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How to Watch TV Like a Novelist Part Two: Questioning the Plot

All right, so last time we talked about characters. Today, let’s discuss plot. Here are some questions to ask yourself when watching TV to inform your own writing:

1) Why did they choose to end the scene there? (And where do you think they are going to pick up when the commercial starts?)

This is what you should wonder when the show skips to commercial, or at the end of the show. Did the scene end at a cliffhanger? Do you still feel interested enough to keep watching, or could you turn off the TV/stop watching the show and not care what happens next? Thinking about the answers to these questions can help you figure out where to end your scenes and chapters.

2) Subplots– do they add to the main plot or detract from it?

Sometimes if the main storyline is too dramatic, TV show writers will add in scenes designed to be lighter in mood or funny to keep us from wanting to turn off the TV. Other times however, side plots just seem to get in the way of what’s going on. Examine your own writing and make sure your subplots are important in some way.

3) Overarching storylines–Where are they going with this?

It’s very difficult to watch a TV show that doesn’t have some underlying story that connects the threads of the episodes. Shows that have some underlying story to them (like Monk’s wife’s death, or the central mystery of the island in Lost) keep us interested. But when they lose sight of the central story, it’s easier for us to stop caring about missing episodes. Likewise, when you’re writing, try not to lose track of where you’re going with the story, otherwise, your readers will get bored.

Next time: Details, details.

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