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Television Versus Books

“I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set,

I go into the other room and read a book.”

– Grouch Marx

I’ve mentioned elsewhere that a couple of decades ago on our farm we bred, reared and raced Thoroughbreds. That’s well in the past, but each Spring we holiday at home and watch, over eight days, all four days of the Melbourne Cup racing carnival. It’s our annual holiday at home.

We could watch it all via the racing channel, except it’s fun to look at the fashion (especially the faux pas) but, for the most part, I zone out except when an actual race occurs. Which means lots of lovely time for reading.

This time, I managed three books—a historical novel set in World War 2, an Australian story with romantic elements, and a crime novel set in the South Australian outback. All three were enjoyable.

Now the books have been returned to the library and it’s back to writing/rewriting the second All the Corners of the World fantasy adventure for Middle Grades, sequel to The Wizard’s Conscript. Has the holiday from writing helped? Frankly, no. Writing seems to work so much better when a little has been done each day, so that the story remains fresh in the mind.

There is one advantage in taking a break. Coming back to the story with fresh eyes, it’s all too evident which sections are not up to scratch and require work! Just as well the Cup season is over, because I’ve a lot of remedial writing to execute.

Do you watch much television? I don’t (well, not much). Books are my thing. They stimulate the imagination and often lead to this writer thinking I could write a story just as good as that one! Talk to any writer and they’ll tell you that a book they’ve recently read, well, how on earth did it get published and they themselves write better than that! Which is often just the spur an author needs to get on with it.

Television Versus Books
Television Versus Books

Have you noticed the number of television personalities that have written books? Especially children’s books. Occasionally you might encounter a good, useful story, but it’s often a cynical exercise, trading on the celebrity’s fame, and probably ghost-written anyway!

Of course some television shows are useful. There are some excellent documentaries of the history kind on tv that are educational and provide a great stepping off point for story ideas.

Then there’s comedy. We all need more laughter in our lives, and a handful of television shows are great for that.

News and weather? Accessed in a minute or three via our phones, and who needs too much of what is mostly depressing these days?

Of course—travel. It’s been half a dozen years since I’ve been anywhere much, and a handful of travel shows have got me thinking that, well, just maybe …

There’s the occasional movie, too. It’s good to catch up with relatively recent ones I’ve missed, and sometimes a wonderful old movie might be encountered, too. But—have you noticed how much liberty is sometimes taken with movies that originated as books? Case in point: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society. Quite a difference between book and film, but they were both actually good!

The sticking point with books translated to film is that often the characters are not quite as the reader has imagined them, so that watching a film version can often start at a disadvantage.

J.K. Rowling has the clout to make sure her books are translated beautifully into film. Harry Potter films represent the characters pretty well as I’d imagined when I read those adventures. Likewise her filmed Robert Galbraith Strike detective stories (highly recommended) are so like the books.

Back to television. Reality television. Overproduced, selective in what we’re shown, crises manufactured to shock and entertain the more gullible viewer. No thanks!

There’s the cooking channel. Not that I watch it, but my husband seems hooked, and who am I to discourage his adventures in the kitchen? Gives me more time to write if I don’t have to take responsibility for every meal.

So, for now, especially, I’ll keep my television viewing to the minimum while I get stuck into the writing. And in our house we’ll stick to strictly free-to-air because, if we had pay tv, it would be so tempting to seek out more of the subjects I love and watch television ad nauseum. Instead, I’ll get some exercise with a walk to the library and try not to open any of those tempting books until exhaustion sets in at the end of the day and I can indulge in a chapter or three.

Books versus television? No contest. What’s your opinion?

B.K. Houldsworth


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