I am always interested in supporting new writers creating new writing in any form. So it was with enthusiasm that I sat down to watch the BBC’s recent series The Secrets. In general I found them engaging and tackling interesting issues, even if they weren’t faultlessly realised.
However, the episode The Lie gave me much to chew on in a way I am sure the creators did not intend. In the narrative a wife realises that her husband has a second family. To discover more, she makes an appointment to have a session with her rival who happens to be a counsellor. During this session the counsellor behaves unprofessionally and unethically numerous times…. Please miss out the next paragraph if you don’t want to read story spoilers…
Unethical/unprofessional behaviour. (1) The session takes place in the counsellor’s kitchen (2) with door open. (3) During it the errant husband shouts out that he is going out and the counsellor responds. The wife asks if she can use the bathroom and (4) is directed upstairs (toilets should be close or adjoined to the therapy room). Here she takes the opportunity to look in on the nursery where her rival’s baby sleeps. The counsellor discovers her there and (5) goes ballistic (instead of discussing what has happened and finishing the session professionally).
These actions are never explored as examples of what should never happen, they are merely devices to allow the wife to confirm her fears that her husband has a second family. When I wrote a comment to this effect on the BBC programme blog, I received a response from a fellow viewer which basically said writers are allowed to do what they want in terms of embroidering reality/artistic licence in order to move the plot forward.
I’m not sure whether I agree with that. As writers we are already asking readers to come with us into our imaginary landscape, accepting the reality we present while knowing that it is a creation of ours. We make a contract with our audience, and the degree of reality guaranteed in that ‘contract’ obviously depends on the genre we are writing in. The premise for The Secrets was that these were gritty, realistic portrayals of human dilemmas. So to suddenly depart from realism just to get something to happen in the plot, I believe, is breaking the contract with the audience. I think it also shows laziness on the part of the author. I’d be interested in knowing what other writers think.