Gaining a New Perspective by Ritter

Ritter Ames II




This post by Ritter Ames

Get a group of friends together and talk tends to segue into what everyone likes and dislikes—sometimes all at the same time. I had lunch with some wonderful ladies, and the conversation moved into the realm of the burgeoning variety of reality programming television has today. Now, I hear you, we all miss the larger range of scripted shows. Yet even as we laughed and groaned, and sometimes cheered over the shows, I realized how many good business and life lessons can be taken out of the boiled down ideas of this viewing genre. Give me a chance to explain first. Okay, you ready?

There are a lot of good lessons we can learn from reality television.

Yes, I usually take things from a writer’s perspective, but business is business, no matter the business you’re in, and while I admit that I don’t watch a lot of reality TV, I realized there is some true substance to be found. Beyond the fact that “the public finds these shows interesting,” when I added up all my friends’ viewing habits and what we discussed about these shows, I realized I know quite a bit about the genre—even if I do flip the channel whenever most reality shows hit the screen. I’ll add a caveat here, reminding everyone that a good portion of this is based on what other people have told me about these shows. If I’m wrong, please feel free to comment and set me straight. If I’m right, I’d be happy to hear that too.

Here’s my take on the ‘takeaway’ writers and other business owners can gain from understanding this viewing venue:

  • Like “Survivor”, writers must build alliances to win at the writing biz. I don’t like the idea of eating grubs or any other gross scavenger food I’ve heard has been on the show, so I want to keep my writing profits as high as possible. The best way to do that is to network, to forge writing partnerships with other writers and businesses that depend on writers, and to always be someone people can trust and work with in all situations.
  • Along those same lines, “The Biggest Loser” shows how important support can be to a successful outcome. There is no better means of finding writing gigs than to join a writers group and getting involved with the membership. Likewise, writers and critique groups are often the best method to keep us motivated through our writing trips and traps.
  • From “Undercover Boss”, I think the takeaway is that you should never think you’re too big to know what’s going on in the minds of the people who represent you. And you should always verify that people understand your viewpoint in a project/business situation as well. Good communication goes two ways. Also, never take for granted the people who helped you get to the position you have today.
  • I’m a big fan of “Shark Tank” now that Mark Cuban has joined the sharks. The takeaway from this show is something we hear as writers all the time—know your project inside and out, and be able to succinctly present it to professionals who can help you succeed. Also, don’t be afraid to take risks—but don’t let ego blind you from a great opportunity.
  • Another confession: I’ve watched “The People’s Court” ever since middle school when Judge Wapner presided over the bench, and I still watch Judge Milian. I don’t tune into all the other court shows out there, but I can say I’m pretty good at understanding the basics of contracts, and know how the judge is going to rule 99% of the time. It’s not rocket science, but it is “writer useful”.
  • “Celebrity Apprentice” may make you want to fire Donald Trump, but it shows how we not only must do our best and stand up for ourselves, but writers have to be able to articulate why each of us has the edge over someone of a similar caliber who wants to grab the same brass ring. Everyone on the show has a favorite charity they are championing, just like writers have to champion their writing projects.
  • On “The Amazing Race”, contestants not only have to follow rules, but must frequently think on the fly. Sound familiar? Writers have many rules in this business, and while it’s often tempting to ignore them, you have to understand why those rules are there before deciding whether it’s worth the risk to break one (or more). On this show, rule breakers are penalized, but that doesn’t mean those contestants can’t still make it through the round. Some rules can’t be broken. Some rules can only be bent. A successful writer understands how far to stretch things before a break occurs; and if one does, why that’s the best choice.
  • “Dancing with the Stars”—one word, ‘practice, practice, practice.’ Yes, there are some natural writers, just like there are natural dancers or graceful athletes, but nobody on that show ever wins the Mirror Ball Trophy by sitting around watching reality shows all day. They practice—a lot. They build muscle as they go through the season. The only way to build your own ‘writing muscle’ is to do the same thing—practice, practice, practice. Then you can make writing look as effortless as they do the foxtrot.

