Monday, January 09, 2012

Play to your strengths: medical dramas & mysteries

Suspect my subconscious is telling me something. Just submitted the fourth draft of my fourth episode for the BBC1 medical drama series Doctors and - yet again - I've written a detective story. My second ep of Doctors featured a series regular solving a mystery. So did my third ep. And now, so does my fourth ep [due to broadcast in May].

Why do I keep writing mystery stories for Doctors? Because I love crime narratives. When I go on holiday and have the rare opportunity to read for pleasure, not research, crime fiction is always my first choice. Deciding what TV drama series to watch next on DVD or Blu-Ray? Shows involving crime and mysteries will tend to be chosen first.

It's an abiding sadness for me that I never got to write for The Bill before it was cancelled by ITV. The show wouldn't entertain pitches from new writers who had less than two hours of TV drama credits. My current ep of Doctors brings me up to that magical two hour mark - but too late to write for the cops and criminals of Sun Hill.

The joy of Doctors is the show's immensely flexible format. You can have high farce one day, soul-searing emotional drama the next. Want to write detective stories? You can, especially as the show has a police sergeant and a police surgeon among its regulars. Suits me down to the ground, so I should probably play to that strength.

Some writers want to be great at everything. By all means strive to keep learning, to improve all aspects of your writing - that's the only way to get better. But I believe it's smart to recognise the styles and genres for which you have a natural enthusiasm and affinity. Playing to your strengths makes sense to me. Onwards!

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