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Who Hates Whom / Bob Harris

Who Hates Whom: Well-Armed Fanatics, Intractable Conflicts, and Various Things Blowing Up A Woefully Incomplete Guide by Bob Harris

"The geopolitical equivalent of scorecards that get hawked at ball games. Only Bob could make a user’s guide to our increasingly hostile world this absorbing, this breezy, and—ultimately—this hopeful."
~ Ken Jennings, author of Brainiac


Jane in Print
Serenity Found: More Unauthorized Essays on Joss Whedon's Firefly Universe, edited by Jane Espenson

Flirting with Pride and Prejudice: Fresh Perspectives on the Original Chick-Lit Masterpiece, edited by Jennifer Crusie and including Jane Espenson's short story, "Georgiana"

Finding Serenity: Anti-Heroes, Lost Shepherds and Space Hookers in Joss Whedon's Firefly, edited by Jane Espenson and Glenn Yeffeth

Jane in DVD

Jane in DVD

Now Available:
+Battlestar Galactica Season 3
+Dinosaurs Seasons 3 & 4
+Gilmore Girls Season 4
+Buffy: The Chosen Collection
+Tru Calling
+Angel: Limited Edition Collectors Set

Jane in Progress


Wednesday, December 19th
Year-End Announcement

I am going to be taking a holiday break. For the first time I can remember, I don't have a beat sheet, outline, script or revision to work on over the break, so I'm not taking my computer with me. This means that I will probably not be posting at all until 2008.

But if you're an aspiring writer, not yet in the Guild, and you're working on spec scripts to submit to fellowships or competitions, you CAN take your computer wherever you're going (or staying). Holiday time can be an excellent chance to write your specs. The Star Trek: TNG script that opened the Hollywood door for me was written over a winter break. Maybe that'll be the charm for you, too!

See you in the New Year!

ADDENDUM: Have you checked out Cash For The Crew? It's a fantastic cause. Go look!

Jane on 12.19.07 @ 07:22 PM PST [link]

Previously In This Blog...

... I tackled a question about spec scripts for highly-serialized shows. A Gentle Reader wanted to know if they should include a sort of "previously on ___" for the top of their script, to help place the episode in context. I came down against anything but the briefest of place-setters, and threw open the question to anyone in a position to know the answer, especially someone who knew how the readers at a writing fellowship would approach the issue. And... ta da... someone stepped forward. This is the response I got from Friend-of-the-Blog Derek Olson, who is part of the team over at the ABC/Disney fellowship. Take it, Derek!

Hi Jane,

I was just catching up on your blog and I saw an open question you posted about the best way to inform readers of when a spec takes place in the world of a serialized show.

In speaking for our Fellowship readers, we do our best to make sure that readers only evaluate specs of shows they are very familiar with. So they are pretty good at stepping into a serialized spec and knowing exactly when it takes place. All it takes is a reference to a landmark event in the series or even just opening on a logical next step in a storyline. As I’m sure you know there are lots of cues you can give someone who follows the show.

It’s definitely a muddier situation when we are on the other side of the fence. Once Fellows enter the program, we begin submitting their work to executives, showrunners and agents. Of course they all have varying degrees of familiarity with specific shows.

The catch-all solution is to have the writer assume the reader has very little knowledge of the show. And as much as it might seem like a good idea to cheat the traditional format and slap on a “Previously On” segment or TV Guide-like blurb to get the reader up to speed, it just never really feels right. Somehow it always feels as if the prologue was meant to spackle over cracks in the script that weren’t addressed the first time through. So we avoid it altogether when sending out Fellows’ work. Not to say we’re 100% correct and it’s always the wrong idea, it’s just our philosophy that we never want a Fellow’s script to get a ding before the reader hits page one.

So most of the time we leave it up to our writers to use their normal devices. Slipping exposition into an argument between two characters, having a character bring a lesser-informed character up to speed, etc. It can be cumbersome but the best writers can pull it off beautifully.

One exception however, is that if I know the person we are submitting to is a fan of the show, I will let the writer know that they have the greenlight to submit an “expert” version of the script. The writer can then feel free to remove exposition from the top of storylines or trim some over-explaining that happens along the way.

Hope this helps…feel free to summarize, paraphrase, chop and mangle if you would like to post this.


No mangling necessary. I hope that answers any questions out there. Looks like you should ditch the "previouslies"!

