I have read less this month so far. I know why, I have had a resurgence of my obsession with the Real Housewives franchises. I laugh at my husband a lot because he enjoys watching Coronation Street. He doesn’t just let him wash over him, as I do with a lot of TV. He does this thing where when I go and watch casually over dinner, he stops and starts the recording to tell me what’s going on. I find it infuriating! We can never sit down together til late and I worry I will quickly run out of my precious evening. As a result, I have been ignoring his soaps and putting Housewives on my laptop.
He also laughs at my tv taste, don’t worry! Whether I am in Cheshire, New York or Beverley Hills I get hooked on the drama, at this point I have “known” some of the women for nearly a decade. Apart from asking what I have been doing with my life when I realise this, I have also been thinking how all this unscripted drama can help my writing too. (In no way trying to justify this to myself)
1.Gatherings are good How many parties do these people have? In recent days I have been thinking about a scene where there is a dinner party that goes wrong. Well no-one seems to be able to have a dinner party in the Housewives lives without getting up and shouting at their friend across the way. Or, I don’t know, letting their dog drink out of the crystal glass.
Gathering people face to face works very well is the visual media. Confrontation is direct across a table. But also can lead to spiky conversations. Dinner parties and drawing rooms are classic settings for drama in fiction too. Even if Miss Bingley’s insults sound more classy.
“Miss Eliza Bennet,” said Miss Bingley, “despises cards. She is a great reader, and has no pleasure in anything else.”
” I deserve neither such praise nor such censure,” cried Elizabeth; “I am not a great reader, and I have pleasure in many things.”
2. Confrontation is crucial It’s almost as if the producers know to record the dramatic conversations because I don’t think the drama is that heated between friends usually. There may be upsets in real life, but what these women do so well is use lots of direct speech. They talk behind each others backs of course, but at some point they have to come head to head with the person they have fallen out with. This leads to people speaking directly. At each point that we come back to the characters in the Housewives or in fiction, we are seeing a crucial snapshot. Any speech we write also has to be direct, a sound bite almost.
3. Master Manipulation There is always somebody who gets accused of being a master of manipulation. I am not saying which side of Puppygate I really stand on, but if you watched season five of RHOBH, you know that LVP has been accused of manipulating the media before. For the purposes of novel writing, I am finding more that the author has to be the manipulator. Certainly if you want to surprise or confound your reader, drip feeding relevant back story, holding out on details it’s all a game of manipulation. And there certainly seems to be experts in this field to watch on the Housewives.
4. All Female is OK It’s interesting to think that amongst all the female-on-female aggression shown on these shows, they are at the heart vehicles for empowerment. For example they do often discuss other things than their love lives and would probably pass the Bechdel Test many times in an episode. Most of them have some sort of business. The longest serving Housewives are figures like Bethenny Frankel and Dawn Ward, powerful business women and these seem to be characters we are most drawn to. It’s a wonder then that fiction seems to still want to put love stories so central, when other parts of women’s lives can be so interesting.
5. Escapism is Essential I love the Housewives for all the reasons you are supposed to, I love being nosey about the houses, the clothes, the swanky holidays. It’s a sheer escape. At times I gawp at the price tags, but it’s so far removed my reality, I forget to care their housewarming gifts cost the same as my month’s rent. I think if it’s important to remember anything from the fluff, it’s that most of us read to escape reality. Even if you are writing a dark, gritty thriller or a sharp political commentary, there is a place we go away from ourselves when we read.
If you love some posh escapism , then you’ll like these suggestions too:
Glamour by Louise Bagshawe is definitely a re-readable for me. Maybe it’s just my background in retail but the three main characters are well-drawn and the story has a divine decadance that any Housewives fan would appreciate.
Bergdorf Blondes introduced me to a lot of the essentials of New York Park Avenue like wanting the perfect diamond and where to shop . Set in a high society world that I hardly knew existed when I first read it, but see all the time on #RHONY . I was delighted to see Plum Sykes also has a newer novel out. Perfect escapism.
The ultimate show for fans of reality TV has to be Unreal on Amazon Prime, set behind the scenes of a Bachelor-type show, it’s brutal, dramatic and funny. The producers lives are much more sensational than what’s going out on-screen.