I don't watch a ton of TV, but there are times I just need to clear my mind and be entertained. After all, it's research--or so I tell myself. I do learn a lot from characterization and plot and try to use what I learn in my writing.
We don't have cable and only get one channel on TV, so we see our favorite shows online. There aren't many commercials on sites such as Hulu, which is nice, and of course there are none on Netflix. Because of this, the places in a show where there would normally be commercials stand out.
This week, I learned something.
Producers pause the story where they have the best chance of getting the viewer to stay on the channel, to come back to find out what's happened. There are many things that lure a viewer away during commercial breaks, for example, checking email, Facebook, getting a snack, or surfing around other channels to see what's on. The producer has a huge challenge in bringing the viewer back to their show after all this, so they stop the story at critical points, or hooks.
Think of a TV show as a book and where each commercial comes in as the end of a chapter. There are a lot of things that compete for readers' attention. We want to make it difficult for them to put our books down at the end of a chapter. I think good places to end a chapter may be the same as what's going on in a TV show just before the commercial break.
I've come across a few different themes lately where shows are paused, and I'm sure there are many more:
Someone is about to get hurt (physically or emotionally)
Someone has just gotten hurt (physically or emotionally)
Something major is about to happen, like thieves about to crack a safe
Something major has just happened, like thieves who cracked a safe and are fleeing from the police
Information is about to be given, like when an FBI agent's phone rings, he answers it, and someone is about to give him critical info
At the end of an intense emotional situation, like a kiss--to make us want to find out what happened after they connected
Just after something horrible is discovered
And so on, and so on.
So the next time you watch a television show, keep a lookout for tips that can help in your writing.
And in case you need a double whammy, why not watch a show about a writer? I highly recommend Castle. *wink*
I'm going to watch last night's episode tonight, so if you've seen it, please don't spill the beans!