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Tips to Take From Reality TV Show Editing

I think I’ve already admitted this in a semi-recent blog post. But for those of you who didn’t read that one (if it exists at all)… let’s just heap on an additional dose of well-deserved humiliation.

I’ve been watching The Bachelorette.

In my defense, I hate myself for it. Not in my defense, I’m watching it anyway.

It’s just such a train wreck.

My one sister, meanwhile, is addicted to Married at First Sight, a very aptly named show. It’s about people who literally, legally get married at first sight. They know nothing about each other’s looks, personalities, beliefs – not even their names – before they meet for the first time at the altar.

Crazy, right?

That’s reality TV for you though: crazy and unrealistic.

Even the most… umm… dedicated Bachelorette fan knows deep down inside that reality TV is one giant editing job. It’s spliced life – life that’s carefully culled to be interesting under unusual circumstances.

And right there, we also have our two key factors of a good novel: editing and unusual circumstances.

I know this week’s writing Definition, Challenge and Rule are focused entirely on editing a first draft. But for this article’s purpose, that’s not necessarily the kind I’m referring to. It applies just as much to the writing process as everything beyond.

Reality – real reality – is not always interesting. When you throw some drama into the picture, then things can heat up. But even then, there are going to be moments that nobody outside of your life (and perhaps even some people within your life) just don’t care about.

When it comes to fiction, those are the moments readers don’t need insight into.

Therefore, don’t write about them. And if you do write about them, get rid of them. Or gloss over them. Minimize them as much as you possibly can.

That is if you want to capture and keep your readers’ interest.

When I studied abroad in England, I got caught up in what I called “Real World – Cheltenham.”

One of the first reality TV shows ever, Real World, would throw a bunch of young adults into one house. Then it would continuously film them, often as they made mountains out of molehills.

Cliques formed. People got sick because of too much partying. People made other mistakes because of too much partying. People got into fights because of too much partying…

To viewers, it seemed like nonstop drama. But that was thanks to editing. Because, while Real World filmed nonstop, it didn’t show everything nonstop. It only showed “the good stuff” that would keep people coming back for more each week.

Going back to my study abroad experience, I had always thought before then that reality TV was made up. There was no way so many people could be that immature!

I learned otherwise after interacting a mere month with my mostly female fellow American students and the mainly male British students we hung out with. Oh, there were moments of calm contemplation, intelligent conversation and actual study...

They were just mixed in with very real, very ridiculous drama… with cliques forming, people getting sick from too much partying… people making other mistakes because of too much partying… people getting into fights because of too much partying…

And me usually in the self-appointed role of “Mommy” over all that drama. Believe me: It genuinely could have been a show, and a successful, profitable one too.

With the right editing. Without the right editing, it would have flopped.

The same thing applies to your novel manuscript you’re working on. We’ll discuss how next Wednesday.

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