I’ve learned some great lessons by paying attention to TV and screen writers’ methodology. What I’ve learned has helped me – I hope – to improve the quality of my own books. Most importantly for me – and my readers – I’ve made two significant observations:
- Action shows begin with action! In the gool-ol’ days, movie goers expected to see the movie begin with the title, and the names of the stars they came to see. Then they munched on their popcorn while enduring the obligatory tribute to writers, musical artists, cinematographers, and producers. At length, the viewer knew the movie was about to begin when they saw the name of the director displayed on the screen. Today, viewers expect an immediate onslaught of dramatic music and sound effects designed to blast the ear drums of elderly folks like me. They do this, of course, to heighten the intensity of beginning an action movie. The viewer loses control of the popcorn (50% of which now ends up underfoot on the theater floor). It’s time to buckles up! The credits now displayed are almost invisible as viewer attention is focused intently upon the ebbing intensity of action on the screen.
- Dramatic TV show writers work their artistic craft by skillfully conjoining episodes with an ominous and opaque backdrop of suspense. Something sinister is brewing in the background. It’s an adjunct to the main plot, but viewers are enthralled by it; almost distracted by the dark shadow of intrigue that threatens to upset the apple cart. The viewer is given just enough information to realize that something ominous and unsettling will – at some point – rear its ugly head to obliterate lesser concerns. The viewer will enjoy a satisfying conclusion to the episode, but will be left in suspense, wondering when the mystery of the ominous specter will be resolved. A skilled writer will keep this foreboding monster alive through two or more seasons of episodes.
Fortunately, I’m at a stage in my current writing project that I can implement that which I’ve learned about these two important lessons. Converting a blank page to an enthralling episode is not easy, but the challenge of doing so is an enjoyable task.