Sunday 18 September 2022

5 things telenovelas can teach you about writing


Kate del Castillo the Queen of telenovelas 
(Photo (c) Netflix)

I came across some telenovelas on Netflix - and now I'm hooked. 

In case you don't know what a telenovela is, it combines the words television and novel for good reason. A telenovela is a serial drama mainly made in Latin America so usually in Spanish. Usually there's a hint of soap opera about them and they are very dramatic. 

My favourites so far have been Ingobernable (starring Kate del Castillo the Queen of telenovelas as the First Lady of Mexico), La Reina del Sur (the English language version is Queen of the South and it's about Teresa Mendoza who goes from grieving woman to drug lord - also played by Kate del Castillo) and The Marked Heart (A woman who's given the heart of a young mother who is murdered for her organs becomes part of her reluctant donor's family life). 

Watching them isn't just entertaining, it's also taught me a few things about writing - 

Telenovelas have lots of "WOW" moments 

1. How to keep people interested by using twists and turns - telenovelas seem to have a twist every 5-minutes. There is never a dull moment. If a telenovela was a book you would never put it down. At least not because you were bored. 

2. Having lots of characters isn't necessarily a bad thing - when it comes to the plot it gives you much more room for manoeuvre. Characters that seem like peripheral ones at the start can be given more of a storyline that can be just as good as the main storyline. Many characters means lots of threads to pull. Lots of subplots. 

Too much telling not showing in dialogue

3. How not to write dialogue - one thing that's very noticeable about telenovelas is the use (or should that be abuse?) of information dumping in dialogue.
Example - "I know that you found the letter in the jewellery box and read it and found out about me stealing the baby from the woman who lived downstairs."

Give your big reveals time to breathe

4. Give your big reveals time to breathe - they don't tend to do this in telenovellas which often means the big "WOW" moment you get is so fast you don't get to savour it. When writing your novel, give readers the chance to think, "WOW, I didn't see that coming" and to react to their surprise and absorb what it means for the story. 

5. Think about the music that would accompany the scenes in your novel - Telenovelas make use of music to illustrate what's happening in the story very well. 

No comments:

Post a Comment