to Damon Salvatore.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

A-Z Challenge: U: Ugly Betty

What I Learned About Writing from Watching TV aka Justifying my TV Habit.

U. Starting to get hard now isn't it?

U is a tricky one. Ugly Betty is my natural choice here. It ticks a lot of the boxes I have already covered. It has a great ensemble cast. It has heart. We care about the main character. We know her aim is to be a journalist from the off. It has a good set of villains.

The villains are what I’ll focus on here. The bad guy is ostensibly Wilhelmina throughout. We get to know her, see what drives her. She’s a great foil for the ‘good guys’.

She’s not the only thing standing in Betty’s way, but she is there throughout with her schemes and machinations.

A good villain is important.

Quote: “What’s the matter? People still view me as a drop dead gorgeous fashion Nazi.”

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

A-Z Challenge: T: The Big Bang Theory

What I Learned About Writing from Watching TV aka Justifying my TV Habit.

T I have to go for The Big Bang Theory.


Sheldon is the main reason I have chosen The Big Bang Theory for T. Which might really be a B. But anyway. Sheldon isn’t always likeable. Or even realistic (again, sitcom pushes things to the edge). He’s a good example of a character taken to an extreme. He’s intelligent and arrogant with it. He’s snotty about people who aren’t intelligent. He makes us laugh because of how he is.

He makes me think about what different sorts of characters I could put in my writing. Could I feature a Sheldon? What would he do? What situations would I put him in?

Could have gone for: The Good Wife. Taken. That 70s Show. Torchwood.

Monday, 22 April 2013

A-Z Challenge: S: Supernatural

What I Learned About Writing from Watching TV aka Justifying my TV Habit.

S has to be Supernatural

Ah two hot boys saving people and hunting things. Okay, the writing in this hasn’t always been tip top (the episode with bugs in series 1 being an example) but at times it’s sublime (Mystery Spot, where they relive the same day).

The ultimate goal changes as the series goes on. Ultimately, they save people. They banter. They take mythology we know about (fairies, say) and put their own spin on it. We care about the brothers, and their relationship. There are romantic relationships in it, but it’s about family.

Which is refreshing. What relationships do you focus on in your writing? Is it all romantic? What about families? How does that drive your characters or affect them?

Could have gone for: Smallville. SATC. Saved by the Bell

Saturday, 20 April 2013

A-Z Challenge: R: Revenge

We're in the downward slope now aren't we! Continuing my theme of What I Learned About Writing from TV is R: REVENGE.

Ah Revenge. Soapy delicious goodness as follow Emily and her quest to avenge her father’s death. The thing is, Emily isn’t doing good week to week. She is setting people up. Making them take the fall. At times earlier this season, I almost empathised with the enemies, The Graysons, over her, when their aim was to Save Daniel from the Initiative and Emily’s, well wasn’t. But it’s a good example of somebody having a main aim, and that being what pulls us through.

That’s important in a novel: What is the main character’s ultimate goal? How do we sympathise with that? Even when their goal isn’t a ‘good’ one, do they have a good motive behind it?

Quotes: ”This is not a story about forgiveness.”

Could have gone for: Roswell.

Friday, 19 April 2013

A-Z Challenge: Q: Quantum Leap + Celebrate the Small Things

Two posts again: A-Z post for the day and Celebrate the Small Things!

A-Z: my theme is What I Learned About Writing from Watching TV aka Justifying my TV Habit.

Q is for Quantum Leap

An oldie but a goodie! Dr Sam Beckett stepped into the Quantum Leap accelerator and vanished. He awoke to find himself trapped in the past, facing mirror images which are not his own and hoping each time…okay I’ll stop now.

Quantum Leap is an example of taking a simple concept and running with it. Early Edition is similar (guy gets tomorrow’s newspaper, stops things from happening). Tru Calling the same (dead body speaks to Tru, she rewinds and saves them). In Quantum Leap Sam leaps into people’s lives and changes something. Puts right what once went wrong.

A simple concept pulled through can work very well in a novel. It has to be thought through, have heart and a main character behind it. But it’s worth thinking about.

Quantum Leap is one of my all time faves!

Now to Celebrate The Small Things: 19 April style.

This weekly post has a simple aim: you sign up on the linky, you post a celebration for the week, and you hop around and celebrate with others. The celebrations can be as small as you like: sweeping that path, clearing that cupboard, finally getting a haircut.

