Friday, September 2, 2016

How Writing My New Book Has Made Me a Better TV Fan

A Stickler for Continuity

I've always hated inconsistent writing on television and I never understood why it happened. I would watch a show, and someone would say something that contradicted an event from an earlier season, and I would get angry. Lamenting that it destroys the world they are trying to build when they let us see behind the curtain like that. Calling it "bad writing". Wondering why they couldn't just stay true to what they had already written.

Star Trek

I discovered Star Trek in my teens. I've seen every episode of the original series as well as The Next Generation. I've seen all the movies multiple times. I remember voicing my opinion about inconsistencies in the Star Trek universe from the beginning. It has been a while since I last watched all the way through the episodes and movies, so I have forgotten many of them, but I do remember that Data's cat on The Next Generation switches gender at some point.

I also remember that in an early episode of the original series, James T. Kirk is actually James R. Kirk.

These are things that drove me crazy when I noticed them.


I've watched Supernatural more recently than Star Trek and can recall more mistakes in that series. Honestly there are too many to count, but I'll list a few. In Season Two Dean says that he and Sam have never seen the Grand Canyon. Then in Season Eight they sit and reminisce about a big trip they took with their dad when they were kids to--guess where--the Grand Canyon! There's also the strange history of the Rugaru. If you watch the show you may recall that the first time this creature is mentioned is in Season Four. Dean has never heard of it. When he hears the word he states that it sounds "made up". Then in a later season (I don't remember which one) he talks about hunting one with his dad. did he hunt one with his dad if his dad died before he ever even heard of one?

Supernatural also experienced a major shift in mood in Season Four. One could almost say it changed genres. Everything about the show has been different since that season, including the story arcs. One particular story arc that has always bothered me is the one involving Sam's psychic powers. Do you watch the show now? Can you remember the last time those powers were mentioned? Does something like that just disappear? Okay, maybe it could just disappear, but if that was intentional it seems that the writers would have thought of a way to explain why. And let's talk about those powers for a moment. In the first two seasons Sam has visions. That is the extent of what he can do. It is hinted that if he embraces his destiny he can do much more, but for the time it's just visions. And he can't control them. They come on him unannounced and there's nothing he can do to either trigger or prevent one. Fast forward to Season Four. He still has psychic powers, but he no longer has visions. Why not? The implication in this season is that he finally has accepted what the demon did to him when he was a baby and is using the gifts he was given. So why aren't his visions among those gifts? And why does he now have to drink demon blood to use his powers when before they were just a part of him?

Again, these are things that used to drive me crazy.

What My New Book Has Taught Me

I just wrote the final chapter of my new book yesterday. Now to the editing. And this edit will be intense because I have some major plot holes to go back and patch. Here's what happened. This book has a complex backstory, not just involving what has happened to the main characters in the past but also involving family secrets which go back centuries. There is also some dark magic involved, and writing about magic requires having rules that the magic and all who use it must obey. When I started writing, I didn't exactly have all those details nailed down in my head, so my task now is to go back and find all the places where what I said in an early chapter conflicts with what happens in a later chapter. I can tell you there will be many such places.

This has made me see my favorite television shows in a new light. Primarily, I have realized that it's hard to know exactly where a story is going when you first sit down to write it. There are always going to be things you think of later that you didn't really have in mind when you began. In a book that's okay. You can always go back and change it. That Word document is sitting there begging to be looked at with new eyes, edited, polished, tweaked. But a television show? If you've already filmed the first few seasons and put them out into the world, there's no going back to change it. So when you have a new idea you have a choice. Ditch the idea because it doesn't fit perfectly with what came before, or plow ahead and hope nobody notices because it's such a darn good idea. And then of course there are the times when you don't perfectly recall what came before, and if you're writing on a deadline you don't have time to go back and review everything that's already been done.

So my point is that I understand now. I get it. I still may not like it. I still may complain. But I know how it happens. I've been there. I've done that. I'm trying my darnedest to correct it, but I know that, with television, those corrections are pretty near impossible to make. So I would like to apologize to all the writers of my favorite shows who I have criticized a little too harshly over the years and to thank them for the wonderful entertainment they have provided me and the rest of their audience.

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