Married at First Sight: Using Reality Television as Character Research

Married_at_First_Sight - Copy

My must watch reality television show of the moment is Married at First Sight. I’ve always been somewhat obsessed with dating shows; you might say they’re my one guilty pleasure. I think it’s because I am fascinated by relationships, more specifically other peoples’ relationships and scrutinizing the dynamics of couple interaction.

This week it occurred to me that all these hours spent curled up on the lounge screaming things like “don’t pick her!” have in fact been a highly productive and valuable use of my time. People watching is a vital source of research into character development, and Married at First Sight has supplied me with the foundation for four potential romantic heroes and heroines.

Alex and Zoe
Thus far this relationship is shaping up to be the typical princess meets frog love story. However I fear I may have missed an episode, the scene where we see a shift in how the princess is feeling based on a specific action of the frog. One minute Zoe is moaning “Alex only finished Year 10” and “he lives so far away”, the next she can’t seem to keep her hands off him and wants to do the deed four to five times per week. The loved up couple emerged when all the couples gathered for a dinner party. Is Zoe in it for love, or did her competitive nature emerge because this princess wanted to be crowned hottest couple?

James and Michelle
Here I am seeing the makings of a Sleeping with the Enemy storyline. On the surface everything appears rosy; James and Michelle seem genuinely at ease with each other and content. Behind closed doors however we catch a glimpse of James’ controlling nature and tendency for angry outbursts during the construction of the couples’ new bed. Are they falling deeply in love, or is it all a façade to mask the private tortures?

Clare and Lachlan
On the surface it’s all about power and who calls the shots. Dig a little deeper and you see a lack of communication and agreeable compromise. Spend the day at Lachlan’s nephew’s birthday party or paint Clare’s theatre set? We clearly didn’t see everything, but you have to wonder, did Clare suggest Lachlan go alone whilst she stayed behind? Why didn’t Lachlan just go instead of complaining to the camera and then picking a fight with Clare afterwards? Power and compromise; two strong sources of conflict in any romance novel that’ll spark reader debate as to whose side you are on.

Roni and Michael
If your husband tells you to “relax” at a dinner party, you have reasonable grounds for divorce. At least I think so anyway, but my opinion doesn’t matter, what matters is that this one tiny scene set viewers into a feverish debate over whose side they were on. The ‘team Roni’ fans tweeted she needed to dump that boy for a man who would stand up for her, whilst the ‘team Michael’ fans pleaded for him to run far, far away from that crazy lady. You must engage your reader so they keep reading; you must trigger an emotional response. Sometimes, very little is all it takes.

The Experts
It’s not just the couples providing inspiration for new lead characters; the experts are proving to be valuable too. We all know romance novels need conflict, and disagreements can show you a person’s true temperament. So you need to be able to write a gripping argument.

“Arguing is perfectly normal for couples; it’s how you argue which is important! Criticism, defensiveness, contempt, shutting down and stonewalling your partner will end in gridlock.”

~ John Aiken, Psychologist

Married_at_First_Sight_AUMarried at First Sight airs Monday 8:40pm on Channel 9
Images taken from the 9jumpin Married at First Sight website

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