TV as tutor
For most of us, TV is largely a time-wasting soporific.
I offer a simple test to prove this is true:
What did you watch last night, or over the past week, that you can remember with any meaningful or influential memories?
Most folks are hard pressed to answer that question.
Yet, for writers at least, the TV can serve as an excellent tutor.
I’ve studied Sherlock (Cumberbatch version) and The Wire for fine plotting, Justified for lean and riveting Elmore-Leonard-style dialog, and a lot of older movies filmed back in the days before over-the-top special effects took the place of good scripting. True Detective, The Mentalist, and Bluebloods are also among my favorites for their instructive characterization examples.
And I’ve learned a heck of a lot, not just from the story lines but also from the cinematography, which can help with creating well-crafted and vivid word pictures.
I keep a yellow legal pad on my end table to take notes, which I always then misplace, but the simple act of writing ideas down seems to thread them usefully into the gnarled tangle of synapses that passes for my brain.
So, struggling writer or not, you may want to look a little deeper into the picture window of your own TV. You’ll be pleasantly surprised what lessons are waiting in there for you.