Writing has made it tough to watch TV

I have a hard time suspending my disbelief. If I’m watching TV or a movie and a character does something that a real person wouldn’t do, it just jerks me out of the story. I’ve always had this “problem,” but lately, it seems as though I can find fault with anything. At first I thought I was just becoming a grouching curmudgeon, then I thought maybe the quality of shows has gone downhill. Both are valid possibilities, but the third option – and the one I want to talk about now – is that because of my writing, when I watch something I don’t just get carried along by the story. I’m noticing the plot elements and the story structure. Checking out the competition, if you will.

The reason this causes problems is in my longer stories I go for a realistic approach. I want the actions of my characters to be what real people would do in those situations. I recently borrowed the first season of a series on DVD from a friend. This was a show that I had high hopes for, but ended up being disappointed with. Part of it was that the main character seemed more of a puppet than a real person. It was like, “Okay, for this episode he needs to be a real dick. In the following episode, he needs to be very introspective. The next episode, he’s funny. Etc., etc. He wasn’t a real person facing these things, he was just a marionette being moved to “look real.” It bugged me.

Something else that bugs me, is that too many shows lack weight. By that I mean that they seem to just be a series of scenes with little connecting them. An example that I’ve seen too often. The bad guys are chasing the good guys. They are right behind them. Then, somehow, the good guys are miles ahead of the bad guys so they stop and get into an argument. When the bad guys catch up, the good guys patch up their differences and race off again. When I see something like that I figure the writer wanted to make some drama – cheaply – by making the good guys argue for no apparent reason, and it was just stuck in the middle of a chase scene to make the chase seem longer or because there wasn’t any other place to stick it. Basically, A happens, B happens, C happens. If you ask what are the logical connections between A and B or B and C, I half expect a blank stare followed by, “A happens, B happens, C happens.”

To be fair, I’ve never written an episode for TV or a movie. I’m sure it’s harder than the flash fiction stories I mainly write. But I think too often basic story telling elements are being set aside to make room for explosions and other things to distract you from the fact there isn’t a plot. Which could account for why the quality has gone down. Or I could just be a grouching curmudgeon.

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