Archive for April 22nd, 2009

The Boring Parts

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

I talked about Southland yesterday, the new cop show on Thursday nights that’s replaced ER in the NBC line-up. Recently, someone mentioned to me that the problem with shows like Southland and ER is that they don’t show the boring parts, which could lead viewers to believe that cops and emergency room personnel spend their workdays consumed by adrenaline rushes. That these jobs are in fact 90% humdrum and 10% exciting, and those low points should be shown. Not just in the characters’ off-hours, but during their workdays as well.

This got me to thinking about the boring parts in fiction. One of the primary “rules” (okay, okay, guidelines) for writing novels is to leave out the boring parts (or strive to—I guess it’s a matter of perception). Readers’ eyes glaze over the boring parts, and when readers eyes glaze over, books get put down. We don’t want readers to fall asleep reading our books, so we skip writing the boring parts. Instead of “showing” (writing) the character eating, bathing, getting dressed, having a going-nowhere conversation with the grocery store bagger (hi, how are you, weather’s fine, don’t put the eggs on the bottom of my shopping cart. While you’re at it, don’t put my bread on the bottom, either. Are you listening? DON’T. PUT. EGGS. OR. BREAD. IN BOTTOMOFBLEEPINGCART and stackthreecasesofCoke on top. Never-freaking-ever. All right????)

Um, sorry.

You get what I’m saying, though? Unless the conversation furthers the story somehow (like sets the reader up for the possibilty that the bagger might wake up the next morning six feet under with cart wheels all over his face—and no one’s left him a little bell to ring to alert the gravediggers that he’s still alive either, heh heh), it doesn’t belong in the book. It’s boring.

Think of the movies that have put you to sleep. Likely, they’re packed with boring parts, too. The same holds true for TV. Showing the boring parts might be more realistic, but would viewers tune in? I think not.

(Quick quiz, how many people reading this are still awake?)