What Makes Writing Great

Bad Scripts Make Good Lessons

I needed a fix last night – to indulge in some storytelling at the end of a stressful day. I pulled my covers under my chin and my laptop next to my pillow.

But instead of hitting one of my favorite, brilliantly written shows, I decided to watch a new fall offering.

It hurt, but I kept watching, studying what was going wrong. The actors weren’t the problem.

No, the problem was the contrived script. It was a script that wrote itself, with every line and scenario clichéd and predictable. All I could think was, “Why did they waste money, time and talent on a bad script? Why didn’t someone just recognize the problem and get new writers?”

Write the Unexpected

I was an English teacher for 15 minutes.

In my twenties, I was a youth minister/youth worker with Youth for Christ and one afternoon at the high school where I ran a few programs my friend left me in charge of his 11th grade English class.

He didn’t actually expect me to teach them, but I couldn’t resist sharing with them a writing lesson, “Write the unexpected.”

I explained to them that every time they wrote something to challenge themselves to write it in a way they had never heard before. It is more than just avoiding clichés, it is writing the unexpected.

Describe something in words you have never heard it described. Before you move on to the next sentence, see if the one you just wrote stands out as a unique work of art. If not, rethink it.

Brilliant Scripts Make Great Lessons

sheldon-cooper-big-bang-theoryWhile listening to the bad script, I thought of the brilliant scripts that make my favorite shows fabulous. The Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother and Glee are three examples of inspired scripts that stand out because of their unpredictable writing.

The ingenious insults Sue Sylvester delivers, the antics and rules of Barney Stinson, and the theoretical explosions from Sheldon Cooper never disappoint viewers, consistently keeping us laughing and needing more.

We have never seen these stories, heard these lines, or met these characters before. And new is what we want, what startles us enough to make us listen, laugh and come back for more.

I love when a writer stuns me with their ingenuity — when a description or scene is so creatively written that I stop and admire it like a painting on a museum wall. Writing is art and art stands out when it is unexpected.

The Sheldon Cooper Effect

When I watch The Big Bang Theory I am jealous — I wish I were as brilliant as writer, creator, Chuck Lorre. But, unfortunately, I won’t be creating dialogue worthy of Sheldon Cooper in my lifetime!

So what about the rest of us — the not-as-brilliant-as-Chuck-Lorre population? How can we make our writing stand out?

Just as I told that 11th grade English class, we need to rethink our writing. Does that story, sentence, or description stand out as our own? Is it expected?

Not every sentence we write will be a masterpiece. Not every blog post will be our favorite. But we can consistently challenge our writing to be unique — to not just run from clichés, but to bring something new.

Take a mandatory time out before you hit publish and when you come back, re-assess: Are your descriptions ordinary? Can you punch them up with a different angle? Do your points make your reader stop and tweet? Did you push your mind until it hurt?

Does it stand out like Sheldon Cooper?

YOUR TURN: Whose writing do you envy? What scripts stand out for you as brilliant?

Written by Janice Croze, co-founder of 5 Minutes for Mom. Talk with me: @5minutesformom and Facebook.com/5minutesformom.


  1. says

    I so know what you mean about those shows – they are constantly unpredictable, but in such a good way. :) Big Bang Theory is the only sitcom I watch right now and both it and Glee are two of my “can’t miss” shows that I watch when they air, not off the DVR whenever I have time later on. Big Bang Theory is also by far my husband’s favorite show, period. I have the theme song for it set as my ringtone for him. :)

  2. says

    Big Bang and Glee are two of our favorites here too. Actually, other than No Ordinary Family and Smallville, they’re the only shows we watch anymore. It does seem like Hollywood is running out of ideas.

    Some of the stuff in NOF is kind of predictable, but it’s nostalgic for those of us who grew up on the Fantastic Four cartoon on Sunday mornings.

    • says

      The problem isn’t that they run out of ideas but that they don’t bother trying because they just copy the last great thing that worked. And since when does copying create brilliance?!?

  3. says

    I LOVE the Big Bang and Glee and How I Met Your Mother! Brilliant! I too wish I could be that hilariously creative- I’m just not that funny in writing! I lean to the too-serious and would love to find the light and funny too.

    Well said!

  4. says

    I really got into Glee last season and was waiting to pounce when this season came on. I tend to write more in the funny light hearted aspects. I do wish i could write more professional/ serious sometimes. But then, that’s what me…ME :) Comedy is my outlet.

  5. says

    I’ve never watched “The Big Bang Theory”. I’m not sure why, but I guess I’ll have to check it out now. I LOVE “Glee” – it’s on my must-watch-list! You’re an amazing writer – I’m inspired, but alas, writing comes last on the list of things to do here.

  6. Katie says

    Fantastic point/post! I email the first few lines of my blogs to my family members (who don’t remember to check the blog regularly) and as I do so I usually think “well, who would want to click “here” for more with that introduction?” Makes me want to improve my writing so (at least) the beginning is more eye catching…. more unexpected.

  7. says

    Hmmmm I guess I need to check out one or all 3 of these shows to see what you are talking about. The TV just doesn’t get turned on as much (in truth at all) these days.

    Movies, now that is something I know, and your right! I’ve often thought – huh? wha? why? about the time and money put into something so … well let’s admit B-A-D. Not the acting mind you (although there are some), but the story…. it all begins with the story, the purpose of the story, in how you are telling, conveying that story or parts of the story.

    The few TV shows I do love, I buy in DVD format to watch when I have the time and want to settle in and relax – see the whole storyline for the season in a sitting or two.

    As for our blogs I think we also need to remember to not lose our own voice, on our way of communicating that reflects who we are as the blogger.
    It shouldn’t be stressful and I know for some it is. Trying to do, be, sound like, editing editing editing so it is more professional or like the “others”. You lose the finesse of your blog and your personal style if you “over think” it, in my personal opinion. Sometimes the uniqueness of our individual voices comes in the way we put it out there ~ not all of us are meant to be “great” writers BUT that doesn’t mean our voice, our style often found on our blogs are any less great, in fact, I think that is what makes this medium so interesting.

  8. says

    I find myself editing more than writing. I’m trying to learn (and unlearn) what makes a good author.
    …don’t think I’ve found my voice quite yet. It’s in there, I know.

    Thank you for adding some more perspective to my never ending quest to become a distinguished writer. (I don’t have as high hopes as you w/ the Chuck Lorre comment… I’d settle for interesting, funny and helpful).

  9. says

    Hahaha! I suddenly got hit in the head. Hubby told me recently, you write FAST. But you’re good for a fast writer. Like, what do you mean by that EXACTLY! Well, yeah, he’s speaking truths there. I write like banging away the keys, fearful I’d lost minuscule thoughts that really matters to me. Before #30 rests, articles and posts and blogs are done. Often I consider them precious. But a few minutes into reading, hubby would point out: cite authority here. you’re talking to your younger bro again, not the readers. don’t be a mom too much.
    I stopped emailing him things I’ve written. He gets to read once their done and posted. Hah!

    Writing is freedom to me. I do my best not to overkill, to avoid “academic languages” and all that. Just wanna be natural. Be able to express myself and hope to inspire. Not much editing except for typos, spelling, etc. Just writing.

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