This list, of course, does not cover all the reality shows out there. If I knew anyone who admitted to watching “Project Runway” or “Fashion Star”, I could probably add tips for writers that come from those shows. Since I can only guess, I’m going to pass on the challenge. Shows like “American Idol” and “America’s Got Talent” triumph the folks who believe in their talent, or who have family and friends who’ve cheered them to this point through the years. All of the cooking shows are the same way—I know there are business tips writers can learn from “Iron Chef” and all the many versions of the show, but I’m not qualified to list any because I don’t watch them.

One final reality show I’ll freely admit to viewing is the game show “Jeopardy!” and the takeaway I get from watching that classic every day is tremendous. I not only pick up information on subjects I previously knew nothing about, but I’ve had ideas for article openers and parallel themes that generated sales for my writing business on both a fiction and nonfiction basis. But most of all, “Jeopardy!” makes me feel smart when I can answer the questions ahead of the contestants. And in the writing biz, my friends, you should never ignore any trick that helps you build confidence in yourself.

What are your tricks and inspiration?

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28 thoughts on “Gaining a New Perspective by Ritter

  1. Seriously, Cherley, you got all these marketing ideas from Reality TV shows? Lol. OK, you convinced me. Still, these kinds of shows are killers for others in the writing industry — script writers, not to mention actors. I figure these shows still must have some basic outline script writing, like professional wrestling storylines, but the true script writing is for shows like Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones.


    1. Mike, I think there is a lot of script writing going on. Someone has to come up with all the ideas. LOL on Breaking Bad and Game of Thornes. This is Ritter’s post, but so glad you enjoyed it. Cher’ley


  2. Ritter this is a great blog. I had not thought of relating reality shows to writing tips. Loved the idea. I like Shark Tanks. I’m not a reality show watcher. So what can you get from Honey Boo Boo? Cher’ley


  3. Cherley, you hit a very tender spot. Reality TV. Well, I admit I have an appetite for a couple of these reality shows, Project Runway, being my favorite. As you’ve mentioned, there are reasons we watch these episodic adventures of humans devouring each other in front of cameras. Project Runway challengers are so enormously talented in the dog-eat-dog world of fashion. I love watching them create, bicker and go into survival mode in order to meet the new challenge of the week. I believe anyone who is creative and “in the game” is up for the same emotions and high-speed competitiveness. Thinking outside of the box, one-upping your team mate, outright debasing an alliance player, when the chips are down. It’s all human and all hot-spot emotions can be used by a writer to create characters. Love it.

    I do admit to watching Housewives of Beverly Hills every once in a while. Those women are so extreme and outright vicious that it’s fun to watch. Diamond, rubys and emeralds on thin, botoxed and stretched faces, tend to leave me with the reassuring feeling that I am so lucky to be an ordinary woman living an ordinary life.

    Great “thinking” post, Cherley


    1. Thanks Sherry, as much as I’d like to take credit for the “Great Thinking” post it belongs to Ritter. But I enjoy some reality shows too like Shark tank. Cher’ley


  4. Whoever wrote this blog did a superb job in making me see value in reality shows, which I don’t watch except when skimming through channels. I love the analogies to writing. Very insightful and on target. I may have to watch more reality shows, had not thought of them giving me ideas for stories.


  5. Great post Cherley! Ok, I admit I’m a reality show junkie. I never miss Survivor, The Amazing Race, The Voice, American’s Got Talent and Big Brother. There are others I watch occasionally with my husband. The link that ties them all together (in my opinion) is the networking, personalities, and not being afraid to side with new people if the ones you’re allying with aren’t true to their word. You can also learn about strengh, courage and the ability to stand up for yourself. This year on The Voice there is a young man who sings country music. He was sent home last year because he wasn’t good enough during the pre-trials. He listened to the constructive criticism given him by the judges, came back this year and four chairs turned and fought for him to be on their team. At present he is in the upper echelon of Blake Shelton’s team and I’m sure America is rooting for him because he is so honest and folksy (just like a down home boy). To me that represents never gving up on your dream. I have reblogged your post to my Website – I want other writers to read this. Thanks!


