Prof. TV

We’re into late September and new fall TV is either underway or about to be — and I can’t be happier. I’m a television junkie, well more like I’m a story junkie, but TV happens to be my favorite medium. And right now — between Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Cable, and network — we are in a golden age of quality story-telling. I sincerely believe that TV has never been more creative, innovative, surprising, and just plain ol’ awesome than it is right now. There’s so much good stuff on TV that my DVR can’t handle the load.

For someone who creates stories for a living, television provides a lot of inspiration as well as instruction. Various shows have taught me strong narrative elements.

For example…

The Vampire Diaries — Man, do I love this show. Some people might think it’s just a fluffy show about teenagers and hot vampires, but let me tell you, it is not. TVD is the king of scene twists and sympathetic villains. You want to learn how to shock your readers with a twist they didn’t see coming but should have? Take a lesson from the writers on this show. Also, none of the characters on TVD are all good or all bad. One episode, I’m rooting for murdering bloodsuckers and hating the good girls, and then next week, I switch. But, that’s how you keep a girl interested.

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Shameless — Everyone and their mother knows how much I love this show because I talk about it constantly. But Shameless has taught me several vital lessons. The first, strong character development is a long game. Season One Mickey Milkovich is a far different person from Season Five, and I mean that in a good way. It takes time to build beloved characters. Second, characters need to suffer, but they need a bit of luck, too. The Gallaghers often get into rough situations (losing their house, losing money, losing kids), but they’re proactive enough to solve their problems — even if the solution isn’t necessarily legal. Third, Shameless manages to be incredibly romantic without being cheesy. There’s never any lame, insufferable rom-com dialogue. Characters are forthright with their feelings and sometimes that sincerity is harsh. What’s love without tragedy? Fourth, and finally, what’s heartache and struggle without humor? Shameless is funny. I’m a big believer in inserting humor into every story. Even the sad ones.

Veronica  Mars — I would build an altar to show creator Rob Thomas if I could. That man is a genius. If you haven’t watched Veronica Mars, make that your number one priority. For those not in the know, Veronica Mars is a badass, sharp-tongued Nancy Drew who is hunting for her best friend’s killer while moonlighting as her California’s high school’s unofficial private investigator. This show taught me how to structure a mystery series in that it’s best to have one over-arching mystery across the series and each book focus on a smaller mystery. Also, snarky women are awesome and should be revered.

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In summation, television has taught me that I’m sort of a dark person. I love villains and suffering and conflict, but then again, I write mysteries. I guess you could say crime is my major and TV is my professor.

What television shows have you learned from?

Author: Kimberly G. Giarratano

I'm a YA author. And mom of 3. I'm also tired. Very, very tired.

10 thoughts on “Prof. TV”

  1. I’ve gotta say my favorite show right now is probably The Blacklist. Raymond Reddington is not a nice man. But you root for him because he’s compelling. That’s the lesson I’ve learned: your villains don’t have to be all black and your good guys all white. Gray is where the action is – and where things get compelling. Everybody talks about “likable” characters, but really – what you need is *compelling* characters. Ones you want to follow.


  2. Fun post, Kimberly! I completely agree that we’re in the golden age of television! A few shows I’ve learned from: Revenge–Season 1 (seriously, the writing is just amazing), Gilmore Girls (love the witty dialogue), Suits (USA is knocking it out of the park right now), and, echoing Sam, Stranger Things (so many surprising twists and turns)!


  3. What a fun post! I haven’t had a TV for a while – Wait – I haven’t had a TV hooked up to anything but Netflix and DVDs for a while, you are making me jones the TV life again. Veronica Mars may be on Netflix-sounds familiar. I have to check it out now. Thanks for the great synopsis, intro, and takeaway!


  4. I loved Stranger Things! And we’re big Blacklist watchers in the G house. I’m currently watching Narcos and it’s amazing.


  5. Gotta agree with Veronica Mars and Stranger Things, and bless your heart for turning me on to Shameless. Love it!
    I binge a lot of series. We’ve never had cable, so I get to wait and find out what’s good and has staying power, then devour it season by season. Orange is the New Black is one that is excellent at character development. I try to write novels cinematically so I study good movies to see how they did what they did and more importantly, how I can steal it. For overarching themes and callbacks I look to Broadway musicals, mostly the more complicated newer ones. There’s always musical motifs and lyrics that act as reminders. When it’s done well, well … you can’t beat it!


  6. Oh, lovely! What a great post; thank you. I love TV and have had to learn not be be embarrassed by that. My hubby and I love crime shows–CSI, Criminal Minds, NCIS, the early Mentalist seasons, etc. Oh, and Numb3rs was fun. My daughter has recently discovered The Flash, The Arrow, and Supergirl on Netflix. Loving them each for different reasons, but particularly The Arrow. Talk about a damaged hero! I will definitely be checking out TVD; sounds like something I’d like, and could draw inspiration from.


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