In addition to all the shows that offer up (often crazy) fame-seekers their 15 minutes, it seems there’s a reality TV show for just about every aspiring professional: singers, dancers (I’m a big fan of SYTYCD), artists, chefs (I’m also a fan of Top Chef), models…just about everything. But I have yet to come across a reality show for writers.
Let’s imagine a show where aspiring writers live together, write together, and compete against each other all with the hopes of winning the grand prize of a six-figure publishing contract. We’ll call it “Kill Your Darlings.”
Here’s what might happen in the first five episodes:
Episode One–Our writers are shown to their compound, which is somewhere in the middle of a remote wood in a large camplike building with cots and no indoor bathrooms or running water, and only one electrical plug. A shouting match ensues over who gets to be first to charge his/her laptop. The kindergarten-teacher-by-day/picture-book-writer-by-night character convinces everyone to draw sticks for the plug. The day ends with the lead instigator of the shouting match, who is an egomaniacal writer with one (indulgent) self-published book to his name, in the outhouse saying, “You don’t mess with me like that. Everyone just better watch their backs when I’m around the plug.”
Episode Two–The obnoxiously beautiful (and probably British) female host blasts an air horn to wake the writers. The first challenge is a 20-minute writing session. The goal is to write as many words as possible of your story. The person with the lowest word count will be eliminated. A woman with an annoyingly high voice throws a fit when her laptop battery dies at the 15-minute mark, and even the pretentious guy who writes only on his old mechanical typewriter beats her word count. The host makes a stabbing gesture with her hand and tells the loser, “I’m sorry, you have been killed.”
Episode Three–The host announces that today’s challenge is to write a personal essay answering the question “Why did I become a writer?” The two hours the contestants have to compose is spliced into a montage with the writers sobbing/writing in inspirational corners of nature and a backdrop of sappy voice overs describing the tragedies that led them to the writing life. The winning essay details how the writer had overcome being raised in an orphanage, a near-death experience in a plane crash, a scare with cancer, and taking care of her sick husband. Three of the five judges were reduced to tears during the judging ceremony.
Episode Four–A side story of a budding relationship between two of the contestants (one of whom is married) is thread into the narrative. Meanwhile, the contestants take part in an intensive writing session in which they are all locked into one small room. There is a lot of hair ruffling, frustrated grunting, nail biting, frantic typing, and self-berating done by all the writers. One contestant spends nearly the entire time staring out the one small window, lost in thought, but still manages to avoid being “killed” because the judges deem the haiku he wrote as “inspired.”
Episode Five–The budding relationship has turned into a full-on showmance with the married writer declaring in her outhouse interview that she is leaving her husband for her new reality-TV soul mate. The contestants are given each other’s writing to review and the show turns into a free-for-all of unnecessarily mean criticism by the critiquers followed illogical justification of their writing choices by the critiquees. Sadly, one of the showmancers is “killed” from the competition.
Well, clearly I could just keep going on and on and on with this. Honestly, it would probably make for better television than 90% of what’s currently on.