How I love television

September 28, 2007 at 2:01 pm | Posted in books, character, Meg, names, television | Leave a comment

I’m not a big gadget person, but I’d like to send a little thank you out to the individuals who created the DVR. It’s a beautiful piece of technology that has allowed me to return to my prime time television addiction. With two kids, I haven’t watched television in years (except for Lost and The Office– two guilty pleasures I manipulated time for each week once I caught up with DVDs). With my wonderful DVR, I can capture all the time sucking moments of my new favorite shows, allowing me to procrastinate on my rewrites! YEA!

I started thinking about the trends in this season’s new shows (at least ones I’ve watched thus far) and discovered that there is a connection to fiction writing (or maybe I’m reaching because I couldn’t think of anything else to write?). Here goes:


Revenge of the Nerds
I don’t know whose in control of Hollywood these days, but it’s definitely not a former star quarterback. Not with ‘nerds’ or loner guys being the heroes in three new shows. Chuck in Chuck defuses a bomb using a computer virus, Sam in The Reaper kicks a bad soul back to hell with a Dirt Devil and Dan in GossipGirl punches out a popular rich jerk. And they all have THE hot girl batting their eyelashes at them.

So it’s possible, that when you’re creating your heroes, you might want to consider toning down the Alpha male or hot stunt guy, and think about enlisting that likeable, nice guy next door to win the girl’s heart. These three guys are already winning mine.

Josh Swartz reads YA
Ah, the teen drama. Every year there’s a new one and I admit a perverse love of them. 90210, Dawson’s Creek, One Tree Hill. Loved them all. Now we have GossipGirl, the first teen show I know that’s based on a Young Adult literary series (I’m not including great stories like Princess Diaries and Sisterhood of Traveling Pants because they are movies).

I admit I haven’t read this series yet, so I’m not sure how ‘based on’ the books by Cecily von Ziegesar or how glammed up for television it is. I do know I’m hooked. It’s racy, edgy and the first two shows have more drugs and alcohol than the entire lifespan of ABC Afterschool Specials. Less sex than I had expected, even a virginal BP (Beautiful Person). A good insight into what teenagers are watching, thinking and doing (if you tone down the sophisticated rich stuff- not many teens have elaborate, expensive Sunday brunches with champagne and Scotch, at least not in my home town) if you write YA.

Back story
When and how to reveal the characters’ back-story can be a writer’s nightmare. We want readers to know why characters are doing what they’re doing, but readers don’t want to be hit over the head or treated as idiots. This week, the new shows used different techniques to explain the back-story of characters and they all worked. NBC’s Life inserted ‘interviews’ with key players from Detective Crews’s life giving us glimpses into his past as an officer and felon. GossipGirl used a voiceover of the prep school’s anonymous gossip blogger to fill us in on intimate details of the relationships, activities and drama of the Upper East Side. And instead of the standard prologue or flashback, the writers of the CW’s Reaper informed the audience and main character about the ‘sold your soul to the devil 21 years ago plot’ in a father-son chat. Cracked me up.

In recent weeks, we’ve blogged about the importance of names for ourselves and our characters. I’ve shared websites that have helped me find elaborate names for characters. Jess divulged her anxieties about finding the perfect pen name. And Bria wrote about meaning, connotation and sound of names. Waste of time for all of us. Why? Because maybe names aren’t as important as we thought. Here are the list of names for the male characters of this year’s new shows: Dan, Nate, Chuck (used in two shows), Sam, Charlie, Ben. Boring, boring, boring. Winner of most original name is: Sock and The Devil. For female characters, things aren’t much better: Blair, Serena, Jenni, Constance, Andi, Sarah. Simple is in.

Okay, I think that’s all the epiphanies I have for now. Twenty minutes until the season premiere of The Office. I’ve been counting down since that last moment when Jim asked Pam out for dinner. That’s the problem with television versus books. With the literary entertainment, I can turn the page to get to the next chapter. With television, I have to suffer through months of reruns and wait. UGH!



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