Nobody’s Right Till Somebody’s Wrong

That line from the old Eric Clapton song It’s In The Way You Use It came on the radio today while I was running errands, and it got me thinking.

In order to have a good book you must not only have a good hero, you must also have a good villain. Without both elements, and the inevitable conflict between the two, there’s not much of a story. TV people know this, that’s why even “reality” or “unscripted” shows have their share of conflict or drama. Those that don’t typically fail.

For example, since my family used to be in the restaurant business, I enjoy watching shows about the business. I remember one on Food Network that was modestly titled Restaurant Makeover (that’s from memory, but I think it’s right). The show basically involved redecorating a restaurant. Pretty bland stuff, so it didn’t last long. However, later Food Network rejiggered it into Restaurant Impossible, including a strong-willed host, British chef Robert Irvine, and started getting into fixing the restaurant owner’s problems that contributed to the impending failure of the business, and suddenly it became popular (they’re currently shooting a new season, according to Twitter chatter from Robert and his building manager, Ton Bury).

The addition of drama, with someone confronting what the restaurant owner thought he was doing right but was instead doing wrong, turned the same show idea from a flop to a hit. You can see the same thing in many “reality” TV shows. Even Cops, one of the first, concentrates on dramatic incidents rather than traffic stops where nothing interesting happens.

It’s a simple lesson, but learning it may make the difference between success and failure for my little book, so I hope I learned it well.

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