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01/31/2006: Making Mice
Hi again! Another chilly day in Los Angeles. Unseasonable, unreasonable. Today's irony: reading "Wicked" even as I sell my collection of childhood "Oz" books.
We were talking spec scripts, if you recall. And I kept nagging about making the episode typical, forcing it to conform, hiding the car keys so it can't just take off -- all that tough-love stuff. But now...
Look at the sample episodes you’ve collected of the show you want to write a spec for. You’ve been analyzing them as if they were samples in a lab. Mice, let’s say. Good. You’ve got cages and cages of mice, and you’re a mad scientist trying to build your own mouse out of undifferentiated flesh, mouse components, and your own evil genius. With each mouse you kill and dissect, you learn more about what makes something a mouse. Oh look, the foot bone’s connected to the ankle bone. Nice.
But -- take a moment -- look at the still-living mice in their cages. Some of them are better than others. Some run on their wheel, or climb the ladder to ring the little bell. They are kind to their offspring and they try to raise the spirits of their fellows as they all wait for death. Others are unpleasant, morose, slow at performing simple calculations and ungenerous in their love-making.
I think you see where I’m going with this. Some episodes are better than others. You enjoyed watching them more, you enjoyed reading the scripts more. If you can figure out what it is that made you like them more than the others, you have the key to making a script that will get you jobs, wealth and acclaim. You’ll make the best mouse ever.
My guess is that the scripts you like best will be the ones in which something about the main character’s character is revealed (to the audience or to the character herself), or illuminated in a new and surprising way. (These tend to be the Emmy-nominated episodes too, by the way.) Ask yourself some questions. What could we learn about the contents of Dr. House's heart that we never suspected? What could Earl learn about his own constantly-revisted past that will shake his whole new belief system?
Whatever it is that you like about your favorite episodes, take note of it and keep it in mind as you pick up your mouse bones and begin to build.
My lunch: BLT, cheese fries and a coke with chocolate syrup in it!