Thursday, September 20, 2007

Speaking of dramatic tension....

It's time for another season of Survivor! And I am there!

Now, I appreciate that there's a lot that's not "real" about so-called reality TV. There is a whole lot of manipulation going on. And why? Why, to create dramatic tension. Just like with a book, that's what will keep people coming back.

Since I've been blogging about that a lot, let's use Survivor as an example of some of the ways an author can create dramatic tension.

Characters: Do they, through editing, try to create heroes and heroines you can care about and root for, and villains to hate? Oh, yes, indeedy! I was so invested in Yau Man's success, I was literally on the edge of my seat.

Do they use backstory and motivation to make us care? Yep. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't. When it seems really heavy-handed, that tends to backfire. It's like loading down a character with too much emotional baggage at the start of the book.

Are there misunderstandings? Oh, yes. And sometimes deliberate misleading.

Is there conflict? Definitely. There are personality clashes, alliances made and broken.

Is there internal conflict? Yep. Do I trust that person or not? Should I break that alliance, or stay with it?

Complications? The reward challenges.

You've also got the tension of a group of being being "stranded" together, forcing physical intimacy. And there's often emotional intimacy, whether it's friendships forming or an even deeper intimacy, like the beginning of the relationship between Boston Rob and Amber (who I have now seen more than enough of, thank you).

What about public stakes? Well, they've tried. We've had the women vs. men and then the attempt at the ethnic/racial divisions. The women vs. men wasn't the best, because I personally found too many of the young women annoying. The ethnic/racial divisions proved to be essentially meaningless during the show, but certainly sparked a lot of tension among the fans before it even aired. However, it seems to me that their attempts to give Survivor greater social relevance rarely works.

What does make one season of Survivor more interesting and exciting than another? Just like with a book, it's all about the people. The more diverse the group, the more differences in their backstory and experience, the better the season.

That's why I'm a little concerned about this one. From what I can tell, it doesn't look like a very diverse group. But who knows? People, like the best of characters, can surprise you. And that's what keeps me coming back.

1 comment:

Bonnie Ferguson said...

I enjoyed last night's episode :)