Watch any amount of reality TV, and you sense kind of why it doesn’t work. Everyone complains that it is “forced” and “over-produced”. And yes, certainly there are different levels of production values that impact the final product.
But the real reason is that Life doesn’t follow the Rules of Storytelling. For example, if you are following Larry Brooks’ “Story Engineering” as I am, you know that plot points, pinch points, etc. have to come at certain times in order to make the story “work”. Thing is, in real life maybe that jar of baby food falls off the shelf and shatters on the tile floor when there is sixteen other jars of it in the cupboard (and Mum was looking for soup anyway…). It doesn’t always happen when the baby’s screaming and Mum’s late for work, and the dog is about to lap up the glass shards and (most importantly) it is THE LAST JAR OF FOOD IN THE HOUSE. You know, something that would really create tension and keep the plot moving.
Producers must have found out quite early that working with “reality” was just as difficult as working with kids and dogs — it doesn’t work if you have limited time and/or budget. Which of course is the hallmark of reality TV — a cheap alternative to slick sit-coms. So is it any wonder that reality TV became scripted faster than you can say “Scott Baio is 45… and Single”?
Another observation about “reality” — one of the books I’m currently reading is In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, one of the “New Journalism” writers. I like his writing style, but the story is kind of flat. Just this morning, I was wondering what the big deal about this book was, why it is so touted, when I realized that it really was one of the first of its kind. Although there was Sam Spade and even Dragnet by this point, there weren’t a lot of “true” cop shows like today’s Cops and City Confidential and the myriad of biographical shows that dissect a million different crimes. For many, In Cold Blood was their first insights into a real crime, a real event, that included the viewpoint of the killers. That must have been fascinating in itself — enough to hold the attention where today (for me anyway) the novelty no longer exists.
Anyway, those are my musings for today. Got a lot of good work in this morning. Which was good — I’ve been floundering like, well, a flounder on the bottom of the boat for most of the week. That hasn’t stopped me from putting time in, though I can’t say it was very productive.
So I sat down this morning, fully expecting to continue some literary flopping about, but I got into the groove almost immediately. (Maybe that’s why I wrote for almost three hours…) Actually, I wrote what will be a critical scene, a huge turning point in terms of both story and characterization. It might have to be trimmed a bit, but generally I’m very happy with it.
One other thing to report — a month or so ago, Rex Pickett solicited questions from readers of his books, and lovers of the movie. I emailed to ask him to ask about his decision to create his own publishing company (with a business partner), Loose Gravel Press. I got a response back very quickly. What I didn’t know is that he also posted it on his Facebook page, as if it was a typewritten response. Very cool — and another step in my quest for immortality.
Check out Rex’s response to my question here (under his “Miles and Jack” fan page on Facebook).
Novel Writing Hours