Saturday, March 10, 2007

Props to TV Writers

Over at The Lextopia, I've done a fair share of criticizing TV shows; good ones, too. After thinking about writing for TV, though, and doing my own writing for short stories and a novel, I have to give them some props.

Now, when it comes to say. . .LOST, I won't be retracting any criticism for most of the second season and the pre-hiatus third season. After seeing them do a better job with show and having seen other shows that pull off solid work, I believe there's room for criticism, even while giving props.

But seriously, they deserve the props. Maybe I'll take one or two back mainly because writing TV is their full time job. They can dedicate tons of time to the labor of love while, lately, I can only give 10 minutes a day to my writing, and that's a maximum. I've been working on my current main short story project for something like 3 months now, and it still doesn't reach the standards of a good story ready to get published let alone meet my own standards. This thing needs two whole new scenes developed then everything needs to get re-ordered, AT THE LEAST!

My working alone does provide one advantage: the end product will most likely not have any continuity or characterization inconsistencies. Nor will it suffer from blandness because of a community writing atmosphere.

These TV writers do deserve some props, though. Sure, they probably have the first couple episodes written up and fully edited before a season starts. They have to deal with tons of time constraints and have to deal with:

* Creating quality work

* Writing extremely efficiently without having the time to draft, draft and draft some more

* Keeping up with the continuity

That last one really strikes me as an amazing feat to accomplish. Sure, a lot of shows have inconsistent continuity issues and require the occasional retcon (if they care enough to do it) to correct the continuity. Nonetheless, think about it. With a short story or novel, you can tinker around with it, change information, character histories, change events, etc. etc. to accomplish the effect that you want or to allow for consistency between scenes.

In the case of a series of novels or short stories, the writer has to deal with making current and future works consistent with past work, but that's probably a whole other story. How many J.K. Rowlings are out there writing a series of books? Now that I think about it, though, a similar set of props need to go out to early written storytellers, like Charles Dickens, who wrote serials and had to write on a similar schedule as TV writers.

But just take a moment to think about how TV writers pretty much have to write a story a week and after it's totally finalized or broadcast, they have to write their current story to make it completely consistent with past episodes. Unlike the novelist or short story writer, they can't go back and change events to make for a great effect, event, character or to make the story stronger for the viewer. Once it's out there, they have to work with it. And if they have run themselves into the corner with a story, they just have to deal with it and come up with a solution.

At least with a lack of story, a new writing crew or even the current one can just come inand tie up loose ends. For a series with a story, though, they have to reckon with the story they've made or come up with a damn good way to change things.

Props go to TV writers for not having the freedom to change the past for the benefit of the whole. . .and at least 25% of the time, making something pretty respectable. Good going.

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