It's very well known among writers that reading is one of the keys to becoming a better writer. "The more you read, the better writer you become" is the most popular advice I have received since I decided I was a writer. It also goes along with the general advice for anything in life, "the more you practice, the better you become."
However, the one thing I slowly began to discover as I became a writer was the thing I never really heard anyone mention. It was the notion that watching television shows could also make me a better writer.
For many writers, they would believe that watching television would only be beneficial if you were planning on being a scriptwriter. The thing is that watching television shows come with a lot of benefits not only for scriptwriters, but also for novelists, poets, or any type of writer.
Each week you watch television shows and grow connections to the characters and the actors. Once the episode airs, you're willing to have discussions about it and sometimes even imagine in a different way. It's this imagining the show in a different way that led to the creation of fanfiction, and thus, my life as a writer.
When I was younger, the first forms of writing came in poems and short stories. Although, those things were often written for school and not the inspiration behind being a writer. The first official thing I ever wrote was a Harry Potter fanfiction about Ron and Hermione. I never actually finished it, because I eventually had more ideas that contributed my love for fanfiction. I continued to write my own, while also reading others.
Fanfiction was the stepping stone into me becoming a writer. It's one of the many reasons fanfiction is real writing (although, that's a topic for another time). The main point here is the influence of television drove me to be a writer. The influence also came from something that was a large part of my childhood and that was soap operas.
I spent many afternoons watching soap opera with my entire family. I was young, but I enjoyed the drama and the concepts that I learned from it.
There's something about the formula of a soap opera that makes it successful. The common tropes of relationships and drama are the things that take center-fold. The stories intermix themselves between tragedy, romance, comedy, and action. It's most important element comes in invoking emotion and creating a connection with the audience. It's these deep levels of connection that can you even feel bad for a murderer.
It's all of these same things that can be applied to your own writing. It's gaining the ability to understand how to create a connection with your audience (also understanding who your audience is). Just think: if you create empathy for a murderer, it becomes much easier to do it for a nice, caring character.
In addition, you learn how to balance story and allow yourself to play with a variety of elements. It's much more fun to be able to write a tragedy and comedy at the same time.
If something has the ability to make you laugh and cry at the same time, it has to be good.
In college, I became a theatre minor, which required me to taking acting classes. It's also the reason I began to read books about acting, especially acting methods. I began to realize that understanding acting was also a large part of being a writer.
As you watch an actor, you began to notice the emotions and the methods they are used to emote them. From here, it would be the process of learning how to translate those emotions to the page. On the other hand, it can be the actor's actions that influence a character's reaction that you may have been struggling to write.
This now leads us to how television can be a training ground in imagery. When I actually reflect on the television shows I watch, I start to realize how easy it is to describe things in words.
Remember the mention of the old adage “practice makes perfect"? It's the same thing that applies here. Take the time while watching television to describe the scene on the screen in words. It will slowly build your ability to describe the scene in your book, poem, etc. The ability to create amazing imagery is one of the things that pulls a reader in...and creates a connection.
At the end of the day, everything comes back to connection. It's the thing that makes your reader want to continue reading, no matter what you're writing.
Even though television shows can be beneficial to writers, it's also fair to ask why movies can be used in the same way. Movies can work, but it's the constant availability to television that makes its better tool. The influence of television in my life has led me to not only become a writer but also to be a better writer. It's all about analyzing the show and its elements: the acting, the writing, the imagery and allowing it to guide your writing.
All you have to do is keep the television set on and get to writing.