How To Sharpen Your Writing Skills By Watching TV By Wendy Hobday Haugh

How To Sharpen Your Writing Skills By Watching TV By Wendy Hobday Haugh

Writers are taught to write what they know, and read and write voraciously every day. But ‘what I know’ has limits, and – much as I love to read and write – given life’s many other responsibilities, sometimes I just want to close my book, turn off the computer, and turn on the TV.

Since writing is deemed a lofty pursuit, and television viewing falls more in the couch-potato category, I used to feel guilty about watching TV – until I discovered its power as a writing tool. Covering all genres, television programming offers countless examples of successes and failures in plot, pacing, setting, characterization, and dialogue. By becoming an engaged viewer – paying close attention to what works, what doesn’t, and why – I’ve become a more mindful writer.

Television also provides an excellent springboard for research. PBS informs on everything: ancestry, natural wonders, historical periods, modern-day legends. Need legal speak or courtroom insights? Check out “Judge Judy” or “Law & Order.” Business strategies, buzz words, boardroom drama? “The Apprentice.” For medical info, watch “The Doctors”; hospital scenarios, “Grey’s Anatomy.” Cooking terms/tools/menus: “Master Chef” or “Rachel Ray.” Glimpses into the country music industry: “Nashville.” The possibilities are endless.

Sheriff Walt “Longmire” (who says more in a glance than words can ever convey) presents a fantastic writing exercise. When Walt delivers a particularly intriguing look, I challenge myself to describe it in words: ‘As their eyes locked, fear snaked across the room.’

Sometimes TV provides an enlightening mirror. Once, a sitcom actor suddenly reminded me of one of my own characters-in-progress. Why? Because his persona was so one-dimensional and flat! My fictional friend promptly got a makeover.

Used wisely, television is a powerful resource. Wordsmiths are seldom told to watch TV daily, but I’ve birthed many an innovative idea while kicking back with the tube. By becoming a more engaged viewer – eager to analyze, critique, and expand my world – I’ve also become a more skilled and successful freelancer.

Wendy Hobday Haugh’s eclectic writing career began with a greeting card sale to Hallmark. Since then, she has tackled children’s magazine stories and articles, coauthored a children’s non-fiction book, SLED DOGS (Dodd, Mead, Inc. 1983), published writing articles and humorous parenting pieces, poetry, profiles, personal essays, short mysteries and romances, and a church history book.