Thursday, 27 May 2010

Action all the way

I’ve been reading blogs instead of writing them today (mainly because Roland Garros is rained off! And on Ginger's blog I found something to make me think.
Ginger says: 'Sometimes you see something on TV that prompts a comparison to writing novels. Authors are always supposed to start off with a hook that reels the reader in, and keep the story interesting, no matter how many twists and turns it takes.'

She goes on to relate the summary of a US medical show which sounds as if it exhausts every emotion in the viewer.
It reminded me of the reason I stopped watching Casualty and Holby City and the like. The story lines seem to me to be as similarly fast-paced as the American show, though I don’t think crocodiles have featured in them yet. My question is this: are these shows a Good Thing if they leave people wanting books that read as fast as the tv shows?

I'm not sure. I gave up watching Casulaty and Holby City when I started predicting the accidents, however unlikely, that were going to end up as the hospital's problem. Someone's cooking? - there'll be a fire. Climbing a ladder - he'll fall, and take three pedestrians with him. Driving - well, it's never a single crash now, but it's always a multiple vehicle pile-up on the motorway and someone always has to have a limb taken off....

Is this entertainment? It seems so.
I imagine, perhaps even hope, that a good many people are turned away by how often reality is sacrificed for a good story on tv. As book writers, rather than tv writers, we are encouraged to make things real for the reader. Agents demand characterisation as well as action, and the books that haunt our best seller lists and take national prizes often fill six hundred pages with episodic and slow-paced happenings that cannot really be called action.

It seems to me that the two mediums are vastly different, but somewhere in the middle there is a blurring. I’m hoping that the blurring stays just that and does not impinge the standards of one medium upon the other.
Any views on this?
The pic is the inside of the central block of Seaton Delaval Hall after the 1822 fire.


Anita Davison said...

I see exactly what you mean, jen. This action every thirty seconds and cliffhangers all the way are exhausting to watch. Come back the Jane Austen TV dramas! I also hate the 'every chapter must have a hook' rule too. Sometimes a natural break is a good thing.

Carolin said...

Right with Anita on that one, but I think you know by now how I feel about that action, action, action demand. Sitting here right now, working on a chapter, and trying to figure out the 'action.' Argh!!!

I love the Jane Austen TV dramas, or the old Brideshead Revisited series. A lot of the current TV series here in the US and the books being published take place over the course of 24 hours or so and are non-stop action - exhausting, as Anita says....

Jen Black said...

Glad to know I'm not alone in my thinking! So who are these action shows aimed at? The under thirtysomethings?