by Christine Hennebury
Spending a lot more time watching TV, Netflix, or YouTube these days? You aren’t alone.
A lot of us are entertaining and distracting ourselves with favourite shows, old and new, and taking comfort in knowing that the plotlines will be resolved, one way or another.
If you are watching TV and thoroughly enjoying yourself, then have at it.
However, if you are getting a little twitchy or feeling like you *should* be writing but you can’t quite stir yourself to open your work-in-progress, perhaps you can start by letting your favourite TV writers and actors inform your own writing.
Here are 5 categories of observations to make while watching TV shows. By tuning into how the show is put together, you can find ways to sharpen your own writing.
Sure, I know that writing something for someone to watch is different than writing for someone to read but there is still a lot of overlap. And, watching actors convey information with their facial expressions and their actions can be a valuable source of information for you to enrich your descriptions.
Seeing as you are watching TV anyway, why not give it a chance to help you write? You can even take some notes for later!
Listen for phrasing and tone
How do the writers’ choice of words affect how you feel about the information you are receiving? How about the speakers’ tone? Are some words repeated for emphasis? What is being left unsaid?
Watch for movement
What kinds of movements seem natural? What draws your attention? What movements are distracting? Is the distraction on purpose?
Observe people while they speak
How do speakers hold themselves? Are their bodies tense or relaxed? Do their expressions match their words?
Observe people while they aren’t speaking
What are the characters thinking? How can you tell? (i.e. How do they ‘show’ you their emotions/ideas/information without using words)
Notice the setting
How can you tell the time and place this show is set in? What props draw your attention? How do the actors interact with the set?
Once you have enough TV watching and you return to your current writing project, try to incorporate your observations into your own writing. Tweak your characters’ actions and phrasing and add details to the setting to help your readers ‘see’ your world more clearly.