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Home » Archives » May 2007 » The Spec Stands Alone
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05/17/2007: The Spec Stands Alone

There are some shows that have two distinct types of episodes. Usually the distinction is between "arc" episodes and "stand-alones." I imagine you already know the difference -- one concentrates on developing the ongoing storyline of the season or series, and the other presents a complete story through to a conclusion that doesn't progress the overall arc. "The X-Files" was a show that had a very clear division between the two types of episodes.

Some episodes have elements of both types: maybe a stand-alone B-story paired with an arc-driven A-story, or maybe an episode that appears to stand alone but that turns out to have a surprising impact on the season arc in its last scene.

Your spec script, even if it is for a show that is predominately arc-driven, will need to have at least some stand-alone elements. In fact, it should probably have as many stand-alone elements as you can get away with. So when you're looking at produced scripts, using them to try to put together a template for the structure of your spec, try to use stand-alone episodes as your examples as much as possible. If you're purchasing your scripts and can only afford a few, make them the most highly regarded episodes plus the stand-alone episodes.

Don't think that stand-alone episodes are somehow less satisfying than arc-driven ones. There can be a temptation to dismiss stand-alones as "skipable" or as easily-resolved-crises-of-the-week, but it doesn't have to be that way. A stand-alone might not push the storyline, but it can totally push character development. And character development TOTALLY trumps storyline.

Lunch: egg foo yung at the Universal Cafeteria. Very omelet-like.


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