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Home » Archives » March 2006 » If I Wrote for House...
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03/03/2006: If I Wrote for House...

... I would want to write the line "There's more than one way to perform a CAT scan." Have they used that one yet? Because it makes me laugh.

Of course, it's actually skinning a cat that has so many appealling variations (nose-first, tail-first, and from-the-feet-up, I imagine). Turning an outline into a script is another one of those things that can be approached in more than one way. Some people write the scenes in order. Others jump around. For example, I start with the most quiet and internal, emotional scenes, and leave action sequences for the very last.

One of my Buffy colleagues had a method I want to tell you about. He would write what he called a "words on paper" draft. In this draft he would give all the scenes their shape, but he wouldn't finalize the dialogue. The characters were all given on-the-nose versions of what they needed to say.

After this draft was done, he would go through and rewrite the lines and polish the action and description, creating the draft he would turn in.

I would never be able to do it this way. Once I'm engaged in a scene I'm hearing the dialogue, and have to write it down to capture it. I think it would be more effort *not* to write it at that stage!

Also, there is a phenomenon that I urge you to look out for. The love of what is written. Once you have written a line, even if you intended it to be a temporary placeholder, it's possible to start seeing it as the best of all possible lines. Simply because it's there. Maybe it's the same mental process that keeps people in bad marriages. Well, he's here, isn't he? And what if I can't do any better?

So play around with the "words on paper" method if you want, or write in order or out of order. The important thing is to realize that there's no correct way to go about this. It's like taking a bath. Afterwards, no one's going to know anything about the process, but they'll appreciate the result.

Lunch: spaghetti and grated parmesian cheese in about a 1:1 ratio


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Walt Disney Writing Fellowship Program
UC Berkeley
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