Monday, May 14, 2012

Well, admittedly, it is kind of fun to shock people and tell them, "Yes, I actually am watching Survivor. Crazy, right?"

Yeah, probably crazy. But is there something there that has kept me watching - something to learn from the show that can remind us of some good story-telling/writing tips?

1. I want to know what happens! This season of Survivor ("One World") was full of conflict, relational issues, and physical challenges. To be honest, I don't know how much of that can be chalked up to editing (hmmm...probably a lot!), but even if the people participating in the game presented a "fictional" facade, we still can note that throwing challenges our characters' ways and presenting them with real relationship issues generally holds the viewer's/reader's interest. Who will go next? Who will make it to the end? What will people do when they're threatened or mistreated or hurt? What are these characters made of?  

2. Give me interesting characters! One thing's for sure - for better or for worse the people on the show this season were really...interesting! And quite diverse... This is a great reminder that characters count. I don't want to belittle anyone on the show by saying they were "secondary" characters, but in a loose parallel to writing novels, the person who wins would generally be the hero/heroine (or the person who "wins" the reader's affections, ultimately) and the other characters would mostly be "secondary." And every one counts. Obviously some characters are going to have more depth than others, and I know I'm guilty of bringing in flat characters to simply complete a task and then escape out the back door unnoticed, but in the end the main characters should be ones with "layers" (like ogres or onions or parfaits - for all you Shrek fans out there!).

3. Surprise me! Maybe I just haven't seen enough Survivor to be familiar with how the show works all the time, but I was surprised by some twists and turns along the way. Yes, I teared up at some of the moments when the Survivors got to hear from and/or see a loved one. (Don't laugh!) And even though some blindsides probably were rather obvious... There's always that uncertainty. Is it going the way it seems to be going? Is someone going to get voted off sooner than I thought/hoped? Is someone going to last longer than it first seems likely? Throw a curve ball at your readers. Make them do a double-take. Keep them guessing and keep them reading! 

Well, now this season of Survivor is over. Am I going to watch another one? Ehhh... I don't know. But hey, I kept coming back to see what happened in this season, and I actually made it through the finale and reunion! 

Are there any TV shows you've been watching recently that you can glean some writing tips from?

(Survivor logo is from the show's Twitter page.)


  1. Hey Amber,

    I've never been much of a Survivor fan, but I DO watch Dancing with the Stars every year. LOL!

    One of the judges, Carrie Ann, said something interesting a couple of weeks ago. One of the couples, Derrick and Maria (go Greek!), actually kissed during their dance number, and Carrie Ann said, "Dancing is all about the ILLUSION of romance".

    She's right! It's the illusion that makes wonder if perhaps Derrick and Maria have something going on backstage that the audience doesn't know about. Last season, it was the illusion of romance that made me think Hines Ward and Kim were a couple.

    And it's the illusion of romance that makes readers pick up romance novels. The better we are at creating the illusion, the more readers will follow our books and keep reading our stories!

    Thanks, Carrie Ann! ;-)

  2. Lisa,

    That's OK - I know Survivor's not for everyone! ;)

    And awww, I love dancing! Definitely fun to watch (and even more fun to do)! That show seems to be quite popular. :)

    That's an interesting tidbit about creating the "illusion of romance." Thanks for sharing!



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