      1. So sorry Ritter! For some reason I looked at the Wranglers and figured it was Cherley. Forgive me for not looking closer at the post to make sure of the person who is writing it..


  6. What a great way to show the possibilities that we can all use to learn from. Life offers many lessons from many sources, we just need to see them. Enjoyed this post, it confirms what I have always believed. I personally refuse to watch ‘reality’ shows, it puts too many other writers out of business. Still, you can learn from many areas. For me, even reading badly written books allows me to see what not to do. Doris


  7. Thanks for this, Ritter. It’s great that you can find all these lessons in reality TV. I don’t watch much reality TV, but when I do it’s things like American Idol or Face Off. In fact, American Idol provided some inspiration–or really a kick in the butt–to follow my writing dream. I was watching an episode several years ago and I thought “These kids are going for it. Why aren’t you?” Stephanie


  8. Thanks, everyone for your comments. And thank you Cher’ley for your trouble in needing to attribute the post to me–my bad as a novice, and I apologize and thank you again. Like Cher’ley, I’m not a huge reality TV watcher, which may be why I was putting together all the connection when my friends mentioned things about the show. I admit to being a huge Shark Tank fan, and Jeopardy!, of course, but other than that, the only time I watch TV is when I turn on Dancing With the Stars in the last hour while I’m waiting for Castle to come on ABC. But the more everyone talked about what they liked and disliked about their favorite shows, the more I could see how the shows offered good life lessons in the middle of the low-octane entertainment. I guess if we’re constantly getting thrown lemons we may as well find a way to make lemonade. And I could see a little lemonade in this mix. Thanks for all the comments and feedback 🙂


  9. Ritter, no problem. If I hadn’t been so tired I would have looked it over last night. I just added your name, profile photo and a couple of other photos, for the first blog you did very well. I am watching People’s Court. LOL Kind of anyway. I’m cleaning up my computer and it’s on the TV. Cher’ley


  10. Great post, Ritter.

    I’m not a huge fan of reality shows either. The only ones I watch are the cooking ones and The Amazing Race. I never thought about getting writing tips from them. But now that I think about it I’m always saying how you have to be creative on those cooking shows. Think outside the box to wow the judges.

    I love The Amazing Race. It’s given me ideas on where to go for vacation and where to set books.

    Even though they’re “reality” shows, they are scripted. Not to the degree that scripted shows are scripted, but they are scripted. But I prefer to spend my TV watching time watching fiction scripted shows because you don’t need as many writers for a reality show.


    1. Thanks, Cindy. Yes “scripted” seems to be an evolving term in Hollywood–about as easy to classify as “reality,” right? The “reality” shows are scripted, just not in the way we’ve always considered scripted television before. I worked on a documentary this past summer, and while there was no “script” there were many, many takes before the people being interviewed spoke the information the documentary director wanted in the correct way. I think a script would have been much easier–LOL!


  11. Great post. The only one of those shows I watch is Jeopardy. I took a test and was invited to audition a couple of years ago but had another commitment and so didn’t go. It wouldn’t have done any good, anyway, because in an oral testing situation–aka reality–I’d never have been able to think of an answer. I do much better with a pencil.


  12. I never watch reality shows, and wouldn’t have access, to all those you have mentioned, over here in the UK but I love the way you’ve tied in the writing tips which I definitely can use as a ‘take-away’. That confidence building tip at the end is definitely prime! Great post. Thank you, Ritter.


    1. Thanks, everyone. It was fun figuring out these takeaways from the little I already knew, and what I gained from talking to others. I love looking for patterns in things, as it helps me better relate, and that’s all I did with this topic 🙂


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