From Sarah, With Joy

*Poet * Author * Wanderluster*

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Writing Lessons from SyFy's Face Off

One of my favorite reality shows--perhaps my very favorite--is Face Off on the SyFy channel. I wish it was more well-known because it is dang cool. In this show they make characters and creatures based on some quite awesome challenges, and it is incredible to see what they come up with. Not only do I find the show creatively inspiring, I definitely think there are some great lessons to be learned from it. Here are a few.

1. Concept First: One of the first things I noticed about the judging process and results is that the judges almost always favor concept over execution. In other words, if two people are on the chopping block and one of them had a cool concept but kinda botched the execution and the other person did an okay job with the making of their makeup but the concept was a fail, they always keep the one with the cool concept. I think this is because you can work with one, but not so much the other. If your story is good, you can work and get help making the writing smooth and pretty. But if you're story is blech, no amount of beautiful writing writing can save it. (Unless your name is Francis Scott Fitzgerald.) 

2. Community Rocks: My roommate often comments on how refreshing it is to watch a reality TV show in which all the contestants are friends and support and help each other. When one person is not going to be able to finish their mold before the day is out a couple other people come and help them. I've seen them take reference photos of each others tongues and ribs. In what other reality show do the people actually help each other? And I think there's a lot to be learned from that. Each book and story is so different that we really aren't in competition with each other, and how many of us read only one type of novel or buy only one book a year anyway? There's room for all of us on plenty of peoples shelves, and we'll all get there faster and happier when we help each other.

3. Critique Helps: Something you notice in most reality shows is that its listening to the mentors and judges feedback is 99% of the time the right decision. In Face Off they have a mentor walk through and give helpful advice and feedback on everybody's works in progress, and almost always the people who don't listen to the advice end up suffering for it. Those who listen still stay true to their vision, but external feedback from wise eyes actually helps them realize that vision more successfully. I like to think of Neil Gaiman's wise words about reader feedback: "Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong."

Anybody else watch Face Off? 

Write on!

Sarah Allen


  1. Those are great lessons. Yes, big fan of the show! It's cool how they really do help one another. And the smart ones learn from the experience.

  2. I absolutely love Face Off!! It's definitely my fave contest-type show. Everyone's imagination and creativity is amazing. And you're totally right about the lessons!

  3. I've watched the show. However, I don't watch it on a regular basis. But your anology was great.

  4. I really liked this show too! When I first discovered it I watched hours and hours of it. Which is why I now avoid it :S I am a procrastinator and having interesting TV to watch is a big distraction.
    I loved the creativity in the show and how you brought writing up in contrast to it.

  5. Never seen it but it looks like fun.

    Moody Writing

  6. Never seen it either, but must check it out.

  7. awesome comparison! i've never seen the show, but i will look for it. it sounds great! i like that they work together and help each other, like us writers & bloggers!

    have a great weekend!

  8. What awesome analogies! Great post! :)

  9. It sounds pretty awesome that they help each other. I can't stand most reality shows, but this one seems interesting.

  10. I haven't watched this show but I like how you pulled some very good lessons from it.


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