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Home » Archives » June 2007 » Pulling Up Stakes
[Previous entry: "Joke Hold"] [Next entry: "And Then You Get Apples in Your Can of Worms"]

06/01/2007: Pulling Up Stakes

We all know how boring it is to listen to someone else's dream. But if you'll indulge me, I think you'll find there's a fine writing lesson at the end of it.

Last night I dreamed I was running late, trying to get to a concert that was set to start at 2PM -- one of those early afternoon hard-rockin' events. I wasn't terribly concerned because there was still time and it wasn't a band I really cared about. I was finally on my way when I realized I didn't have the tickets. But again, I wasn't that invested, so it was okay. I ran back to the hotel room, got the tickets and discovered that time was getting short, but not impossible. And as I ran from the hotel I remembered that concerts often start late, and discovered that the concert hall was surprisingly close and easy to get to. I ducked in a back door of the hall to find that I'd stumbled into the band's dressing room. I got to meet them, but I had to feign excitement because I didn't really know anything about the group. Then I was shown to my front row seat with time to spare.

You know how some people think spicy food causes wild dreams? Well, I had tofu last night, and apparently bland food causes this.

The problem with the dream is that there are no STAKES and no TENSION. There were no negative stakes in terms of a bad consequence if I was late. And there were no positive stakes in terms of whoo, getting to meet the band! As you're putting together your plot always keep the stakes in mind. What's the bad thing that could happen? What's the good thing? And the closer you get to fulfilling or frustrating those stakes, the more tension there is. In my dream, not only were there no consequences to being late, but it was always about ten minutes to two, a very boring time indeed. No tension.

Another reason to keep an eye on the stakes is that it's one of the first thing that people who read scripts as part of their jobs are taught to look for. When I worked on sitcoms, at which executives give their notes right after the table read, this was by far the most common note: give us bigger stakes.

It is also a common request of vampire slayers.

Lunch: salad bar


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