Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Editing: Jersey Shore style

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I know I’ve complained profusely about the MTV show JERSEY SHORE and its portrayal of young Italian-American culture.  (Okay, yes my husband said I should stop complaining since I’m Sicilian and not Italian, but still…)  ANYWHOO, I thought that I should atleast TRY to give the show a shot and watch it, (also there was nothing else on TV at that moment and I was procrastinating from revising).

So last Sunday I watched Season 3:  Episode 1 and thought you should get a brief recap of the episode before I talk about it.  If you aren’t familiar with the show or characters you can read it’s Wiki article here.

Season 3 opens with the cast mates returning to the house, including new cast mate Deena (who is one of Snooki’s BFFs from back home).  Deena lives up to her expectations and gets drunk on the first night and tries to get with Mike “The Situation.”  Mike obviously turns her down and then goes back upstairs to talk about it with his roommates (and on-again off-again bf/gf) Ronnie and Sammi.  Deena doesn’t get the hint and comes up asking him to snuggle with her.  Sammi laughs profusely at this, so Deena storms out of the room then goes downstairs to complain about Sammi to the other housemates.  Before long Ronnie runs downstairs and starts getting in Deena’s face to yell at her for talking crap.  Then Sammi runs down and gets in the middle of the argument.  Unbeknownst me somehow Snooki starts arguing with Sammi and then out of nowhere J-Woww steps up and starts getting in Sammi’s face and then they start fist fighting.  End of episode.

I may or may not have just lost a few brain cells by explaining that episode, but now I’m actually going to explain my real problem with this episode:  The editing.  I genuinely thing there was a story there and a few “gasp” moments, but it got lost between bleeping and weird girl references like “grenade.” 

Note:  I also decided to search and see what “grenade” and “land mine” meant and figured it was kind of relevant.  According to Yahoo Answers:  A grenade is a girl that quite frankly is not hot. Not to say that the girl is ugly, but she just doesn't match up to their qualifications of attractiveness. Basically this girl is a bomb about to go off.   A Land mine is like a grenade but usually is thin or petite and you don't realize she's a landmine until you realize you want someone better looking.

So here are my tips to edit your manuscript so it doesn’t become a “Land mine” with a story present, but gets lost in the details and you’re already too far into it to get out.

1.)     Stick to one main story plot.  This is something that I actually struggled with in one of my first manuscripts.  You may have one central problem, but if you have too much other stuff going on it’s very easy to take away from the main plot and make the reader uninterested in what’s going on.  Jersey Shore example:  The main argument was with Deena and Sammi, but you got so lost in what everyone else was saying and bleeping that some of the great lines didn’t stand out like Snooki telling Sammi that Ronnie’s mom called to tell her that Sammi was no good and Ronnie just looking down and not saying anything about it.
2.)    Recognize your heroes and your villains.  Is your main character a good guy/girl?  What are they up against?  Is there actually a clear conflict?  Jersey Shore Example:  I have absolutely no idea who the good people are on this show and who I’m supposed to be cheering for in these arguments.  Was Sammi in the wrong for laughing?  Or was Deena in the wrong for being drunk?  I still have no idea!
3.)    Excessive swearing and sexual situations are unnecessary:  Even in Erotica there still has to be a story present.  If all you have is swearing and sexual encounters then wear is your story?  When you’re reading over your story think “Is this still a story without the sex and swearing?”  If it isn’t then you’d better go back and see where you went wrong.  Jersey Shore example:  There were so many Bleeps that I felt like I was watching Springer!  Between the closed door sexual innuendoes and bleeped out swear words I didn’t know what people were saying and was tired of guessing what was going on.
4.)    Stereotyping can sometimes be the farthest thing from the truth.:  We all are familiar with the mean blonde cheerleader or the dreamy jock with eyes the color of the ocean.  Sometimes we’re a little too familiar with them and they seem to blur a line where everyone is lumped into that category.  I, for one, went to a school where the cheerleaders weren’t the popular girls…in fact they were close to being on the same leg of the high school ladder as me and that’s pretty far down from the token popular top ring.  Jersey Shore example:  As if this one isn’t obvious about my hatred for the new Italian stereotype.  Snooki herself said, “I want a man that is tan, goes to the gym, and has a last name that ends in a vowel.” TRUST ME, I went to an Italian-Catholic church and all the boys DID not look like Pauly D or “The Situation.”  Oh and all of us girls that happen to have ancestry in that part of Europe aren’t artificially tanned and claim that we can out drink and out fight anyone.  In fact, half the girls aren’t even of Italian ancestry (i.e. Snook is Chilean).
5.)    A real life setting isn’t always favorable:  Sure, Stephanie Meyer set the TWILIGHT series in the real town of Forks and it did wonders, but that isn’t always the case.  What if you’re portraying that town in a bad light?  Wouldn’t it be easier just to tweak the name a little bit?  Jersey Shore example:  Well as Ronnie so eloquently told Snooki, “Don’t forget that you are just trash from Poughkeepsie.”  The Jersey Shore hasn’t always been so welcoming of their new inhabitants that occupy the Shore house.  Even the governor has criticized the cast mates as being “negative for New Jersey.”  I’m sure that there are some people that aren’t stereotyping New Jersyites now the infamous South Park episode “It’s Jersey Thing,” but we all know if the show wasn’t around that stereotype of this real-life setting might not be as stereotyped.
6.)  Give your story a conclusion:  Sure we all love having those questions that make us long for a sequel, but how many of us actually love a cliff-hangar at the end of a novel or an abrupt ending? I like that feeling of wanting to read the next novel in a series as much as the next girl (Hunger Games, anyone), but I also want there to be some sort of a conclusion and not just an abrupt ending that leaves me wondering "What the heck is going on?" Jersey Shore example:  Girls hitting=end of episode, does that really make any sense?  What is the conclusion?  Do I even want to watch more?

I’m sure there are many more ways that you can make sure your manuscript isn’t a “landmine,” but thinking too much about this show and writing “Snooki” over and over is starting to give me a migraine.

What tips can you give for making your manuscript not a “land mine” do you think that will help the Jersey Shore as well?


  1. I think we should put the whole cast on the death plane right along with Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, etc. Now that would make a good book!

  2. I'll admit, I watch The Jersey Shore. I'm not sure why. Maybe because a few of them remind me of the Italian side of my family who grew up on Long Island. I usually blog at the same time, so it's multitasking. And I expect way more from my books.

  3. I will admit that The Jersey Shore is like a train wreck and I might watch it from time to time. We laugh at them for being insane but they are making big money. So who's the smart one? I love how you manage to pull something worth while from the show and apply it from real life. My question is will will you ever be tempted to watch it again?

  4. Samantha- That would make a BETTER reality TV Show. Can you work on that screenplay?

    Theresa- I hate to say that there are real people like this Jersey Shore kids out there...and some of them may be my cousins, ha.

    Cari- That really is the question isn't it? Well I guess the first question is that even though I think Vinnie is kind of the "ditzy blonde," he's still my favorite because he really embodies the Italian mama's boy and I can't help but love him for that. As for if I'll watch it again...ehhhhh...I can't say never because I could need to procrastinate again and there may not be anything else on TV.

  5. I've never seen the show. Now I can't think of a reason I would want to. I love your break-down. :o)

  6. OMG this was so entertaining! Anything with "writing" and "Snooki" in it is such an oxymoron (emphasis on moron) that it must be read.

  7. Hey Magan,
    Congratulations–you won the Stylish Blogger award! Check out my blog for details.


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