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.