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Home » Archives » November 2007 » ...and have to trade places with a pencil prince
[Previous entry: "On Pencils and Previouslies"] [Next entry: "It's Never Requited"]

11/19/2007: ...and have to trade places with a pencil prince

First off, a bit of exciting news. Many of you probably already know this from the Joss forum at fans4writers.com , but in case you didn't, I'm pleased to announce that there will be a special day of picketing and celebration outside Fox Studios from 10 am to 2 pm on December 7th for fans of Joss Whedon and his shows Buffy, Angel, Firefly, and the up-coming Dollhouse. I'll be there; Joss will be there... will you? Come join us! And while you're waiting for the day to get here,buy a pencil, why doncha? I bought 50 boxes myself yesterday, and I plan to keep buying as this thing progresses. Let's hope this thing wraps up before I'm a pencil pauper.

Now, you know I don't like it when the faucet of writing advice stops running, so here's a (very tangentially) strike-related pet peeve of mine. I recall that during the '88 strike, someone had the idea of taking old Mission Impossible scripts and filming them with a new set of actors. Then, the strike resolved, so they ended up hiring a staff and creating new missions after all. I'm not sure how they thought the original scripts, with all their references to enormous reel-to-reel tape recorders and massive house-sized computers, were going to really work anyway without rewriting -- perhaps the original idea was all a ploy to make writers feel unneeded. Anyway, the eventual new scripts reflected up-to-the-minute technology.

Except that they kind of didn't. I distinctly recall the following line from an episode of the resulting series.

TECH EXPERT: I have a theory about videotape.

His theory was that older images could be recovered after they'd been taped over. Really? It seems to me that that's either something that's true or it isn't. It doesn't seem to me like something that the tech expert on the Impossible Mission Force would have a wild hunch about.

If someone in your script has to be tentative about asserting something, make sure it's because that character would actually be tentative, not just because you find yourself at the edges of your own knowledge. It can be very helpful to let the lines blur between the writer and the character -- to think of how you would express something as the starting point for how the character would express it, but this can't be your approach when the character is supposed to possess specific expertise. Besides, I think I'd be more intrigued by what was about to happen if the guy had instead said:

TECH EXPERT: Hang on, guys. Watch this. Here's the thing you never knew about videotape...

Lunch: the "famous tofu reuben" at Factor's deli.


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