My celebration is of course reaching Q in the A-Z!
Also my wee niece's birthday ;)

What about you?

Here's the linky - do have a hop around!

Thursday, 18 April 2013

A-Z Challenge: P: Psych

What I Learned About Writing from Watching TV aka Justifying my TV Habit.

P is for Psych

It’s funny. It’s silly. The set up could have been done more seriously (and has been, in The Mentalist) but in a nutshell: Shawn pretends to be psychic and solves cases, when really he is just super observant.

A light touch and a bit of humour go a long way. Psych never fails to make me smile. Okay if you are writing a serious The Killing-esque murder mystery, silly humour may not work, but I’d argue dark humour would. We forget we can bring the fun, sometimes, I think.

Quote: Oh, you mean my pilot's license? That's out back in the Cessna. Or perhaps you're referring to my license to kill. Revoked. Trouble at the Kazakhstan border. I could give you the details but then I'd have to kill you, which I can't do because my license to kill has been revoked. 

Could have gone for: Prison Break. Party of Five.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

A-Z Challenge: O: The O.C.

What I Learned About Writing from Watching TV: O

Oh so tempted to do One Tree Hill or Once Upon a Time.  But THE O.C. has a special place in my heart. (And not just because I once went on holiday to THE O.C. where we were sad enough to find a 'map of the O.C.' and drive around and visit all the places on it. Also: Newport Beach on 4 July was AWESOME).

This fits much the same place as Gilmore Girls for me. Seth and his snappy dialogue are much of the reason why I love it.

I picked it because there is a temptation in YA writing to have no parents about whatsoever. They are absent. The MC can go around doing what they like with no consequences. Yet the parents in The O.C. are very present. Ryan is only there, as catalyst for the show, because Sandy brings him home. The Cohen’s are very much part of the fabric The O.C.

And it works.

Also a prime example of meta-fictional humour. They watch ‘The Valley’, an O.C esque show and make fun of people’s criticism of The O.C. within it. Would love to see that in a novel. A gifted writer could pull that off.

Quotes: Hey. If it's a Ryan problem, it's a Cohen problem. 

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

A-Z Challenge: N: NCIS

What I Learned About Writing from Watching TV aka Justifying my TV Habit.

 NCIS. A procedural, by the numbers, solve the murder show, right? Each week the same thing happens. Tony says something Gibbs overhears. I wonder how that many naval related murders could possibly happen. Abby is awesome. Tony teases McGee. Gibbs is gruff. They catch the bad guy.
What does this teach us about writing? There are tons of procedural shows like this. For me, this shows sometimes you just have to do something well. There’s a lot of emphasis on having the world’s most original idea when you start out in writing, but sometimes it’s about the execution. NCIS executes its idea well, week after week.

Try doing the same.

Quote: Rule Number One: Never let suspects stay together.

(I love Gibbs’s rules!)

I could have gone for: Numb3rs. Nikita.

Monday, 15 April 2013

A-Z Challenge: M: My So-Called Life

 What I Learned About Writing from Watching TV aka Justifying my TV Habit.

M is a toss-up between Merlin (good example of taking a mythology and making a new, modern twist on it, but sticking to the principles of it) and My So-Called Life.
I’m going with My So-Called Life because Jordan Catalano WINS.

This show felt like teen life. People didn’t always learn a lesson or hug at the end. Angela was introspective. Cried. She didn’t act perfectly or always make the right choice. This was one of the first times themes like homelessness and school violence weren’t introduced as part of a ‘Very Special Blossom’ but as part of a continuing storyline.

It’s also a great example of a teen asserting and finding her identity. This is an important YA Theme.

I take a lot away from My So-Called Life in terms of writing but I guess the main one would be that it’s okay to be real, in all its gritty, not perfect, not always resolved glory. That teenagers cry and are introspective and lust after the Catalano when the Brian is right there.

I love that Tino is mentioned every episode but we NEVER actually meet him. I must work a Tino reference in to a novel sometime.

Quote: It had become the focus of everything. It was all I could feel, all I could think about. It blotted out the rest of my face, the rest of my life. Like the zit had become... the truth about me. 

Saturday, 13 April 2013

A-Z Challenge: L: Lost

What I Learned About Writing from Watching TV aka Justifying my TV Habit.

