Showrunners for Writing

While I write, I have the TV going on in the background. There isn’t a rule, one way or the other for this. Some people need silence. Some, music. I know a few folks who build soundtracks for their writing, and use that. I need voices. Not words, but voices. There are two rules for the background shows/movies I have on. First, I need to have seen the show or movie before. I can’t want to watch it.

Second, the show or movie need to be supportive of what I am writing. I write cozy mysteries, so my viewing tends towards Murder She Wrote, Matlock, Hart to Hart, Castle. Of late, I have been on a Diagnosis Murder bender. I haven’t seen Diagnosis Murder for a while, so I’ve been binge watching them while my deadline was approaching. Because of that, I am watching compressed seasons. I’ve noticed, more than I think I’ve noticed on other shows, the difference a showrunner can make. A showrunner works on the overall concept of the season–arching story lines, overall mood. On Diagnosis Murder, one season featured casts of old TV shows being featured. Another season had serial killers, and terrorists. Very different moods, same show.

I’ve been thinking a lot about that. Reader/viewer expectations are built around certain parameters. If you are writing a romance, you need to have a romantic payoff at the end. If you are writing a cozy mystery, justice needs to be served. More than that, if you are writing a series of books (which I am), you build up expectations for your character’s behavior. If you deviate from that behavior, there better be a good reason. You are also risking losing the reader even if the change isn’t a surprise.

Understanding this adds to my role of showrunner for my series. I will be starting to plot Book #3 in August. How much can I deviate from expectations? Have I painted myself into a corner? No matter what, you are your own showrunner. Just understand that it goes beyond plotting. It is about the partnership with your reader.


J.A. Hennrikus writes short stories. Julianne Holmes writes the Clock Shop Mystery series for Berkley Prime Crime.

24 thoughts on “Showrunners for Writing

  1. Interesting post! I just had my first book, a memoir published. When I was writing it, I found some parts harder to write than others. I was having trouble and finally discovered when I relocated within my house, I was slightly more relaxed and it was easier to write. I wrote in my bedroom which I guess emotionally signifies a “safe” place in my house, where the day and stress have ended and I can just completely be myself. I found it so strange that were I wrote affected how I wrote, but it truly did.

  2. When I write I either listen to music and have the TV on in the background. I need noise and voices, and only time I’m okay with quietness is when in my bedroom or the library. Unfortunately, I find myself rewatching the adventure/sci-fi/fantasy shows&movies. Studying them for their plot lines and characterizations. And one thing I’ve learned that is when it comes to writing series, just like the show’s seasons, book series has a 3 tiered plot system. 1) the overarching plot of the whole series, 2) the overarching plot of the individual books and 3) the subplots of each individual book.

    • Agree with your three tiered plot system. I am a plotter, and think about this. It gets easier, btw.

      One of the best plotted series I ever watched was Babylon 5. He had that planned from the beginning–just amazing.

      During editing, I watch Marvel movies. 😉

  3. Great post! I tend to listen to Pandora’s Pink Floyd Radio or Beethoven Radio when I’m writing. Both channels provide enough sound to help me disappear into my own world. I read that Stephen King likes to listen to Metallica or other metal while writing. I just don’t think I could do that. I like the genre – I was even a “headbanger” when I was younger, but I think the heavier music would occupy too much of my mind to write.

  4. I do some of my best writing to Star Wars Clone Wars. Phineas and Ferb completely derail me. Of course, I do most of my writing while caring for my six year old so my options are limited. LOL

  5. I’ve found so far as I approach the final third of my debut psychological thriller novel, that I need some background noise. Be it classical music or low level chit chatter. Classical music for me has only come into play since I first started writing about 4 months ago. I find the lack of words in the music allows me to apply the piece to the scene that I am writing which in turn adds emotion. Thanks for the post! An interesting read. Mark

  6. I “hole” myself away in our guest bedroom. If I have a day where the words won’t flow, I just type “blah, blah, blah…) for a while and suddenly my “muse” gets angry and breaks through. I’m on the fence about this “muse” influence but sometimes it’s good to think about an outside power that helps us get the job done.

  7. Interesting read ! I have never met writers before, I myself is new to writing on web. Writing with a TV running in the background ? I can’t write anything when people are watching, I expect minimum attention and minimum disturbance. My office cabin is the best for me.

  8. I’ve always liked silence when I write. It’s almost like I can hear the story in my mind and outside distractions do just that. Distract. Although I do love writing outdoors. I love being in nature and just letting the tranquility embrace me. It’s soothing. I wish I could write with the tv on. I’d get so much more writing done. Silence is in short commodity in my life and high demand.

  9. This was quite interesting.
    I normaly can’t write without having a headsett with either progressive rock or 70/80’s rock on as loud as I can.
    maybe I should give runners a chance to?

  10. As an aspiring writer who is still discovering a comfortable writing process, this is a powerful and informative posting.

    I’m discovering when I write romance, I’m extremely successful with a romantic comedy I’ve seen before, playing in the background on the television.

    There are times when writing a blog, my iTunes music library of 7000 plus songs of various artist and music genres broken into playlist, settles my mind allowing my fingers to easily type several thousand words per hour.

    Setting the correct atmosphere for writing is an essential learning process.

    Thank you for the great posting.

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