Sunday, November 23, 2008

TV Can Be a Good Teacher, Can't It?

This week, I brought a chapter of my current work in progress to my writers’ group for critiquing. The scene takes place in a backyard, where the RCMP are confronting a suspect holding a baseball bat. The group offered a lot of helpful comments about the scene, but the comment that struck me most came from a writer who told me to watch the TV show Cops. She said she learned how real police officers talk to people from that program. (She also said that after viewing a few episodes, she’s decided that no one under eighty-nine should be allowed to drink, but that’s another story.)

I like TV, though I don’t actually sit down to watch many programs. I use it as background noise for cooking, washing dishes, or working on writing-related things like market searching and online promotion. Television as a research tool isn’t something I’ve considered much. Occasionally, I’ll watch a documentary that ties in with a piece I’m working on. But when another colleague told me to watch DaVinci’s Inquest to get a feel for how local crimes are handled, I began to think about other benefits for writers.

Great plot ideas can spring up, for instance, especially from the news. And one of the few shows I did actually sit down to watch, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, inspired an interest in horror/vampire novels, especially ones that incorporate humor. And what about screen writing? I’ve often thought about trying to adapt my own stories into screenplays. One way to learn would be to study excellent screen adaptations. I read Brideshead Revisited years ago and loved it. I also watched the adaptation with Jeremy Irons and Anthony Edwards and was completely blown away by the production. Should I ever buckle down to study screenwriting, that book and screenplay would be a great place to start. So maybe I should watch more TV. Seems there's still a lot to learn from it.

For excerpts of Taxed to Death and Fatal Encryption, visit

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