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Home » Archives » February 2006 » Ignoring Your First Impulse
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02/03/2006: Ignoring Your First Impulse

Hi all! Did you know they’re marketing cross-sums (the number version of crosswords, and a mild fave of mine since childhood) as “Kakuro” now, to capitalize on the Sudoku craze? I think writing a spec should from now on be referred to as “working a Supeko.” I can jump on a craze as lamely as the next guy.

We’re still talking story here, and I have a cautionary tale from my own experience. My first entrée into the business was pitching story ideas at Star Trek: The Next Generation. (This was the prize for my one successful Trek-spec.) After one pitch session they took me to an office and showed me a special white board. It had about eight or nine story titles on it, with hash marks under each one. I don’t know what they called this board, but I doubt it was the Whiteboard of Happiness.

These were the story pitches that they heard every single day. They included, among others, “Body Switch” – an evil or mischievous alien scrambles the bodies of the crew. “Jack’s Back,” in which Dr. Beverly Crusher’s long-gone husband reappears, or is it really him after all? And “Egg,” in which a mysterious floating space object is taken into the ship only to turn out to be… well, the title gives this one away. They told me (although I wasn’t sure if they were joking) that one hopeful writer had even combined these last two: the egg is taken into the ship and it hatches, revealing Jack Crusher.

I watched as another hash mark was added under “Body Switch" -- the result of my pitch session that day. Sigh. The lesson is this. If there’s a story that seems to you so obvious, so necessary, so perfect for the show that you really cannot believe they haven’t done it yet – then this is NOT the story to spec. If it’s really that obvious, then it’s almost certain that they haven’t done it for exactly that reason.

Addendum: A big hello to Maggie, at http://bootstrap-productions.blogspot.com/. I stumbled across this blog and discovered a fellow linguist-turned-scifi-writer. Go Maggie!

Lunch: A hot-and-sour noodle soup that I made myself!


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