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Home » Archives » June 2007 » Overseeing Your Underpinnings
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06/17/2007: Overseeing Your Underpinnings

When you came up with the central idea of your spec script, you probably described it to others very succinctly. "House treats an ailing psychiatrist who only allows treatment if she can psychoanalyze House in return." Or "Michael and Jim spend a day that feels as if they've traded lives." You probably had a tidy little one sentence hook like that.

But then you started work. You broke the story into scenes, figured out act breaks and an arc and a progression of events and a conclusion. You developed a B-story and braided the two stories together so that they influenced or commented on each other. You made sure all the regular characters had some way to participate in the story. You found interesting character moments that taught us something new about the characters without contradicting what we already know. You found dramatic moments and emotional pay-offs.

Now that you've got all that done and you might even have a completed draft, you should check to see if that original spark of an idea that made you want to write the script is still there. Is it still clear that this patient is engineering moments with House in order to analyze him? Is the Jim-and-Michael life-trade thing still in the script or is it just reading like Jim's having a bad day while Michael has a good one? It's very easy for the original notion to get muddied while you're working. It's like an underlying image that's been traced through so many layers of paper that it's rendered indistinct.

Sharpen it up. (Or, if a better concept has emerged during the writing, sharpen that one up.) This is a good time to quiz your test readers. Ask them what the basic idea of the story was and see if they got it. You want people to read your script and not just see a bunch of stuff that happens. You want them to see a story that hangs together as a whole, and that little one-sentence notion is the stapler that makes that happen.

Lunch: Burger King's Whopper Jr. Burger King features tomatoes a lot more than McDonald's does. Interesting.


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June 2007

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