I had to do Lost for L because man, I love that show. I am not saying Lost was perfect in its writing. Indeed, some of the eventual explanations and plot twists grew so far fetched it did start to feel like they made it up as it went along. Still not sure about that last episode.

But what I did love is the backstory of the characters. The Flashbacks (or Forwards, or whatever in the end). They aided and abetted the plot that week. They helped us understand where the characters were coming from.

It’s important to know your characters backstory. We don’t all have the structural set up to dump whole plot lines of our characters’ backstory in, like Lost does. Indeed too much infodumping in a novel can drown out our plot. But it’s important to know the ‘flashback’ story. What made your character like they are?

Quotes: I'll see ya in another life, brother.

In general FYI I love Desmond. I also have this wee crush on Daniel Faraday which I can’t quite explain.

Friday, 12 April 2013

A-Z Challenge: K: The Killing + Celebrate The Small Things

Two aims today again: A-Z (K) and Celebrate The Small Things.

My theme for A-Z is What I Learned About Writing from Watching TV.

So so tempted to do Knight Rider and talk about how talking cars should be in every novel EVER.

Instead The Killing. (Original for me). This has a steady sense of dread and real atmospherics pervading it. Which befits a TV Show where the theme is solving a murder. The characterisation is good too, but the dark tone for me is strong.

Setting is important in a book. A lot can be done with a setting. Does it rain a lot? Is it a small town? Is the setting of the novel a contrast to the plot or an aid? Make it aid the sense of dread, if that’s what you are going for.

I was going to do a quote but instead THAT JUMPER. I want one.

Now onto: Celebrate The Small Things: 12 April

The aim of this is simple: each Friday we celebrate a small thing from that week. Whatever you like! Sign up on the linky, post a celebration, and GO CELEBRATE others on the linky list's achievements. See here for more info.

My celebration is of course reaching K in A-Z. WOOO. I am enjoying thinking / talking/watching TV for this ;)

What are you celebrating this week?

Here's the linky...

Thursday, 11 April 2013

A-Z Challenge: J: Joan of Arcadia

What I Learned About Writing from Watching TV aka Justifying my TV Habit.

Ah how I wish I’d watched Jericho or Justified which I hear are very good. They’re on my list.

In the meantime I did have a soft spot for Joan of Arcadia. Joan is a teenager who believes she is talking with God. Each week God gives her tasks to do which often seem trivial or a bit crazy but do end up working out okay and helping improve somebody's life. 

It was one of those shows with heart. I cared about Joan. I felt the overall message was positive. Whatever your religious beliefs, and whether you have any or not, it was enjoyable to follow and the positive improvements were the kind you can’t find fault with.

 I guess that’s my takeaway from Joan: Heart. Give your writing heart and humanity and that will count for a lot.

Quote: Joan: You are not real! 
God: So people keep telling me. 

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

A-Z Challenge: I: In Treatment

What I Learned About Writing from Watching TV: I

Why aren’t there more TV Shows beginning with I? I nearly tried to come up with 100 words on what I Dreamed of Jeannie taught me about writing only: I have only seen a few episodes of I Dreamed of Jeannie and wasn’t sure I could string out that knowledge enough for a whole post.

More TV Shows should start with the letter I. Just saying. Why aren’t there? Please comment with your TV Shows which begin with I.

In the meantime I’m going with “In Treatment” which is a TV show about a psychologist and his weekly sessions with patients. I only saw a few of these, but it struck me as structurally interesting. Characters visit him on a particular day of the week.

In a novel, we can mess around with structure. See what links our readers can make. Why not?

Quote: And then I say to myself: do I *really* know any of these people? Or are they all just one big *fiction* that I've constructed in my head, you know?

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

A-Z Challenge: H: House

My theme for A-Z is What I Learned About Writing from Watching TV aka Justifying my TV Habit.
MCs don’t have to be perfect human beings. House is the main character in, well, House, and he is not perfect. Far from it. He’s arrogant, rude, dislikeable at times. He treats people badly. He is also funny, often right, and saves people. He’s interesting and holds our interest.

I think in a novel we have to be careful not to write an MC who is so dislikeable we can’t stand being in their head for 300 pages. But it doesn’t mean they have to be perfect.

Quote: "And humility is an important quality. Especially if you're wrong a lot.... Of course, when you're right, self-doubt doesn't help anybody, does it?"