Home » Archives » November 2007 » You Could Call It "Time Out"
[Previous entry: "On Top of Mount Percentile"] [Next entry: "I Hope Someone's Working On Witty Signs"]
11/01/2007: You Could Call It "Time Out"
In a remarkable display of something… Efficiency? Coincidence? Necessity?... two of you have sent in the same question. Adam in West Hollywood says:
... here I am, sketching out ideas for original pilots, and I can't shake the nagging question of whether or not they'd stand out. [...] [S]hould I be writing a pilot that's more shocking instead of more touching or quirky or filled with those emotional character moments?
While, across town, Megan in Los Angeles chimes in:
... my question is whether a family-friendly emotional pilot with a small hook has any chance of competing against a high-concept pilot. (ie. "30 year old former child star moves back to hometown to live with her sister" vs. "girls' volleyball team discovers locker room is a time portal!")
Both gentle readers want to write the less "shocking" spec pilots, but are worried about whether that's the right choice. Well, I hate to disappoint, but I certainly think a strong, unusual, surprising hook helps. I mean, admit it, Gentle Readers, didn't you perk up when you thought about that volleyball team and their time portal? If both scripts were in front of you, which one would you be tempted to peek at? They're a volleyball team! With a time portal!
Remember, just because you pick a more out-there premise, it doesn't mean you have to lose all the great subtle character stuff that you would do in your more standard story. I certainly would like to think that the team captain, traveling back in time to witness her parents' first meeting, would have a lovely emotional reaction to it. Adam is, I think, setting up a false choice when he contrasts "shocking" with "touching". Buffy the Vampire Slayer would've made a great spec pilot if it hadn't already been a movie. The concept - even the title - is manifestly startling, but the writing is subtle and emotional. And touching.
What you don't need, and this may actually be what Adam is referring to when he says "shocking," is to load your story with turns that are surprising because they lack motivation or are extra violent or prurient for no other reason than to get a visceral reaction. That's never a good idea. But coming up with a new and intriguing story hook that makes people curious… that's never a bad idea.
Lunch: believe it or not, that heirloom tomato salad again. But I think this'll be the last time for a while.