Gooooood morning writers! It’s a wonderful day to write a thousand words. Or a hundred. Or ten. Or… none, if you’re not up to it. Sometimes, I can barely get it up to write a grocery list.
It’s not the worst thing in the world, not writing. I pretty much took this summer off from any new projects since I finished my novel in May, and I focused my energy on querying. This fall, I’ve been trying to get back into the swing of things, making notes for a new book, browsing essay and short story competitions, and writing blog posts for you lovely people. Nearly every writer I’ve spoken with has said it’s best to busy yourself with other work while querying, and I’ve enjoyed these distractions from the waiting game.
But, alas, there are other distractions that are not completely writing related. Books to read, fall things to do (scary movies, anyone?). And, of course, the return of The Bachelorette, the guiltiest of my guilty pleasures.
If you’re not as well-versed as I am in the happenings of Bachelor Nation, let me sum it up: we, by which I mean other obsessed watchers, have been waiting for The Bachelorette Season 16 since this spring (about five years ago at this point). As was expected, the coronavirus pandemic delayed production for a long time, and in the last six months rumors about the season have spun out of control. It’s been a great relief to finally get some, ahem, Clare-fication on said rumors, but the drama is just amping up.
Though I said The Bachelorette (and all of its affiliates) is a guilty pleasure, I really don’t like to think of it that way. I don’t like to think of any of my “distractions” that way. I’ve written before about how Netflix and The Simpsons help my writing life, and I’ve watched a lot of both in the last few months. My main goal while writing is to entertain an audience, so I think there is always something of value to be found in anything I find entertaining.
And where The Bachelorette/The Bachelor is concerned, its entertaining quality doesn’t add up to the half of its value. There are at least three reasons why the shows are essential to my writing life:
1 – Exposure to real dialogue
If you’re in the camp of people who think reality TV is scripted, you probably won’t buy this. I can’t offer an opinion about other shows, but I’ve heard too much from ex-Bachelor contestants who have made it clear they were well in control of their actions and reactions to believe that’s true in this case.
From the one-on-one interviews to the conversations between contestants, it’s interesting to listen to how each person communicates. I’ve witnessed good and poor conflict resolution, heard all kinds of declarations of love, and ground my teeth at displays of manipulative behavior. Listening to all this is like eavesdropping on coffee shop conversations, but at least this way you don’t have to worry about getting caught.
Concepts like love, conflict, and gaslighting can be difficult to illustrate if you don’t have proper examples. But each week, I’m offered a glimpse on my TV screen at how characters express and react to each. Books, TV shows, and movies may do the same, but there’s something about watching real people deal with situations that makes it all the more… well, real.
2 – Situations make for interesting writing exercises
If you watch even one episode of The Bachelorette/The Bachelor, you know some pretty spectacular dates are had. Even before the contestants become world travelers, their outings are interesting, glamorous, and, in some cases, mortifying.
I find it intriguing to then imagine my characters in similar situations. How would my main character describe the task of trying to capture a pig while running through water? What would she think of the feel of its skin, and how would she react to the fierce competitive air? And what would my antagonist say during a monologue about his worst date? Would he have a funny story, or would he be the one that causes drama with the other contestants?
Exploring my characters outside the events of my manuscript has proven to be helpful in my writing, because knowing how they handle all kinds of situations helps me better understand how they’ll react in the events I want the world to see. Even if the dates in The Bachelorette are often just ridiculous and fun.
3 – Recaps spark critical thinking
What’s better than watching a show? Talking about the show after it’s finished. The first thing I do after I watch something I love is try to recruit my friends and family to watch it just so we can discuss. Failing that, I find lovely people on the interweb who share their thoughts.
Podcasts are an excellent way to hear others’ thoughts. I’m a fan of Chatty Broads, which is hosted by Bekah Martinez, a former Bachelor contestant, and Jess Ambrose, a wardrobe stylist and all-around delight. They break down each episode and discuss possible motivations and theories about the season and the contestants. A lot of the time, their recaps are better than the episodes themselves.
But listening to discourse isn’t just about added entertainment. Analyzing behavior on the show helps spur critical thinking. While watching we witness the what and how of a situation, but analysis helps us understand the why. And the why has always been the most fascinating question to me, and it’s something that is central to understanding characters.
Whether your obsession is Bachelor Nation or another reality TV franchise, don’t think of it as a waste of time. There’s much to be gleaned from viewing shows depicting real people, and I think we should all watch the episodes guilt-free and with pen and paper in hand and our research brains on.