Why the Discovery Channel is My New Best Friend

I’ve always had a love affair with documentaries and informative tv shows.  I blame watching all the Bill Nye the Science Guy videos for 5th grade science class.  But, I digress, this love probably would have happened anyways.  Thank heavens for the History Channel and Discovery Channel right?

Now I know many of those shows can’t be classified as real documentaries and many are over dramatized, but I assure you, that’s a good thing.

My boyfriend has recently started a Netflix binge, religiously watching such shows as Mythbusters and Man vs. Wild.  During an episode of Man vs. Wild Bear Grylls had to ‘survive’ and escape a completely abandoned city.  Within the first five minutes it immediately struck me that if I were to ever write a post apocalyptic story, I’d definitely re-watch that episode.

I had always liked the idea of watching well made documentaries as resources/inspiration for writing.  However, it had never actually occurred to me to watch these dramatized, over the top, shock-factor shows.

I started browsing what TV shows Netflix had from the Discovery Channel, and I can safely say, if you need to delve into a topic you don’t know much about, for the first time I’d recommend turning on the TV.

Are you writing about a story that in any way has a scene about surviving in the wilderness a la Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, indigenous peoples way of survival, even hardcore camping, try Man vs Wild or Survivor Man.  Are there two people in this situation? Man Woman Wild or Dual Survival.  Is it a group? Out of the Wild, Alaska Experiment.  You can even use that last for tidbits of useful information if you’re writing an Ice Age era story.

Are you writing about ancient/indigenous cultures and you need to add depth with a medicine man?  Try Medicine Men Go Wild.

Is the protagonist a fisherman, and you’re writing about tales on the sea? Go for Lobstermen or Deadliest Catch.

Are you writing a thriller about a detective chasing down a madwoman on a killing spree? Watch Deadly Women.

Or perhaps your character is caught in a huge storm that rampages across his rural town and he has to pick up the pieces.  Experience a storm for wild descriptions with Storm Chasers.

Even Mythbusters can help, if you look for specific episodes relating to what you are writing about.  There’s an episode about surviving being buried alive, an entire episode devoted to pirates, they explore many, many ways to break out of jail, and a whole lot more!

Branching out of the Discovery Channel, try the Food Network if your character is chef or baker, or TLC for some Cake Boss.  The first few episodes can be informative when Buddy explains what a lot of the terms mean to viewers who otherwise would not have known.  You could watch Pawn Stars on the History Channel that showcase a lot of very old, very neat items.  I was surprised at how much history the pawn stars know and how informative this one is.

So, my point for this article?  If you need more information about a topic, don’t be afraid to turn on the TV!  Are they over dramatized and sometimes scripted? Yes.  Are they sometimes cheesy and over done? Yes.  Do they have enough kernels of information to help you? Most definitely YES!

Don’t be afraid to use these for inspiration in your writing.  Even if you only get one tidbit of detail per episode, it will add so much more depth to your story. And hey, maybe you’ll be able to teach your readers a thing or two about how to survive if they got lost while hiking.

NOTE:  If you don’t have cable or satellite, like me, most of the shows mentioned are on Netflix, but you can also find various episodes/information about the shows online.  Also, considering the nature of the shows, and their educational/interest value, try your local library, if not specifically ones I’ve mentioned, they’ll at least have very good-actual- documentaries to check out.

Also, I haven’t watched all the shows I mentioned(most, but not all), they’re just here to be helpful suggestions.   Have any shows that have been useful for you?  Help your fellow writers out and post them in the comments section!

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About Aly Hughes
Unprofessional, unedited, unpublished. Aly is out to make a name for herself by blogging, twittering, facebooking, and general internet-ing. Be warned: She may not know what she's talking about.

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