We’re thrilled to have author pal Debra Goldstein making a return visit to the Chicks. And not only does she have a fun post to share with us today, she will generously give away a copy of her new book to one lucky commenter on today’s blog! Five Belles Too Many, the fifth entry in Debra’s delightful Sarah Blair Mysteries releases in just a few days! Take it away, Debra.
Because I love competition, the pitting of one person against another, I am addicted to game shows. Not only have I watched them, tried out for them, but I’ve even been a contestant on one. Consequently, I have become familiar with some of the behind-the-scenes manipulation done to make a show seem more exciting.
It may be a matter of who the contestant mix is, having a rehearsal before the real show is taped so that everyone is comfortable with the camera and game clickers, the flashing of an applause sign so that the studio audience amps up their reaction, or editing the film shot to make one seem sinister or kind. The serial reality game shows, like Top Chef or Chopped, are experts at editing sequences to manipulate the at-home audience. Many of the single game shows tape four or five episodes in a day requiring contestants to bring a change of clothing in case they win, and it needs to appear that they have returned to the set (fact – women often need a full change of clothes, men can get away with simply changing their ties).
When I conceived of my most recent Sarah Blair book, Five Belles Too Many, I decided to spotlight a reality competition where a New York television show would come to Wheaton, Alabama to film five finalist couples vying to win the perfect Southern wedding. The segments would air over a week but be taped in a few days. First, I needed to define the finalists in a way that would appeal to different viewers. Being set in Alabama, I knew one couple had to be die-hard Alabama fans while the other had to be Auburn devotees. I also needed a couple that evoked the fallacies people often have of the South – hence, one pair of finalists evokes memories of the Clampetts of Beverly Hillbillies. For balance, I added one more couple who used Day of the Dead trivia to qualify for the competition and as dark horses, an older couple – Sarah’s mother, Maybelle, and her friend, George. They submitted their application for a lark and because Maybelle was convinced the show would need a few old fogies.
Of course, I had to bring Sarah into the mix. To do this, I made the show require every would-be Southern Belle to have a chaperone – even sixty plus year old Maybelle. Sarah isn’t thrilled to be juggling her day job, furry pets RahRah and Fluffy, and being required to stay at the bed and breakfast of her greatest nemesis, the bimbo Jane Clark who broke up Sarah’s marriage. She’s less thrilled when after the producer of the show is found dead with Jane crouched over his body and Jane begs Sarah to help clear her name. Being TV, the show must go on, so while it continues to be filmed, Sarah must find the real killer before any more of the contestants or crew are permanently eliminated.
Because of the death and the requirements of when certain segments must air, the taping isn’t done in sequence. Hence, the show must be edited to make the spliced footage seem natural. As a writer moving the plot along, I, too, had to edit the scenes in order to plant red herrings, mix paragraphs and chapters so readers will be suspicious of different characters at various times, and sprinkle details to make one want to turn the page.
The liberal editing of reality game shows is designed to engage viewers in both the competition and identifying with the contestants. The same is true for how an author writes and revises a manuscript. In the end, the success of both come down to Editing 101.
The game show I was on (where I had to bring a change of clothing and went through a dry run) – Jeopardy. The book that mimics some of my experiences behind the scenes of various shows and from interviewing people who work in the industry – Five Belles Too Many.
Debra H. Goldstein writes Kensington’s Sarah Blair cozy mystery series (The fifth book in the series, Five BellesToo Many, releases June 28. She also is the author of Should Have Played Poker: a Carrie Martin and the Mah Jongg Players Mystery (2016) and 2012 IPPY Award winning Maze in Blue, a mystery set on the University of Michigan’s campus. Her short stories and essays have been published in numerous periodicals and anthologies, including Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. Her writing has been honored by being named as finalists for the Agatha, Anthony, Derringer, and Silver Falchion awards.
Debra served on the national boards of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime, and was president of the Southeast region of MWA and the largest SinC chapter, the Guppies. She lives in Birmingham, Alabama, where she is an active community volunteer, with her husband, whose blood runs crimson. Connect with Debra on Facebook and Twitter.
Have you ever been on a game show? Wanted to be on one? And what do you think of how authors manipulate you through their words? Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Five Belles Too Many, hot off the press next week.