Lunch: a Baby Ruth bar eaten during the substantial wait at City Hall today between meetings to discuss the financial impact of the AMPTP's absence from the negotiations. Baby Ruth is a fine product.

Jane on 12.19.07 @ 07:14 PM PST [link]

Tuesday, December 18th
A Feather in Your Recap

Lately, I've been able to meet and talk with a lot of other writers out on the line -- not a thorough compensation for being able to do what I love, but it softens the blow. One of them, a young woman at the Mutant Enemy Day picket, pointed out to me an alternate way into a television writing job that I hadn't known about. There are at least two young working (well, not right now, but before and after the strike) writers in town who helped themselves get their jobs by working as recappers at TelevisionWithoutPity.com. What a great idea!

Do you know the site? You really should. It covers a large number of shows, providing detailed and humorous recaps and analysis of each episode. I often use it as a resource to make myself familiar with shows I've failed to keep up with, and to make sure I'm getting references and subtleties that a more diligent viewer would catch. The recappers get to demonstrate an understanding of what makes television work (and what doesn't). I don't always agree with their analysis, but I'm almost always impressed by the care and thought that goes into it. And, I'm now learning, the job can lead to other things. (I should have known this. The long-time Battlestar recapper, Jacob Clifton, contributed an essay to Serenity Found, the newer book about Firefly that I edited -- and he came to our attention because of the recaps.)

I have no idea if TwoP has job openings or what their hiring criteria is. It's almost certain that they don't need people right now since the amount of new product is plummeting due to the strike. But keep them, and other sites of this kind, in mind as you look ahead. Critical writing about television, for TwoP or your local college newspaper or on your personal blog, can help you hone your thinking and demonstrate a love and understanding of the medium that might just catch someone's eye.

Then, of course, you better have a good script to hand to them.

Lunch: Bibimbap, the Korean vegetable-and-rice dish, from the Korean BBQ stand in the Farmer's Market. Delish!

Jane on 12.18.07 @ 09:06 AM PST [link]

Sunday, December 16th
Make Sure They're Not Fake

Strike Update: Tomorrow (Monday), I will be picketing at the Universal Barham gate from 9 to noon instead of from 6 to 9, due to a reconfiguring of the picketing patterns. As always, anyone who wants to come out and join the line with us will be welcome. That will be my final day of line-walking before the holidays, although I'm sure I'll stop in at other strike-related events and will continue to put in shifts at Guild headquarters. If more picketing is required in the new year, I will let you all know where I plan to be.

And a small writing thought: here's another reason to rely on scripts, as opposed to produced episodes, when analyzing television shows. Sometimes when a show is rebroadcast with different time requirements (on cable, for example, or in daytime slots), the show has to be cut down to allow for extra ad time. Sometimes, even, a commercial break will be added where there was none in the original broadcast (and obviously, in the original script). Don't be misled by this. Act breaks are essential to creating a strong spec script. Make sure they're involving and suspenseful.

Lunch: poached eggs, rye toast

Jane on 12.16.07 @ 09:36 PM PST [link]

Saturday, December 15th
The Laugh on the Cut

Last night was the "Write Aid" comedy event at UCLA. So funny! Patton Oswalt had the place gasping for air, he was so good. He even had screenwriting-themed material suited for the crowd. Brilliant.

Everyone was very sharp, and Eddie Izzard was great, as usual. Eddie has a certain trick that's also used by Steve Martin and which is described nicely in Steve's new book (get the audio version, it's unabridged and you get to hear him deliver the material). I'm referring to the sudden change of subject which gets a laugh in itself as the audience realizes that the previous joke or joke run is over. Listen to a classic Steve Martin routine or to some Eddie Izzard and you'll hear it. It's like a bonus laugh on the transition between two topics. Interestingly, this is analogous to something that can be done in a script by ending a scene a few beats before the audience expects the cut. And it's just as effective in a script as it is on the stand-up stage.

Sometimes the effect isn't humorous, as when a character asks another character a question, and instead of the expected answer we cut to a new shot that answers the question. (i.e. "But where do you suppose he dropped the gun?" CUT TO: a gun almost buried in a golf course sand trap.) That might not be funny, but instead dramatic. But often the effect is humorous. In what appears to be the middle of a scene, for example, an affronted Character One might turn to Character Two and say, "Wait-- did you just call me fat?" Character Two blanches and opens their mouth, clearly formulating a long stammering excuse. But before they produce it, we cut away to another scene, and the joke is an implicit, "We all know how this is gonna go, so let's just take it as written." The Office does this sort of thing a lot. It's like giving your script a point of view on the events that doesn't belong to any of the characters, but rather to you, to the storyteller.

