Reality TV As ‘Research’ For Writers

girl swimmerNow I don’t watch much tele’, honestly, but when I indulge, I do like a bit of reality TV (it’s research! And gives you ideas – as I said last year in this post, point 4). So, last Friday night we found ourselves watching BBC3’s ‘Don’t Tell The Bride‘.

This, if you don’t already know, is a programme in which a hapless groom is given a budget of £12,000 and put in sole charge of arranging and organising his wedding – including the wedding dress, eek – in just three weeks (oh, and his fiancée, just to add to the pressure, is usually a bit of a bridezilla – the sort of girl who’s been planning her Big Day since she was in junior school).

Perhaps, when this show first started, the weddings were all fairly ‘normal’ but now they’ve got more and more extreme. In the episode I watched, the bride, Hayley, was a former champion swimmer and very sporty but she was also very ‘girly’ (we saw her having her nails done, swanning around in her dream dress which was about as wide as the lounge and then walzing down the aisle of a quaint church, hoping and praying this was going to be The Venue for her wedding to Ian).

Meanwhile, Ian was organising an underwater ceremony.. his logic being that, as Hayley is ‘a mermaid’ and taught him to swim, holding their wedding in the public swimming pool where she used to work (and which had a handy spectator gallery around the poolside), would be the perfect romantic gesture. (He was, incidentally, also quite scared of water.. ).

Eek, there were so many things that could go wrong! 😦

And on the morning of the wedding, we viewers watched as poor, unsuspecting Hayley spent four hours having her hair and make-up done, slipped into the white wedding dress chosen by Ian (and which had, amazingly, passed muster) and confirmed to the camera that she’d ‘never felt prettier’.. only then to be driven to the public pool for, well, a potential soaking.

It was hilarious and heartbreaking all at the same time but it was also completely compelling. If that had been fiction, I doubt whether you’d have been able to stop reading. The TV producers ramped up the tension at every opportunity (the mother was on the war path, the bridesmaids were rebelling and there was still that question hanging in the air – would she go through with it and, if she did, would they still be on speaking terms by the end?).

It was a complete masterclass in giving your heroine problems, dilemmas and conflicts and then seeing her deal with them. Brilliant.

I won’t spoil the ending – just in case you feel so inclined to watch it – suffice to say that one of my favourite moments was when the bridesmaids, after several tantrums, had clearly thought ‘sod it!’ and ran out of the changing rooms in the pink swimsuits they’d been supplied by the groom and dived straight into the pool!

Writers & Artists Yearbook: Crime & Thriller Competition

And as a thank you for indulging me in that bit of TV tat… here’s news of a brand new, free competition for you, being run by those nice people at Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook.

To enter, you have to email the first 2,000 words of a crime/thriller manuscript (for adults) to with “Killer fiction competition” as the subject line. It’s free and open to anyone, anywhere and it’s being judged by a literary agent BUT first prize is a pair of tickets to their Writing Crime & Thriller Fiction event on Saturday 19th September 2015 in London, so make sure you can get there before you enter. It would be galling to win and then not be able to take up your prize.

More details on the website here.

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6 Responses to Reality TV As ‘Research’ For Writers

  1. Wendy Clarke says:

    Brilliant stuff! When I was preparing for my own wedding five years ago, I got obsessed with any wedding related programmes including this one. You are right, the drama is ramped up so high you get completely sucked in. Luckily my own wedding was tame in comparison.

  2. Well, I’m glad to hear that, Wendy! Crying on your wedding day is not really what we want, is it?! Although, being really mean, it does make great television.. (and.. shhhh…it all worked out in the end!)

  3. Michaela Eyley says:

    Just watched it based on your blog post and it was very compelling viewing. Don’t get this whole princess thing but I could see where he was coming from in some ways. Wonder if it’s happily ever after for them still?

  4. Oh, bless you, Michaela. I hope you enjoyed it. We laughed our heads off – and then, when she was crying in the changing rooms, I did feel really sorry for her and nearly cried too. I’m sorry, but I’d have KILLED a bridegroom who did that to me! (how did she look so good when she got out of the water! I’d have been a panda-face). Yes, I wonder if they’re still together…!

  5. juliathorley says:

    Some of this so-called reality TV is so absurd the participants must surely be actors. I mean, if you’re too shy to take your embarrassing body to the doctor, for instance, why would you expose it on TV? I’ve caught snippets of DTTB when I’ve been channel-hopping, but I can’t bring myself to watch a whole episode. (I’m such a snob!) Maybe I should take a proper look, with my writer head on.

  6. Ah, yes, fact is often stranger than fiction. I do wonder how ‘real’ some reality shows are, but they’re also a good source of ideas. But for a believable fiction story I think you need to take a character or situation from some of these more extreme shows and tone them down a bit!
    Annoyed about the W&A comp, I’ve got a brilliant idea for a crime story but I’ll be on holiday on that day. Good luck to anyone else entering!

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