So…you all know I’m a sci-fi freak who watches WAY too much television by this point, right? No? News flash: I am, and I do. Most of the time it’s background noise while I’m puttering around the house, at least during the warmer months. During the winter, it’s more of an excuse to stay in one place under a blanket while I knit and drink hot chocolate from a vat. (We’re a bit cheap about heating.) Lately I’ve started to realize that I’m running out of shows to watch. After fifteen seasons (and several movies) of the Stargate franchise, I find myself afraid to begin something as intense and geared for grown-ups.
I don’t know if I yet have the words to describe the strange emotional void that accompanies the end of a great show that you’ve watched in a months-long series of mini-marathons, but I do know that it’s driven me to get caught up with the Disney channel.
Go ahead, take a minute to groan, laugh, point, gasp. Whatever. Get it out of your system. Can we move on now?
I will stand by Kim Possible, and Phineas and Ferb until my dying day, and if you don’t understand why, I’m not going to defend them to you here. They’re shining examples of all the classic Disney idealism, unshadowed by the very weird darkness that has a way of hanging over so much of Disney. What I do feel the need to justify, on the other hand, is why I actually watched all of Wizards of Waverly Place.
I’ve been in a funk with my book lately. Since February, really. Given that I wrote the thing last November, that means that I’ve been in a funk towards this book for longer than it has existed. There’s good in it, I think. I like the voice, I like the cast of characters. I like the setting and the potential pathways for future books. But mostly, I hate it. If I picked it up off the shelf and started reading, I wouldn’t being dying to get my hands on the sequel, and this is coming from someone who actually enjoyed Twilight. (No, I’m not defending that choice here either, so go away.) My book has so much potential to be something fun and memorable, but I still feel like it falls flat.
While I was trying to coax my kids through Script Frenzy, I tore through the section on “books about writing” in the library. I meant the books for my kids, as I have an irrational aversion to taking sensible advice from successful professionals, but I came across one title that sounded like it might be useful to me in overcoming my funk: Writing Great Books for Young Adults. As I skimmed through it at home a month later (even after taking the book out, I couldn’t bring myself to read it), I stumbled across an idea that stuck out at me like a banana slug in a redwood forest.
See what I mean?
The idea was so simple and something I already know about writing: authenticity matters. People, especially the young ones who are reaching a point where they feel the need to establish some separation between their ideals and those of the adults around them, can smell a fake from a mile away. The idea hit home because I was skimming the book while I was watching Wizards of Waverly Place, which is more than anything about the relationship between siblings. They’re mean to each other – horribly, horribly mean. They always pull through for one another when it counts, but not without picking at each other constantly.
My main character has a younger sister, and I’ve written their relationship in a way that much more closely reflects the relationship I have with my three sisters now that we’re adults and living miles apart. Maybe some families with teenagers manage to hold onto rosy relationships at all moments, but I’d lay money down that any household with teenage girls who are very close in age is going to be filled with some vicious unkindness from time to time. The more I think about it, the more the cozy friendship of my heroine and her sister just doesn’t ring true, not as an uninterrupted state of being.
And besides, as someone who once upon a time was routinely awful to my own sisters, I can honestly say that not much drives a quest to set things right more deeply than a horrible, gnawing guilt. Guilt motivates, people. (Ha. It also motivates people.)
So this is how I am justifying my decision to watch Disney channel sitcoms aimed at adolescent girls: it makes me a better writer.