If you've got a script that has a tone breezy enough that it can take a bit of cheeky imposition of this type, you might want to give it a try. Eddie Izzard and Steve Martin get a lot of mileage out of cutting out of a bit early; see how it works for you.

Lunch: In 'N' Out burger, animal style. Fries. Dr. Pepper

Jane on 12.15.07 @ 05:32 PM PST [link]

Wednesday, December 12th
Nothing to Sneeze At

Oh, Gentle Readers, I am weary. I'm also footsore and frustrated. There is a corrosive new message oozing across the cyberlandscape. Is it true that we're fiddling while jobs burn? Well, in an effort to make the issues clear, and out of a compulsion to do what we know how to do, we've made the strike entertaining. Is that cavalier? I'm sure it can look that way.

But know that we're not dancing as lightly as we seem to be. We're cold. We're tired. Our feet hurt. We're concerned about the future -- the future of our shows, the future of our careers, the future of the business, the future of the whole darn American middle-class, and the future of any personal sense of security we might have built up. We're concerned about our relationship with executives whom we like, who aren't really part of the mogularchy. And we're greatly concerned about those people who find themselves affected by the strike although they never even got a vote in this action. We may look like we're laughing, but we're serious.

So, yeah, we're tired. But that doesn't mean we're weak. And that doesn't mean we're divided. And you know what's keeping us strong and united? You. Fans and aspiring writers. Fans appreciate what we provide, and would like television writing to remain a viable career so that we can keep providing it. And aspiring writers know that we're doing this so that there is a career here for them to step into. Thank you so much for understanding that. You're entertaining us too, you know -- those masses of pencils made me smile heartily. And I know that doesn't mean you're taking this lightly either.

If I were a "bless you" sort of person, I'd say that. But I'm not. So... gesundheit. Gesundheit to you.

Lunch: leftover Persian food. Crispy rice with lamb stew. And Faloodeh for dessert. Do you know this stuff? Frozen noodles with lime juice and rosewater. It's the childhood favorite your childhood was missing.

P.S. If you're that guy I almost punched today, the one who claimed that we writers weren't sacrificing anything, I direct you to, get this, the actual AMPTP website. Even they agree that we're sacrificing a lot. They think that number will scare us? Take it as a measure of our resolve, and I think it should scare them.

Jane on 12.12.07 @ 04:45 PM PST [link]

Tuesday, December 11th
Have You Seen that SunChips Flavor "Harvest Cheddar"? What the Heck?

Strike Update: Oh, we had a good pencil harvest this year! I got to the park by NBC in time to see the half-million pencils still in their boxes -- impressive, but packed so tightly that you didn't get a real idea of the sheer crazy volume of them. When they were dumped out into rolling bins, they seemed to expand enormously, like the late Winston Churchill being too quickly removed from a snug waistcoat. It was really wild -- a huge frakkin' cascade of pencils. It was a real, physical reminder of your support that we won't ever forget. Thank you, television fans!

Tomorrow, I'm back to my normal 6-9 a.m. shift at Universal's Barham gate, although it's hard to call it normal when I almost never get there anymore. I've done a lot of guest-picketing lately, but home is home. Then, Thursday, we're opting for a slightly later schedule. You'll find me and the rest of the Battlestar writers at Universal's Barham gate from 9 to 12. I will also be at the Guild later that day, making signs. Not working is hard work!

And there are two recoveries to note... I send "get well soon" wishes to our own Michael Trucco (Sam Anders on Battlestar) and to Alex Trebek. I've seen Jeopardy writers out picketing, and I hope for a speedy recovery for the sake of that whole family.

Lunch: Cup O' Noodles with added shot of lemon juice -- it really is the only way.

Clarification: I recently related an anecdote about a Buffy spec being submitted to Buffy. It was actually submitted to Angel. Observant readers correctly noted that a spec script for a specific show is rarely, if ever, submitted to that show.

Jane on 12.11.07 @ 06:14 PM PST [link]

Pencil Harvest Festival!

