Everything I Know About Writing I Learned from The BachelorNote: This post does not contain spoilers. Read on!
Get the popcorn and tissues ready. Tonight marks the finale of the current season of ABC’s The Bachelor, with Ben Higgins choosing between Lauren and JoJo. I get a little Bachelor-obsessed; the show is one of my guilty pleasures, and from where I stand, guilty pleasures are allowed in life, especially as a break from intensive scholarly activities.
So, I was watching The Bachelor last week, sitting in my recliner and texting my friend (also a Writing Center staffer and also obsessed), and I was hit with a powerful realization. Folks, the show is not just about romance and roses and fantasy suites (and insecurities, shaming, and infighting). It is about WRITING. Let’s look at some writing lessons from the show.
Be There for the Right Reasons
Every season, the contestants gossip about other contestants’ intentions. Are they fame-seeking media hounds or genuine people looking to find love? I’m definitely here for the right reasons, they say. No, she’s not here for the right reasons. As writers, we need to consider this idea of purpose as well. The first step in any writing project is to determine your reason for it in the first place. I’m not talking about the surface reasons: to get a good grade, to complete the assignment, to earn a degree. I’m talking about the reason you have selected this topic out of all possible topics. For instance, if your paper is about companies in crisis, your reason might be that you experienced a business crisis in the past and are particularly sensitive about it. You want to see change. Only when you tap into that passion and drive can you be an authentic voice on the page.
Stand Out on a Group Date
The Bachelor is structured so that each week contains a set number of dates. Some of these are single dates and some are group dates, where the bachelor himself goes out with five or six women at the same time. The trouble here is, of course, that it’s hard for the contestants to distinguish themselves. Now, a piece of scholarly writing is essentially a group date. The other daters are the scholars whose research you are citing. Though such research is necessary in making an academic argument, you still want to establish your own place in the conversation, your own unique points. Through analysis and synthesis, you as the author stand out among all others.
Get the First Impression Rose
The first rose handed out is a promise. It says, I am intrigued. I want to learn more about you and explore our connection. You could be the one. In Bachelor and Bachelorette history, contestants have made their entrances and tried to secure the first impression rose through outlandish methods, such as bringing grandma along, wearing a unicorn head, helicoptering in, or carrying a cadaver heart. These methods fail because they are too dramatic, too worthy of an eye roll. You, too, should think about your first impression on a reader—which happens in your introduction. How can you intrigue the reader? This doesn’t mean anything extravagant like a series of questions, a scene, or even an inspirational quote; in scholarly writing, it means selecting a piece of information that illuminates the problem or issue to be addressed. For example, if I read that 20% of veterans have PTSD and that the number is only increasing as treatments prove ineffective, I want to learn more. I want to be on board with a solution. Determining the “right reasons” behind your writing project will help you show the problem and convey urgency.
Plan Your Exit Thoughtfully
At the end of every Bachelor episode, one or more women do not move on in the competition. Their fairy tale ends, and they ride off in a beautiful, shiny automobile. Some women leave gracefully, while others get hopeless or angry or verbally abusive to the cameramen. As a writer, you need to think about your exit too. Because the conclusion is the final thing that readers experience in your work, it creates a lasting imprint that can ultimately inspire. Focus less on repeating the paper’s points and more on future or wider implications. How does what you’ve said impact the world? Before starting on the conclusion, revisit your “right reasons” for exploring the topic. Every paper must end, but the ideas within it don’t have to. They can live on, just like exiting contestants live on in The Bachelorette, Bachelor in Paradise, and the whole big “Bachelor family.”
The Bachelor can be seen tonight on ABC | Image © ABC
See? There’s a lot writers can learn from this reality show, and I didn’t even have to get into the clever editing. For all you Bachelor fans out there, what are your favorite lessons you've learned from the 20 seasons thus far? And if you have a prediction about tonight's Rose Ceremony, let us know!
Hillary Wentworth is a writing instructor at the Walden Writing Center and Coordinator of WCSS Faculty Development at the Walden Academic Skills Center.
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