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08/16/2006: Write Like What You Like
A very cool site called popgurls.com did an interview with me the other day. You can jump right to it here.
Anyway, they asked me if I had a Ten Commandments for spec writers. Here's what I came up with:
1. Don't spec a show you don't respect.
2. Don't make your spec about a guest character. Focus on the main character.
3. Get sample scripts of produced episodes. Study them.
4. Follow the show's story structure exactly.
5. Find a story for your spec that plays on the show's main theme.
6. Don't write an episode that resolves the show's mystery or consummates its romance.
7. Place the story turns at the act breaks, and give us reason to come back after the commercials.
8. In a comedy, spend time polishing the jokes, especially the last one in each scene.
9. Spelling, formatting, clarity of stage directions - they really matter.
10. Use strong brass brads.
Even with more reflection, I'm pretty well pleased with these. Maybe the thing about brads doesn't deserve to make the top ten, but it's not a bad list. I was interested to see that the first one is one I haven't touched on much in this blog. About only spec-ing shows that you respect. It's a topic that's tricky, because sometimes there may not be a lot of choice in this matter.
For example, if you really want to be a multi-cam comedy writer, and you aren't a fan of Two and Half Men... well, where does that leave you? With a spec pilot, I suppose.
Now, this isn't to say you CAN'T write a show you don't like. Once you're hired on a staff, it's not uncommon to have to write for a show you wouldn't actually be a fan of. (I've been ridiculously fortunate in this way.) But I think if you ever find youself writing *down* -- writing lines that are perfect for the show but that you personally don't like -- well, it's hard to see how that spec is gonna sparkle.
For you drama writers too, if everyone around you is clamoring for you to write a show you don't like, because it's the hot show to spec, well, it's probably best to resist. Find a show you love and do that one instead, even if it's not the "Must-Have" spec.
Lunch: heirloom tomatoes and store-bought tabouli