…But Don’t Kill Your DVD Player

This may sound a little contradictory, but it isn’t. First, read yesterday’s post if you haven’t. This is part two.

As a writer, do watch movies. They are the mythos, the underlying culture, the modern equivalent of stories told around the campfire or bedtime tales told to children, in previous times. They are the language of our world. You can’t write for today’s humans without steeping yourself in the culture, and movies are where it’s at.

In point of fact, you can watch TV shows on DVD as well. I do it all the time. (This is the bit that sounds contradictory.) Admittedly, most of mine are British comedy or things like the work of Joss Whedon, things which show some story value (this is the bit that’s just my humble opinion). But mindless TV is probably all right too–as long as you’re not its slave. This is where the DVD player comes in handy. No commercials. You can turn it OFF. And you watch it when you want to, instead of giving up writing or playing with your kids in order to see your shows. And you can watch it again and again, so that the bad storytelling or confusing plot twists or cardboard characters really start to show through.

For a writer, reading bad novels is almost as important as reading good ones. You need to be able to discern; to read skeptically, to say “I would do this differently.” This is a very important part of the process of learning to write, a process that goes on for the rest of your life. Watching TV shows is the same; you need to see what not to do, as much as what to do.

And, as I said above, you need to swim in the culture that surrounds you in order to write for the readers that live there. Whether I like it or not, TV is part of that, a big part. Even the stupidest things there are part of it. Your readers will have absorbed this through their skin.

But above all, use your DVD player to watch things. The television need not be your master. You have the power. The off switch is power in YOUR hands.

*takes a bow, dodges thrown tomato, and steps down off soapbox*


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