Writing Resources: Television

Let’s face it…writing something new, a story that hasn’t been told before just isn’t going to happen. Not in this day and age.

Authors, our job is not to reinvent the wheel. Our job is to entertain, educate, enlighten, and entertain. I know I said it twice but I had to. Entertainment is just that important. It’s the reason most readers (and all of my readers) buy a book.

So, instead of pulling out your hair as you search Goodreads or Amazon in frustration, seeing title after title of that ploy you just KNEW was your original idea, BREATHE! Grab a cup of coffee or tea and let’s hash this out.

I write romance novels. Sure, the novels that I write are dramatic and have half a dozen plot points but at their core, they are romance novels. One of the things that I learned early on, when I first picked ROMANCE AUTHOR as my career choice, is that there wasn’t a romance theme that I could think of that has not been covered in books, movies, and television shows. Once I got over that hump, I decided that the best thing to do was use all of these resources as inspirations.

I’m not the kind of writer who finds inspiration during my daily walk. I can’t see a raindrop, a snowflake, or flower and feel inspired to write a compelling romance. There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, I’m a little bit jealous of authors who can do this. People watching sometimes sparks ideas, but overall, I get most of my ideas from television and music…mainly song lyrics.

Recently, I published Chasin’ Dreamz, a romance novel about finding love on a reality dating show. Why? Because when I’m not working, I watch reality shows. All kinds…from MasterChef to She’s Got Game. I pay Comcast a hefty monthly bill for cable and Internet service, therefore, this resource is worth its weight in gold.

I’ve gotten plot ideas based on titles I’ve seen while searching for something to watch in the Guide menu. I’ve heard bits of dialogue and thought “I can’t write an entire novel based on those few sentences.”

Sure, we see movies and shows like Sons of Anarchy and think that a Motorcycle Club series might be fun to write. That’s not what I’m talking about when I say I get inspired by watching television.

***SIDENOTE*** after binge watching seven seasons of Sons of Anarchy, I kind of wanted to write a MC series

I was watching She’s Got Game and my SO commented that no one actually finds a real girlfriend on these reality dating shows and it’s all fake. My romance author mind kicked into high gear because all I heard was “What if” and any writer worth their salt knows that “what” and “if” are the two words that keep us up at night. They’re the starting gun that sets our imaginations off on a never-ending sprint.

With NaNoWriMo approaching in less than thirty days, I had absolutely zero ideas of what I wanted to write then all of a sudden, with that one show and comment, my mind was flooded with possibilities. All I could think about was what if someone did find true love on a dating show. Thirty days later, I had a 100,000-word romance novel completed.

The point I’m trying to make is that as authors, we’re so quick to judge and condemn ourselves for indulging in such pleasures as watching television or reading as if we should be writing and/or editing whenever we are not sleeping. However, it’s perfectly fine to watch TV for inspiration instead of going on a nature hike or writers’ retreat. It’s also perfectly fine to watch television for research as well.

Research???

YES! Television is a great resource for fiction authors. If you’re a non-fiction writer, I wouldn’t suggest using television as your go-to reference but for fictions authors…hell yes! We create over-the-top fantasies and live in the same world as television writers so why not use their work as resources for our stuff? Television shows provide an abundance of “knowledge” without the FBI flagging your computer’s IP address.

Need to know what life is like in a maximum-security prison in Arizona? MSNBC has an outstanding program called Lock Up: Raw.

Is one of your characters a real estate broker in Los Angeles? Million Dollar Listing and anything on HGTV can give you all the information you need for your book and you don’t have to feel guilty about sitting in front of the television all day. After all, you’re working.

Don’t let your conscience psych you out of watching hours upon hours of television. You pay for it (hopefully). Use it.

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