Friday, October 19, 2012

Characters Who Watch TV

Source: Sedentary TV Time May Cut Life Short

I think it's universally accepted that a character who sits around and watches TV in his spare time doesn't make a good protagonist... except maybe if he's watching mandatory TV in The Hunger Games. But even then, that's a supporting character. The main character is ON the mandatory TV.

So I'm not suggesting we all make our characters TV junkies.

What I do want to suggest is that real people watch TV - sometimes a lot of it. We watch Oscar ceremonies and MTV awards, Olympics events and sports games, sit coms and soap operas and dramas and space cowboy steampunk and pyschological thrillers... and commercials.

And then we talk about it to anyone else who watches the same stuff we do.

It never occurred to me to make my characters real in this way until I read Paranormalcy by Kiersten White. Her main character, Evie, is a pink-loving, sparkly-taser-toting, Buffy-esque paranormal huntress whose biggest desire is to be normal. And she is obsessed with a teen drama called Easton Heights... so obsessed that she compares things she is experiencing to specific episodes from the fictional show. It works because most of us have seen these teen shows and understand the cliches she's embracing as her ideal of "normal."

Of course, throughout the three-book story she comes to find out that normal is not really a real thing, and if it were, it would be overrated. Her awesome message-made-for-teens aside, giving Evie a favorite TV show was brilliant. Here's why:

  • we all watch TV and can relate (well, most of us)
  • the stories we take in on TV inform and affect our perceptions of our own lives
  • we share TV stories as part of our popular culture; it can even bond two strangers in an elevator
  • our TV tastes are a reflection of our personalities
So if you have a scene where your main character walks into the house to find her little brother watching TV, go the extra mile and tell the reader what he's watching and what your MC thinks about it. It only takes a few extra words and it helps to characterize both people in the scene. Even if you aren't going to mention it in the story, give your MC a favorite TV show. See if it informs any of her dearly-held stereotypes, friendships, or choices.

If your protagonist were living in today's world, what would his or her favorite TV show be? What movie did he just watch in the theater (and with whom). What old show did she rent or watch from Netflix?

Happy Friday!


  1. This is so true!! I had one of my characters watching Teen Mom. Haha.

    1. Jenny, awesome! See, I already have my own stereotypes to fill in for your character. LOL.

  2. My main character would love that new show, Nashville. She'd also love Justified though it might feel a little too close to her reality.

  3. This is a great point!! Totally going to keep this in mind as I begin writing my new novel. :)


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