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11/02/2006: Giving with One Hand, Taking with the Same Hand
Hey, Gentle Readers, our little blog-shaped project here got a nice shout-out from Jacob, the amazing recapper at TelevisionWithoutPity who does the masterly job with Battlestar Galactica. Thanks for the mention, Jacob! I'm a fan!
In the same recap, Jacob uses the phrase: "Everything you want, in the worst possible way." This is an extremely important element of good storytelling, and I find myself surprised I haven't talked about it before. Giving the audience everything they want, while stabbing them in the eyes at the same time, isn't just a Battlestar trick, it was one of our storytelling staples at Buffy too, and it should be in your bag of tricks as well.
The classic Buffy example, of course, was giving Buffy and Angel their lovely moment of happiness. Everything the audience wanted! And then revealing that that very moment of happiness had condemned Angel to lose his precious soul. The worst possible way!
If you can find a way so that your spec culminates in a moment like this... it will be delicious. It works for (your more poignant flavors of) comedy, it works for drama... it adds a lovely angsty touch to any meal.
I'm trying to think of other effective examples I've seen: Sela Ward saves House's life (Wanted!) and loses his love and trust (Worst!). Pam doesn't marry Roy (Wanted!), but Jim's already gone (Worst!). Orpheus gets Eurydice (Wanted!), but he turns around too soon. (Worst!) Arrgh! It hurts so good!
To do this, set up a goal. Make sure it's clear that this goal trumps everything. Then figure out a way to fulfill that goal but at the cost of something else. Something vital. Something the gambler didn't even know they were putting out on the table.
It's the classic deal with the Devil, and you, the writer, get to be the Devil.
Lunch: turkey burger