Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Discards and Keepers

Have you ever wondered what happens to old unsuccessful television series? I can tell you. They end up on services such as Netflix or Hulu. In the last few weeks while I've been under the weather, the hunk and I have watched far more TV than I've watched in recent years. We discovered Netflix has a treasure-trove of series that didn't make the grade. Since we have no frame of reference, we just randomly pick and watch to see what they're about.

Our rule is they must have less than fifteen episodes. There's some really strange stuff out there. We've watched end-of-the-world stuff. And oddball mystery. And here's what we've concluded. A lot of it seriously deserved to be canceled.

While watching I've analyzed why or why not the shows didn't catch the public's eye. My number one reason--a confusing, disorganized beginning. Seriously. Murky sets, murky story lines, just...murky in general.

I like a mystery as well as the next gal, but for the love of Perry Mason, just tell me what it is! Don't just meander around introducing characters at random, showing them performing various tasks with no context. Argh!!! Why is that man cutting flowers? Why is the girl bicycling past a canal? What is the significance of that woman looking out the window at the man washing his car? Why should I care?

Writers sometimes do the same thing. There are many reasons a book might become a wallbanger, but the number one reason is general murkiness. Once the reader is too confused to figure out what the heck is going on, they're done.

My favorite books--the ones I read multiple times--clearly state the main premise of the book in the first chapter. Too often in an effort to maintain the mystery, an author fails to reveal the premise. Then the reader wanders for as long as they can stand it before pitching the book and moving on.

If the writer can't keep the reader's interest long enough to decide whether they like the characters and want to know more about them, whether they could possibly care about what will happen to them, then that book will be 'canceled'. And for many readers, there will be no second chance for that story.


  1. Replies
    1. Some of the TV shows were soooo dark, we couldn't make out what the people were doing. :-) Maybe I'm just getting old...

  2. Oh so true, Anny! Great post! Yes- arsty stuff does not a story make.

    1. Exactly. It makes you wonder how some things get that far...