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Home » Archives » May 2007 » Making Yourself Comfortable in the House or Office
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05/20/2007: Making Yourself Comfortable in the House or Office

Okay, let's imagine you've decided to hunt with the pack and write one of the more popular specs for your ABC/Disney Fellowship application. So you're looking at writing a House or an Office. One of the first things you're probably looking at is how to make your episode stand out.

This can be a real minefield because you don't want to overshoot the mark. The main point of the whole exercise is to "capture" the show. If you make your episode different in an effort to shine, you might just make it so different it no longer feels like the show.

Here are some guidelines that might help keep your spec bolted to the world of the existing show:

1. Use the show's established sets. Sure, House had an episode with the A-story taking place on an airplane, and The Office has gone outside for events like the "Diwali" episode and the "Booze Cruise" episode. But I probably wouldn't recommend these stories for a spec. One of the easiest ways to help your reader imagine your episode as a produced episode, is to allow them to picture sets they already know.

2. As always, beware the guest character. They have a tendency to take over the show. You reader doesn't know or care about them, and you can't show off by effortlessly capturing an established voice. In other words, your spec should not be about either Michael Scott's nor Gregory House's mother visiting the office/hospital and taking over.

3. Use all the major regular characters. If Wilson isn't in your House, it's going to feel less like a "real" episode. That relationship is important to the show, so you should make an effort to service it. This rule is less clear for The Office -- I don't need to see Creed in absolutely every episode. But I'm certainly going to expect to see Michael, Jim, Pam and Dwight.

Now, these are guidelines, not rules. If you do something totally brilliant that somehow manages to work despite violating these, then go for it. The jetliner episode of House, called "Airborne," that I reference in guideline one, for example -- well, I have to admit, it's possible that might actually have worked if it was a spec. After all, we all know what the inside of a plane looks like, and it made for a memorable variation on the show's normal patterns. So follow your own instincts, but keep in mind that you're writing a chapter in someone else's novel. Part of the job is to make the reader unaware of the shift in authorship.

Lunch: back to California Chicken cafe for that chicken Caesar salad. Zesty.


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