Just like anyone else, I like to procrastinate writing. Don't get me wrong, I love writing and storytelling. There's something that just makes my heart beat faster and stronger when I get the time to just sit and write.

But something that's been happening to me lately. I was having trouble crafting characters with clear motivations and intentions. I could get my plot as tight as a drum. My dialogue seemed on point.

But the general feedback I was getting was that my characters just felt like people motivated by the plot, and not by being well-drawn humans with goals and ambitions. 

That was hard to hear and incredibly frustrating. But it was right. I was so dedicated to plot that I was losing sight of why my characters were there. And I was losing the moments of humanity and drive that I think were hallmarks of some of my earlier, less plot-reliant writing. 

So how did I overcome this? I binged a whole lot of reality TV. 

How Reality TV Helped My Writing

My shows of choice were Survivor and Top Chef, but you could really pick any reality TV where there's a competition element or just people with clear goals. See, while I know these shows are produced and written to a certain extent, I also know that in order to keep people interested, you need to see human beings putting together a clear narrative to get what they want. 

In a show like Survivor, you get to see people scheming, saying funny lines, and working behind the scenes to get what they want. You can observe human nature as they are caught, blindsided, or win at their mind games. The more I watched, the more I understood that inside scenes, we don't just need information, but we need character. We need to see how people behave under immense pressure.

And no one has more pressure than the people on Top Chef. They're constantly under scrutiny. They forget ingredients, bark back, and have clear goals. You watch them behave, talk, and quiver under criticism. 

Watching shows like this allowed me to take notes, find nuance, and even jot some lines down to use in my latest spec. It helped me observe the real world, but one edited by people to evoke certain emotions. Emotions I was trying to emulate in my fictional world. 

So if you're stuck, sit down and watch some reality TV. There's a lot you can learn!