It's TODAY!!! From UnitedHollywood:

PENCILS2MEDIAMOGULS: It's here! The first delivery of pencils will take place today. Over 500,000 pencils have been shipped. Please join us as we deliver the pencils to NBC CEO Jeff Zucker, Robert Iger, CEO of The Walt Disney Company, and to Universal Studios for GE's CEO Jeffrey Immelt. Writers slated to appear include: Ronald D. Moore (Battlestar Galactica), Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly), Carol Barbee (Jericho), Alfred Gough (Smallville), Miles Millar (Smallville).

We will meet at 11:30 am at Johnny Carson Park, 400 Bob Hope Drive in Burbank.

Jane on 12.11.07 @ 07:10 AM PST [link]

Monday, December 10th
It was Like the Enterprise Cafeteria or Something

I'm back from the Trek picket at Paramount. Again, there was a crazy wall-to-wall turnout of supporters, fans, and magnificent alumni. I was thrilled to get to see my old friend Armin Shimerman, whom I've been able to write for both as Quark and as Principal Snyder on Buffy. I also got to meet Trek actors including Brent Spiner and Nichelle Nichols. I heartily thanked David Gerrold, the writer of "The Trouble with Tribbles," who pioneered the business of coming in to write "the funny one," a model I've tried to follow in my own writing career. And, get this, when I retired to Lucy's El Adobe for lunch following the picket, whom did I find? George Takei and Walter Koenig, lunching together. Holy cats, fellow Trekkers. Can you imagine? Sulu and Chekhov, sharing chips and salsa. I was undone.

So, I had exciting first-meets, and charming reunions with old friends (much of the Tru Calling writing staff was there -- go figure), but the best part, as always, was meeting you, Gentle Readers. Many of you found me and made an effort to say hello and introduce yourselves. The fact that you support the writers warms my heart. We're staying strong out there largely because we know you're with us in this. Thank you so much.

Tomorrow, I'm going to be at Warner Brothers (probably Gate 2) with other women genre writers starting at 8 am. Look for the pink hats. It's also "bring an actor friend" to the line day, so I'm hoping to have a surprise guest with me. Come by to see who it is!

In other strike news, check this out. It's a very interesting piece from United Hollywood that might help you think of ways you can help, even if you're too far away to come join us on the line.

In non-strike news, you can also check this other thing out. It's another interview with me, this time done by the fine people at SpaceWesterns.com, who asked some interesting questions that made me think very hard.

Finally, I have to point out another prime example of refurbishing a clam (an over-used joke). You remember, I'm sure, extensive conversations we've had before about "Good day... I said good day, sir!" I was surprised and interested to hear a variant of this joke on 30 Rock the other night. This version went:

Person One: I said good day!

Person Two: No, you didn't.

Person One: Well, I meant to.

It's an interesting attempt to freshen up a familiar joke by making the person deliver it incorrectly. I'm not sure it was entirely successful, but I give it points for taking on such a difficult task.

Lunch: Guac, salsa, chips... eaten while watching childhood icons.

Jane on 12.10.07 @ 05:04 PM PST [link]

Friday, December 7th

Oh my! I'm still recovering from the massively successful Mutant Enemy Day picket at Fox today. Did I meet every one of you, Gentle Readers? Because it feels as though I did. What a turn-out! Joss was, I know, impressed and moved by the support, as were all of us, both Mutants and Enemies. Thanks so much to all of you who came from nearby and from very very far away to show your support. It means a lot to us personally, and it makes an impact in the struggle as well. Knowing the fans are behind the writers makes it possible for us to persevere as these negotiations drag on.

Lots of people thanked me for the writing advice I dispense here. Allow me to point a finger off-stage to someone else who is giving excellent advice. I recently stumbled across the book "Writing The TV Drama Series," by Pamela Douglas, and it's great. I totally recommend it. Pamela has loads of experience as a working writer and she generously lays it all out and includes input as well from a number of "guest speakers," including my current boss, Ron Moore of Battlestar Galactica.

One of the big reasons I recommend this book is because it's so spankingly current. The shift away from four acts to five or more, the move from specs of produced shows to spec pilots... she covers it all. I don't know Pamela personally, but I'm darned impressed.

Once more... thank you for this morning's picket. What a glorious thing.

Lunch: grilled artichoke, chocolate-dipped fruit

Jane on 12.07.07 @ 04:40 PM PST [link]

Thursday, December 6th
"Write Aid" Update

Hot fresh info from Marti Noxon!

