Monday, July 27, 2020

Readers and Writers and Binge-Watchers

RonPorter via Pixabay

Like so many other people, I've been binge-watching new-to-me shows on various television platforms. I do this every summer, catching up on shows other people can't believe I haven't seen. I get through only a couple of episodes of some programs, while others find a place not only in my viewing schedule, but in my heart as well.

That may sound weird -- unless you, like me, are a fan of characters and ensembles. While my husband likes sci-fi and action-adventure, I choose characters over plot in not only television shows but also movies and books. It's even better if my reading/viewing choice has both, but I'll forgive a terrible plot if I care enough about the characters. 

My latest indulgence was Parenthood, which I finished late last night/early this morning. I was originally drawn to it because of Lorelai Gilmore -- um, Lauren Graham -- but was quickly drawn into the show's relationships, from which its plot emerges. And, over six seasons (binge-watched in about a month's time), I came to care about them all. 

As I type this, the whole Braverman (a last name I wish I'd come up with) clan is here with me in spirit, lingering even though I've watched every episode and formed an opinion about every character and each of his or her choices. This included talking back to the television at times, telling the characters in a few choice phrases ("You did not just do that!" or "'About time!") just what I thought of the decisions they or, more accurately, the writers, had made.

I do this with books, too. I once threw a book across the room because I was so angry over a character's choice. If I hadn't had fewer than thirty pages remaining in the book, I might not have picked it up to see if the writer redeemed himself. (He didn't).

Pixabay
And I do it as a writer, too. In this case, though, I'm the person determining which wonderful or questionable choices the characters will make, well aware that those choices will drive everything in the succeeding pages. Because I can so easily become attached to characters someone else has created (hello This is Us and Grey's Anatomy), I take those choices seriously. While most characters can be redeemed after one bad choice, a succession of poor choices or choices that hurt other characters (hello, Jim) makes that character someone readers (or viewers) love to hate and a little bit of that goes a long way.

It's tough bringing a good book or a good series to a close. Readers and viewers come to have a stake in the players and want to be both surprised and satisfied by how the stories end. I'm happy to say that I (mostly) felt satisfied as a viewer by the final episode of Parenthood and, as I prepare to release the final book in the MAC (Marita, Angel, Charli) series, I hope my readers will feel the same way. It's really not possible to please every reader or every viewer because the investment of time and emotion they've made means that they want things to go a certain way, and not all readers/viewers will agree. But, in the end, if they feel their characters have gotten the ending they deserved, perhaps they will linger with them for a few moments after they close the book or the credits roll.

And that's all a writer can ask for. 

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