The Mistress of Pennington's Tour

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Wild Rose Press author, Mimi Barbour is here appreciating the skill of TV writing..

And how it can help us with our own story writing. Great to have you and your beautiful book cover here, Mimi!

Thank you Rachel for having me a guest on your blog. I’ve looked forward to it very much, and I hope the subject I’ve chosen to write of interest to all your followers.

Lately, I’ve been watching television programs through the eyes of an author and not just a fan, and by doing this, I’ve realized how much there is to learn from screenwriters whose job it is to make viewers believe. Believe in their concepts and their characters. (Plus by determining that it’s part of my homework on learning everything I can about writing, the guilt is much less than if I was just zoning out of real life for a few hours in front of the box.)

My admiration soars for those talented writers, for their ability to come up with new plot twists and deep emotional moments, and for many of them, it has to happen every week. The way they tweak in small tidbits of information, which eventually lead to the next weave of the story is nothing short of brilliant.

Recently, at the Emerald City conference in Seattle, I had the opportunity to go to a Bob Mayer workshop, great choice I must add, and he said something that struck me as being a bit sad, but very true. Every story has been told. Bravery, treachery, love, jealousy, etc – it’s all been used in some novel or another hasn’t it? So, as authors with a tale to tell, we need to write it differently. A new spin, a fresh voice, something that’ll catch the eye of the publishers and the readers. Well I imagine this scenario is the same for the television writers. They too need to keep their audience turning to their channels and falling in love with those actors playing roles that have already been done over and over...

One of my favourite shows is and an ongoing saga called Life Unexpected. It’s about a young orphan teenager who goes to find her real parents and gets caught up in their lives. The acting is great, but I think what gets me the most is the way each week spins out so that every episode leaves you hooked. Like the ending to a well-written chapter should leave the reader needing to know what’s going to happen on the next page. It’s what keeps the reader caught up in the story and unable to put the book down in the same way that I wait for the next week’s addition to this serial on TV.

By making notes and paying attention to their dialogue, especially during the deeper moments, it’s helped me to understand there’s a rhythm to conflict and emotion. Listening to the funny one-liners has taught me to cut down on the wordiness and trim off unnecessary descriptions. It’s also made me aware of how important the setting can be to the mood in that particular scene. But most of all, it’s given me a better appreciation and
made me understand that us authors of books do not have the advantage of the screen. We need to convey and express everything to our readers with only our words.

Whoa! Are we really sure it’s what we’ve always wanted to do???

Please feel free to contact me anytime at, or check out my website at I love to hear from anyone, makes me feel there’s a world out there, and not just those cheeky characters always trying to give me a hard time by not doing or saying what I’ve plotted.

Loved this post, Mimi! I often find my mind drifting when watching TV - wondering how the writer did that, how skilled they are or asking my husband if he appreciates the work gone into writing the programme....which often gets me a glare that could kill, LOL!

Great topic to discuss, people - let's get started!!


  1. What a great idea, Mimi! I'd never really thought of doing this but I think it would be a fine way to study dialogue. Excellent post!

  2. Hi Mimi,
    Great blog. You have certainly opened up my eyes.



  3. Hi Mimi,

    What a great comparison. I've heard other authors speak on the topic of relating movie plots to romance novel plots (looking for character arcs, GMC, etc.), but this might be the first time I've heard of using tv as a textbook. Next time I tune in, I'm going to take notes!

    Thanks for posting!

  4. Great post, Mimi. I've been using a new tv show like this. I'm watching and asking, "how are they doing this." They keep hooking me from week to week.

  5. Great post, Mimi! I knew there was a reason I watched TV at night. Actually I've been doing more and more watching TV and movies for the story and how the writer put it together. Same with books.

  6. Hi Maeve,Margaret,Debra,Marie and Paty...

    I leave the computer for an hour and everyone comes to visit. Thank you..
    We all seem to be in sync here, that the dummybox (as my husband calls it) can actually reveal some great ways to better our writing. Since we have 5 dummyboxes around our house, ahem, I, for one, will be keeping a pad and pencil close by. Shows like Hawaii 5-0, Castle, Grey's Anatomy, and some of the other new ones have lots of character interaction or romantic elements we can learn from. Of course, we also get the added benefit of zoning out...something every one of us needs to do from time to time.
    Right???? Right.

  7. MIMI!!!! You are so lovely. I find myself doing this all the time! You are so right, we have much to learn from scripting. My kids watch a lot of Nickelodeon and Disney and I can find it even there. Write On!!

  8. Thanks for joining in Valerie...Glad you agree with the concept...caught a good line last night on Hawaii 5-0. Dano was complaining about pain and the other dude said - have you finished your booboo-bitchin yet?
    I laughed out loud!! It's those kinds of get on-liners that catch my attention.
    xo Mimi