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Home » Archives » June 2006 » Castroville is the Artichoke Capital -- that's one that I got
[Previous entry: "Like a Stealth Weapon for your Spec Script"] [Next entry: "braaaaains"]

06/01/2006: Castroville is the Artichoke Capital -- that's one that I got

You'll never guess what I did last night! It was the most fun. I attended one of those bar trivia events, where your little team goes up against all the other little teams. This is the first time I had gone to one of these. What a hoot! My team happened to include two five-time Jeopardy champs, so we did okay. Some of the players were very organized and prepared, and the job of quiz master rotates, so it can be an absorbing pursuit. It's clearly a subculture.

Hmm. A subculture. Interesting. There are some shows which like episodes that take the regular characters (and the viewers) into a "world." CSI does this – remember the killings at the Little Persons' Convention? And at the gathering of ("furry"-type) sexual adventurers? Law and Order SVU does too; I saw one of those recently set in a fictionalized version of Anne Rice fandom, which turned out be packed with sexual adventurers. If you were going to write a spec for a show of this sort, you would do well to think about subcultures before you start plotting your story. (Murder at a bar trivia night… call the episode "Trivial Evidence." Nice.)

My one caution: don't choose the world of television fandom. Especially if you yourself are involved in television fandom. It's just too close to that darn fourth wall – writing about television to get a job writing for television.

In fact, as a general rule, try to keep autobiography out of your specs. I once saw a show runner returning from a pitch session with some freelancers. He was shaking his head. He said he knew he wasn't going to like the pitch as soon as the writers said "this one's based on something that happened to us." Now, this probably seems counterintuitive. Everyone's been telling you to "write what you know." And I explicitly told you to draw on your own memories when writing emotional scenes.

Here's the difference. Use your own emotional truths to create truths for the characters. Not your own diary. I should adjust my instruction: "Try to keep factual autobiography out of your specs. But emotional autobiography is good good stuff."

If you're too close to something, it's too easy to get all wrapped up in "getting it right" instead of in focusing on the emotional impact on your main characters, which is all that really matters. You have to be objective enough to *use* your subject matter instead of *serving* it.

There are exceptions, of course. But I stand by this as a good general precept.

If we all really wrote what we knew, none of us would be writing shows set on spaceships. (Psst… take a look at the "New and Noteworthy" square above.)

Lunch: sushi at the place with the warm rice. Wow.


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