Chapters as TV episodes

Hi my name is Emily, and I’m one of those relatively unpublished authors that you were warned would be part of this blog. I don’t know why I felt the need to AA-style introduce myself, but deal with it… oh and keep reading. Even though I’ve been writing since I was in high school, I’m one of those people with a thousand beginnings, maybe two fleshed out ideas, and absolutely nothing polished.

I’m am (probably way too excited) to say that this month I had a flash fiction story posted on linguisticerosion.com and a short story published in romance magazine =)  http://www.fictionmagazines.com/shop/romance-issues/romance-magazine-vol-02-06/

Okay, now that I’ve gotten my shameless self-promotion out of the way, I want to delve into my topic. Every time I’m binge watching a show on Netflix, I can’t help but think of how it parallels to a book unfolding. My brain wants to view each episode like a chapter. The easier this is for my brain to do this, the more I find a show satisfying.

This led my to think of each chapter I write as an episode (of my own fantasy show). Sometimes this concept is easy a la Game of Thrones season one. In fact, I constantly find myself wondering, just like with a novel, if TV show writers have an outline for their plots or if they are just making shit up as they go (sans GoT because I know they have like 10,000+ words of an outline). I mean, it felt that way with Lost. Nothing added up and some things were simply just forgotten as the seasons went on. And what was that ending?

I thought the biggest difference between novels and TV episodes was that while novels are constantly moving forward, TV episodes tend to have an overarching story with episodes that loop around. However, I think the same thing could be said for some novel series that I have read.

After binge watching Lost Girl yesterday, I decided to call these sub-plot-loop-a-rounds. Each episode branches off into a sub-plot that gets neatly wrapped up by the end of the episode; however, there is still that overarching story that pulls the show forward. The same could be said of a novel series, especially the kind that lead to 20 books.There is a main point driving the books forward, but each individual novel has a subplot that is explored and concluded.

The comparisons led me to wonder if this is just a natural progression of the way we expect stories (on TV and in novels) now? Personally, I’ve always preferred stand alone books, and satisfying season finales. I hate cliffhanger endings, I think they are exploiting. Maybe even a cop out of writing a complete story. I thought TV was the primary villain in this regard a la Grey’s Anatomy, but the same thing seems to happen with some books too. Matter of fact, I lose interest in shows and books after about (book) season 3. It almost always seems to be downhill from that point. It always seems like writers are reaching for ideas. I also hate that when there is no conclusion in sight. I’m also a little butt hurt still about the conclusion to Lost, but that’s a different post topic.

Speaking of Lost though, I’ve noticed a far amount of misleading clues in TV shows. Mostly Lost Girl since that’s what I’m onto now. Is this acceptable in novels? Is it acceptable to lead your reader astray in order to surprise them? I’ve been told that makes an unreliable character/ narrator, but if it’s accepted in TV, why not? Do you feel cheated when shows pan into something (like a dead body) foreshadowing-ly and then next episode you find out dude was just passed out in his zombie make-up?

And just like the Lost writers, I made it this far and forgot what my conclusion was…after all my complaining about satisfying endings, I’m feeling the pressure now. Granted from someone who has written The End on one (dreadful) novel, I guess I shouldn’t be pointing too many fingers.

So, I suppose, I’m asking. Do you see your novel as a TV show? Can you see your chapter unfold in your head as you write it? Do you end the chapter and wonder if people will tune in next week i.e. turn the next page? Oh, and how many subplots are just too freaking many?

I also have a infrequently updated tumblr : umyeahrightokay.tumblr.com

And my email is emmaleigh234@gmail.com. And as soon as I’m hip to all that other social media, I’ll update my contact info =)

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9 thoughts on “Chapters as TV episodes

  1. I agree, Emily, I don’t care for cliff-hanger endings, and unsatisfying endings are the worst. I can’t say the number of books I’ve thrown against the wall, and then rewritten in my head the unsatisfying ending. Rather psycho I know, but I need closure…acceptable closure.

    No, I don’t see my chapters as television episodes because I don’t write by chapter; I write by scene, and let chapters fall where they may. Hopefully, the story is strong enough to keep the reader page turning regardless of chapter endings. Of course, that being said, we need all the help we can get to keep a reader engaged.

    As a related side note:
    I once read, maybe in RWA, a comment by someone, maybe an agent or editor, that a CHAPTER SHOULD NEVER END with the character going to sleep….because the reader will go to sleep as well.

    I say, who cares? If the story is good enough, the reader will use it to help endure the following workday, a grouchy husband, and fussy kids, until she can pick up the masterpiece again and go off into fantasy land. Why can’t we give her something to look forward to; instead of making her read until two in the morning? (I went back and reworked my chapter endings anyway—nobody gets to sleep at the end of my chapters—just yielding to publishing pressures—the degradation of it all.)

    I wish you success with your stories, Emily.

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    • I’ve thrown my fair share of books. Now with an ereader, I have to just scream “ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?!” It’s not crazy to rewrite your own ending, it’s part of why I want to be an author, to write stories that I want to read.
      Maybe your scenes could be like episodes, or maybe your a motion picture writer instead =). I think my thought could still apply. Do you see your scenes in your head? Is each one a mini story on its own concluding to move your overarching plot forward?
      Interesting about not ending with a character going to sleep. I am guilty of my character ending a scene or chapter fainting. Would that be the say concept? Er, f*** it I’m not changing it. I agree, the story should be strong enough to keep people engaged.
      Wishing you success too, B =)

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      • Yes, I do see my scenes in my head, Mika. I see the whole thing in my head; that’s why there’s not much room left for anything else. 🙂 …the travelling time and space between scenes, the inside of elevators…you name it. I can’t write it unless I se it in my head first. Unfortunately, sometimes it’s in my head and never makes it to the page. Thank God and Scribophile for worker bee critics.

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  2. Hi Emily, you raised some great discussion points. I don’t like cliffhangers either. I’d be interested to know how many people do and as for Lost, don’t get me started !!

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    • I personally don’t like cliffhangers. I bought a book that I somewhat enjoyed, not really enjoyed, just somewhat and the end was left open ended. I was so upset. Needless to say, I didn’t buy the second book.

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  3. Nah…not as series, but maybe as a movie. Hell yeah! I even know who I’d cast in a movie! 😀
    I’m probably the ‘youngest’ (in the sense that I’ve only been fiddling with this writing thingy for half a year or so) writers of all of us here, and I never thought much about loose threads, holes in storylines and/or shallow characters etc etc until I became more conscious about my own writing and decided to put in some dedicated effort into it.
    But after I did…oh boy…lets just say I’m not the only one with plot holes and weak linkages… They seem to be everywhere. And sometimes a hunk of a man can overshadow the faults and weaknesses, but now and then they’re so large it’s simply impossible to ignore them. The holes I mean, not the actors.

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  4. I also agree that cliffhangers feel like a cheap plot device. I hate being manipulated; I hate it even more when the cheap device works on me.
    I see scenes in my head. I agree with Cay, however, that my stories are more of a movie than a tv show. Now if I wrote series, that might be different.
    Now, are red herrings acceptable? Of course! Mystery lovers live for them. I don’t know about other types of reader, but they can add a lot. Still manipulation, but people are reading to be manipulated. They want to have an experience without actually having to live it.

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