How Not to Manipulate Your Readers
A few months ago Laura wrote a post called How To Manipulate Your Readers, where she discussed the TV show Castle, which recently ended after an eight-season run on ABC. We’ve been discussing Castle and how we felt about this abrupt ending and our dislike for season eight. Usually, when we are discussing Castle, I’ll bring up Bones, which is one of my favorite mystery shows. When comparing Castle and Bones I often point out that Bones has gotten everything right that Laura and I dislike or complain about on Castle, and how you can use these tips so you know how not to manipulate your readers.
Bones is recently finished its eleventh season on FOX and has been renewed for a twelfth season next year. This will be its final season. While I’ll be sad for it to end, I am pleased with how the show has managed to stay strong and keep viewers interested and engaged. This is something that Castle was having trouble with, which is a real shame because Castle and Beckett were both great characters with a lot of potential.
As writers, we are influenced by the world around us, including what we read and watch on TV or in the movies. Stephen King says, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot” and while this is true, I deeply believe that fiction writers can learn a lot from writing done for the screen. It doesn’t matter the genre, what matters is the quality of the storylines and the characters.
This is why a show like Bones is useful to writers, especially because the characters are based on characters in a series of books by Kathy Reichs. The show revolves around forensic anthropologist, Dr. Temperance “Bones” Brennan and her partner, who later becomes her husband, FBI agent, Seeley Booth. They solve crimes by using Bones scientific skill and Booth’s more psychology driven gut, which provide the humor that drives this sometimes darker drama.
This show isn’t afraid to make fun of its characters, like how Brennan lacks people skills due to her hyper-rationality or how Angela is a “squint” at heart, even though she is a free-spirited agent. Or how Booth often suffers from white knight syndrome and often feels like brawn wins over brains.
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Here are the biggest things you can learn from Bones:
1.) If you’re going to spend lots of time trying to get the two lead characters together, then let them stay together! Your readers are rooting for these characters and once they get together they are going to be angry if you suddenly rip them apart.
2.) Let them have a real relationship with ups and downs, but don’t have them busy lying and keeping secrets from each other or worried they won’t stay together every other scene.
3.) In Castle and Bones the shows revolve around working partners and later married partners. While Castle occasionally shows Castle and Beckett outside of the precinct and at home, it doesn’t often focus on their home life and how it can and should be removed from their work life. Bones is the opposite and often Brennan and Booth’s home life problems follow them back to work in a humorous way. They still have a home life and we get to enjoy them having a family and doing more than being crime solvers.
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4.) When you resolve a plot line, let it stay resolved. There is a plot line that runs multiple seasons on Bones and when it is resolved they never revisit it. In season 11 where Brennan is taunted by the idea that there is something to do with that plot line that she hadn’t discovered yet. She ultimately decides that she must let it stay unknown. There’s a difference between a loose end and being too drawn out when it comes to plot.
5.) When a character dies, don’t just do it for shock factor. Do it because people, even the good guys, have to die at some time.
I’m hoping that Laura will finally take my advice and binge watch Bones on Netflix so that she will be able to watch season 12 with me (Laura’s already finishing up Season 6 now, so already doing that).