Writers and the TV

What we can learn from television drama

There’s been a wealth of good drama on television over the past few months and in one of my classes recently, we discussed what we’d enjoyed but, more importantly, why. We tried to discount the great acting, scenery and film techniques to concentrate on the writing.IMG_5432

I was once told by a theatre director that good actors can always work well with good material but even good actors have a hard time with bad writing!

So the points we came up with included:

  • Really rounded, believable characters, good and bad, heroes and villains
  • A plot that really holds your interest
  • Hooks at the end of each episode
  • Interesting, different settings that add to the plot
  • Surprises and twists, but realistic and believable
  • Endings that bring together and/or explain all the various storylines.

What I’ve also discovered:

  • I can cope quite happily with sub-titles
  • I really love box sets/complete series on catch-up TV. It’s like reading a really good book and not having to wait a week until the next chapter!
  • Channel Four has a whole host of Scandinavian, French and South American thriller series. I’m a late convert to Dicte – Crime Reporter, hoping there’s another series to come; and I’m currently hooked on a French political drama.

Must get back to the writing!

I’m starting NaNoWriMo today! Really just to get back into the habit of writing after a bit of a break over the summer. I’ve sorted a plot for a 50,000-word novel, done character profiles and although there’s a little bit of historical research that I’ll probably need to do afterwards, I think I’m ready 🙂 I’ll let you know how I get on next month!

Below you’ll find Writing Tips; my Book Recommendation; Writing Prompts and an article on verbs. 

Happy Writing!



Writing tips

 It’s so easy to miss little mistakes and repetitions when editing and proof-reading.

  1. One suggestion is to change the font of your piece and then read it through – it can help in picking up those typos.
  2. Print out your final draft on actual paper! This is often much the best way to spot mistakes.
  3. Read it out loud and it should be easier to hear repetitions, incomplete sentences, awkward phrasing etc.


This month’s book recommendation41K9kkSW1GL._AC_US218_-2                 Two good friends of mine have co-written a novel and it’s just been published. It’s called QUOTA and is a thriller set in 2035 when Britain’s population has got too big for its resources. The Ministry of Life decrees how many years each family is allowed, to divide amongst its members.

This story really makes you think what might happen if the world’s population really does get out of control. Who will be the people making the decisions as to how we all survive, who lives and who dies?

 Kate Appleby has just lost her husband in an accident on their farm. She receives the dreaded letter at his funeral, informing her that their life QUOTAS have been re-assessed. She’s desperate for help and has to choose between two men: a Ministry of Life official who was a colleague at university and a man who needs a kidney for his dying son.

 You can buy a copy of QUOTA, paperback or Kindle version, here.

Writing prompts

Pictures this month are from the wonderful Sculpture Park at Churt near Farnham in Surrey. 


Your choices:

  1. Select one of the pictures and either take it at face value, setting your story in the picture, using any people or objects already there.

Or, study one of pictures and just see what ideas spring to mind.

  1. Freewrite for five minutes without stopping, no judgement, no correcting.
    Or develop your idea into a short story of between 500 and 1000 words.IMG_5277IMG_5253IMG_5270IMG_5255IMG_5244


This month’s Article on Creative Writing: Active and Passive verbs

 Have you ever read through a piece or your own writing, or anyone else’s for that matter, and thought it a bit dull, a bit flat, even boring?  One of the first things you might want to check is how many PASSIVE verbs you are using.

An ACTIVE verb is where the subject of the sentence is the person or thing that is doing the verb

eg She threw the coat away. The teacher shouted at the boys. My husband painted the lounge. Ice covered the pond.

A PASSIVE verb is where the subject of the sentence is the object of the verb

eg The coat was thrown away. The boys were shouted at by the teacher. The lounge was painted by my husband. The pond was covered by ice.

Passive verbs tend to distance your readers from the action and slow the story down. They can also sound rather bureaucratic and impersonal:

eg Your complaint has been investigated (Active: We have investigated your complaint); enquiries have been made (Active: we have made enquiries);
the letter will be signed by your manager (Active: Your manager will sign the letter)

There are also HIDDEN PASSIVE verbs that we probably use too much and don’t recognize them as such. These usually involve the verb to be

eg There was a bird singing in the garden. Active: A bird was singing in the garden.
There were two men fighting in the street. Active: Two men were fighting in the street.

 I’m not at all advocating that you should NEVER use the passive voice but as a general rule, the fewer passive sentences the better. Don’t worry – you don’t have to count them! Microsoft Word has a wizard that will do that for you. With all the different versions of MS Word around, I can’t tell you exactly where this wizard will be fund – sorry! But you can try going to Review on the blue bar at the top of a Word document; then Spelling and Grammar; then Options; then Grammar and more settings; scroll down the list and click on Passive voice and click OK.

If this doesn’t work with your version, you might have Help button where you can type in Check passive voice or use a search engine.

And if you also check the box marked Readability statistics, this will show you the breakdown of your writing, like this:Screen Shot 2017-10-31 at 10.19.04

Suggestion: check one of your pieces of writing: a short story, article or a chapter of a novel. See how many passive sentences you have and whether changing them to active verbs will improve the flow.

Have a good November!

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