Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Guest Author Post What’s So Romantic About Reality TV? by Magdalen Braden

Confession time: I may be a romance writer, but I don’t like the reality shows where single people say they’ve found their soul mates on national TV. Still, I’ll admit to having watched several seasons of Big Brother.

That’s the one where twelve strangers are locked in a sound stage designed to look like a house—that is, a house with a zillion hidden cameras and microphones, a fake backyard, and a secret door to the real world. (What? Your home doesn’t have these things?) The contestants connive to eliminate each other until one person is left to win the prize money.

I wouldn’t believe a romance that supposedly developed on Big Brother any more than I would a romance from that show with the rose ceremonies. I’m skeptical about the motives of the people on reality TV shows. The inherent narcissism of wanting to be on national TV would seem at odds with the generosity of spirit required for a love match.

So why did I write Love in Reality—a romance novel set against the backdrop of a fictional reality TV show called The Fishbowl?

One reason: the “journal entries.” (On Big Brother, they’re called “diary entries.” As a former lawyer I was very careful to change all the details of my fictional TV show, so if Big Brother sues me they’d lose. Still, I wish they would sue me. I could use the publicity.)

In case you haven’t seen one—although it’s a staple of all reality TV shows—the journal entry is a seemingly uncoached, unscripted, unrehearsed confession by a contestant on some topic related to how the competition is going. We know that there has to be a camera, but it’s supposed to look like the TV equivalent of a photo booth in the mall: sit down, press a button and talk.

Except...there is a script, of sorts. The producers have some idea how they want the contestants to behave. They write out the questions they want the contestants to answer. The way I picture it, some guy is sitting behind a smoked two-way mirror, asking the Fish (as contestants on The Fishbowl are known) to talk about specific topics. Between that and some creative editing, what the TV audience sees isn’t necessarily all that’s going on.

It’s that relationship that caught my attention: the invisible producer talking to the contestant who’s not what he thinks she is. They’re attracted to each other, and they’re alone in a soundproof room, so the intimacy of the setting allows for the unthinkable: a relationship between two people who aren’t even supposed to meet.

Here’s an excerpt from the third journal entry with Libby and Rand, after the camera has been turned off:

Libby heard Rand say something. She started. Her heart thumped wildly. “What did you say?”
“I said, ‘I want to kiss you.’”

That’s what she thought he said. She forced herself to keep breathing. She got up and walked a little closer to the vague dark shape behind the glass. “I want to kiss you too,” she whispered.

“Stay right there,” he said in a muffled tone. Libby stopped in the middle of the room, unsure what she was waiting for. For Rand to appear—?

The rust-brown wall to her right moved. That was the door, a nearly invisible outline of a rectangle covered with the same soundproofing material as the rest of the wall. She turned to the darkness beyond the door, and then there was Rand in rumpled chino shorts and a T-shirt that read, “The Other Venice Film Festival.” She started to move toward him, but he held a finger to his lips.

He put his lips to her ear, sending tiny spasms down her back. “We can’t make any noise,” he breathed. “Your mike could go back on at any time, and I won’t be able to tell.”

Secret trysts, silent make-out sessions... Throw in a guy from the special effects department over at CSI, and you have a wonderfully inventive way to get up close and personal, all while millions of viewers think they’re watching a bartender from Philadelphia competing for a million dollars.

Okay, so that could never happen in real life. But that’s what I think about reality TV shows like Big Brother—they’re nothing like real life. Which makes Love in Reality’s fake TV show probably the most realistic part of the book.

Bio: Drawing on her experience as a Philadelphia lawyer, Magdalen Braden has written the Blackjack Quartet, starting with Love in Reality. Book 3 in the series, Blackjack & Moonlight, was a 2012 Golden Heart® finalist.

(Available for $4.99 where all ebooks are sold)

Synopsis: Rand Jennings casts a cute Philadelphia bartender for The Fishbowl, the reality TV show he produces. He plans to coach her on how to act “ditzy” for the show when he knows she’s actually quite bright. It’s all part of his plan to fool his boss and write a “Devil Wears Prada” screenplay about reality TV.

What he doesn’t know is that “Lissa-the-bartender” is actually Libby-the-law-student pretending to be her twin. Libby Pembroke figured she’d take her sister’s place at the bar just until the summer when Libby has a plum legal job lined up. When that associate position dies in the crappy economy, she agrees to be a “Fish” on The Fishbowl. It doesn’t hurt that the producer is so cute.

Rand finds ways to spend time with the cute bartender, whose performance on the show is surpassed by her honesty in his arms. In the end, though, the two have a lot of secrets between them and the happiness they want.


Robena Grant said...

I don't watch many reality TV shows anymore. I did in the early days, and I have friends who are TV producers and have been "on set" several times and that always intrigues me.

Your story premise really does sound interesting. I'll see if I can get it for my Kindle. : )

Magdalen said...

Thanks, Robena.

I got to go on the All My Children set a bazillion years ago (seriously, it was 1983, I think) and met Susan Lucci. All the stuff about The Fishbowl was made up, of course, and I dread the email from someone who knows how those shows are actually made, telling me how far off I am!