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Home » Archives » September 2006 » Free the Echidnas!
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09/27/2006: Free the Echidnas!

Once, I was fortunate enough to visit Tasmania. While there, I got to meet this amazing woman, Tanya Cochran, who runs a wildlife sanctuary there. She told me a great story with an Aesop-worthy moral at the end of it. The story was about an orphaned baby echidna that she raised by hand. Echidnas look a lot like porcupines. (For a good time, google image search echidnas.) Anyway, she was watching TV one night, with her favorite cardigen thrown over her legs for warmth, and the little echidna snoozing beside her. At least she thought he was snoozing beside her. In fact, he was tunneling happily through the sleeve of her cardigan. He arrived at the wrist hole only to realize he was too big to progress any farther. Impasse! She ended up having to cut up her favorite sweater to rescue him. And here's the moral, exactly as she said it: "You can't pull an echidna backwards through a cardigan." Truer words were never spoken. I choose to think that she intended us to apply this principal fairly widely. She was speaking, of course, about the futility of looking for an easy way out, when a more drastic reframing of the situation is actually called for.

Sometimes you may be writing a spec (or other project) when you realize that something is wrong. Fundamentally wrong. Wrong because the story turn that makes the story worth telling requires characters to act in ways they never would. Or because you suddenly realize that the point of the episode goes against the point of the show in general. Or because they just aired an episode that's exactly like yours. I'm talking about BIG problems. The answer is sometimes to get out the scissors, free your echidna, and start looking for sales on replacement cardigans. Don't hesitate, don't waste time trying to make superficial changes. Your echidna might suffer.

Starting over almost always yields a better story anyway, since you get to apply everything you learned from the false start.

Lunch: packaged sushi and cold noodles from the Universal Studios cafeteria. Nice on a hot day.


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