"Write Aid" will take place Friday, December 14 at 8 p.m. at Royce Hall at UCLA. Tickets will go on sale Friday, December 7, at 12-noon. Obtain them by visiting UCLALive.org, calling 310-825-2101, or contacting Ticketmaster. Tickets will also be available in person at the UCLA Central Ticket Office at the southwest corner of the James West Alumni Center, and at all Ticketmaster outlets.
Jane on 12.06.07 @ 10:24 PM PST [link]

Strike News from A to Izzard

Tomorrow is the big day. "Mutant Enemy Day," the special event being held in celebration of Joss Whedon and his shows Buffy, Angel, and Firefly (and the up-coming Dollhouse), will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Fox studios. I hope you'll be there.

I spent yesterday evening and this morning at Guild headquarters, making signs for the event. So if you get one that's exceptionally poorly taped, it might be mine. I invite you to imagine me, beaning myself with the stick, stray tape caught in my hair... I do it all for you.

There is also exciting news about another big impending event with a Buffy connection! I have just received an email from the amazing Marti Noxon about an event she has helped set up for next Friday, the 14th of December at 8 p.m. Marti says, it's a comedy benefit for the Motion Picture and Television Fund, which is available to provide health and social services to all workers in the entertainment industry affected by the strike. The line-up is EDDIE IZZARD, JACK BLACK AND KYLE GASS (Tenacious D), SARAH SILVERMAN, PATTON OSWALT, and LEWIS BLACK. It's at Royce Hall, and tickets go on sale over the weekend via UCLA for 75 bucks a pop. [...] The money will go to a great cause and it's an awesome group of performers.

Whoa. I'll say. My god. What a line-up! I cannot imagine missing this.

Marti points out that there isn't a lot of time to promote this event. It got a nice write-up in today's LA Times, but most of the promotion is going to be simple word-of-mouth. That means, of course, that you can buy lots of tickets and get great seats for this one-of-a-kind show! I don't have a phone number for ticket orders. I called the Royce Hall box office just now, and they either aren't going to be selling the tickets, or they just haven't been informed about it yet. I'll post a phone number or web site order info when I get it, but you should feel free to investigate this yourselves over the weekend if I don't find out anything.

THEN, Monday at Paramount, there is a special picket for Trek writers and fans. I will be there, as will many other writers who were involved in Trek either intimately or tangentially (like me). Notice that this refers to all Trek incarnations including the original. Personally, my fingers are crossed for a chance to talk to D.C. Fontana. (I'm told that she and I were at the same party recently... that I even sat quite near her, but I didn't know who she was, and missed out on a chance to talk to her.) Think of the possibilities!

Lunch: See today's earlier post.

Jane on 12.06.07 @ 03:56 PM PST [link]

Your Future Fellowship

I sat down with the current Disney TV fellows yesterday over lunch. The Fellowship has been disrupted by the strike, so I'm going to step into the void in my small way to try to replace a bit of the mentorship that the studio had been providing. Over lunch, I learned some interesting things that I want to pass along to those of you hoping to get into the program in the future.

The program seems to have had a better rate of both placing fellows on shows, and in having those placed fellows thrive once they got there than in the earlier years of the program. All ten television fellows were placed on shows, and all of them were positive about the experience they had there. That's simply amazing to me. And -- get this -- almost all the fellows managed to secure representation before the end of the program. Those who did not, are in the process of securing it now. Fantastic.

I also learned that it seems clear that there is every intention of continuing the program next year despite this year's disruption. Interviews for next year's Potentials were held recently, I am told. I hope some of you were in there, Gentle Readers. If not, then the following year must be your lucky year.

The fellows also pointed out something interesting to me that I had not noticed. The participants aren't just diverse in the usual sense of having backgrounds different than a preponderance of other working writers. They are also diverse relative to each other. It really is an impressively wide variety of backgrounds that are represented. (Including a white guy, so be cool, white guys; there's room for you, too.)

So, if you do find yourself in that interview chair, think about the things that set you apart and give you your unique take on the world. And I don't just mean ethnically. If you were raised on a farm, or spent a summer on a fishing boat, or volunteered on skid row, or had an uncle in prison or congress, or grew up on a series of army bases... find that hook, just like you would with a script.

