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10/07/2006: Suspect Yourself
One of the ways in which linguists gather data about language is to ask speakers of a language whether or not they would ever produce a given utterance. Would you ever, for example, say a sentence with this form: "Beans, I like." Or "Him, I'd vote for." Sometimes people will say that, no, they would never do that, put the object of the sentence at the front like that.
And then you listen to them and hear them produce sentences exactly like that. It happens all the time. This phenomenon, I totally love. It turns out that the part of our brain that produces sentences is completely different than the part that evaluates them. Seems like a bad set-up, but what are you gonna do?
I think something similar happens with scripts. I've seen the most critical of viewers produce scripts that would never meet their own viewing standards in some very basic ways.
Here's the most common way in which I've seen this happen. Suppose you were watching a show in which someone overhears some vague planning going on. They're certain that what they're hearing is a plan for a surprise birthday party for themselves, although they didn't hear their own name. Do you, as a viewer -- or as a reader -- believe that this person has made the correct inference? I don't think you do.
The reader will be way ahead of the writer of such a script. Just as the writer would be if HE were the reader, instead of the writer. But somehow, it's very easy to write things like this -- to somehow assume that the script is going to be read in 1955, when tv plot twists were new. I've seen seasoned staffs do the same thing. It's bizarre.
It has to be the brain thing. I think sometimes we read our own material with the part of the brain that wrote it, when we should turn on the evaluation part. Don't collaborate with your creative mind's desire that the reader approach the script all blank, trusting and without any interest in anticipating where the story is going. Read with your crafty, suspicious, "televisionwithoutpity.com" critical viewer brain instead. If you fool IT, then you've got something. This I vow.
Lunch: The chicken and cheese omelet with a waffle, from Roscoe's Chicken & Waffles.