I also learned a bit of new "room" terminology from one of the fellows. There's often a bit of talk in the room about which scene is the one that's going to be cut if it looks like the show is coming in too long, which it always does. It's important to be able to identify this scene early enough so that you can cut it before you spend a lot of time and energy rewriting it. You also need to move any crucial information out of this scene into other, safer, places. (This is also important in spec writing too, of course.) Anyway, the bit of terminology is "on the plastic." The scene that's next in line to be cut, is said to be on the plastic. The associated image is that of a mob guy, called into a meeting, only to find that he's standing on plastic laid down to protect the room. It's kind of a genius phrase, because it not only suggests that the scene is doomed, but also that the scenes around it will be protected from damage. Genius!

The fellows were gracious, welcoming, informative and unfailingly positive. I'm sure more of you will join their ranks every year.

There is also a lot of new strike news, but I'll put that up in a separate post.

Lunch: The "Big and Tasty" burger at McDonald's. I like that it has tomato.

Jane on 12.06.07 @ 02:39 PM PST [link]

Tuesday, December 4th
Come Get More Advice Than You Need!

Only time tonight to give specifics on the special bloggers' picket tomorrow at Warner Brothers. We'll be at gate 2/3, which is a combo of gates 2 and 3, not gate two-thirds, from 8 a.m. to 11. I will be there, along with John August, Craig Mazin, and Josh Friedman. I hope to see you there!

Lunch: shabu shabu with beef and clear noodles. Always tasty.
Jane on 12.04.07 @ 09:17 PM PST [link]

Monday, December 3rd
Runners in your Knits

Did you see that outfit on Project Runway two weeks ago? It was made from a heavy and very stretchy knit. The judges noticed that it actually got bigger during the fashion show as it succumbed to gravity. Any sort of fit that it started with was lost as it sagged off the model.

I talked with a writer today about how stories have a right size too. It's totally true. He talked about a sitcom story with a very comedic hook that kept sagging under logical problems and general believability issues. It just didn't seem to be sturdy enough to support even a B-story's amount of weight. But once the show's staff tried turning it into a tiny two-beat comedic runner, the little story clung like a slinky silk. If you've got a story that seemed hilarious when you thought of the concept but that now seems forced and, you know, gray... take it to the tailor.

Strike: Remember that strange article from TV Guide online? The one that suggested that most of their readers are opposed to the writers? Today, faced with poll results that said their readers actually favor the writers by a 4-to-1 margin, they put out a follow-up piece. Perhaps this was to correct the earlier error? Actually, the new article suggests that maybe negative reader comments reflect a shift away from the writers' position since the poll was completed. Note: the poll is still open. So are comments on the new article.

Lunch: I tried something new at a place called "Kansas City Barbeque." It was called a "burnt end sandwich". I know! It was fabulous!

Jane on 12.03.07 @ 07:06 PM PST [link]

Sunday, December 2nd
Pencil Pusher

UPDATE: I almost forgot to ask. Does anyone out there want a hot towel? Follow the link to find out about a possible benefit of buying pencils. Tell your friends!

It's an all-strike update entry today, Gentle Readers. There's just so much to cover!

First, I bought more pencils today. If you haven't bought your limit yet, might I suggest something? Let's see how many we can buy before the big Mutant Enemy picket day at Fox on December 7. This action won't last forever, and it's nice to have a goal-date, don't you think?

Second, I'm going to have a very busy picketing week this week. Look for me at the Universal Studios Barham gate early tomorrow morning, then at Paramount at 9 AM on Tuesday to walk with other women Sci Fi writers (look for the group with the pink hats), and then on Wednesday morning, I'm participating in a special walk-with-the-bloggers picket at Warner Brothers with John August, Craig Mazin, and Josh Friedman. Come by and collect us all!

Third, I had a thought today. (No, really.) While the rest of the viewing public is having to withdraw from their shows as, one by one, they slump into reruns, you writers don't have to. Write your spec scripts (you lucky non-WGA guys, you), and you'll still get to commune with the characters you love. If you're going to need a spec of an existing show for next year's fellowships, this would be a grand time to write one. (Remember not to pick a brand-new show, and also remember, a script is always a more valuable research tool than a completed episode is.)

Lunch: bagels, cream cheese, fruit and teeny-tiny cream puffs

Jane on 12.02.07 @ 09:39 PM PST [link]

Saturday, December 1st
Naming Names

UPDATE: I'm told that the links in this post weren't working for some (but not all) readers. I think they should work now.

Gentle Reader Braden has expressed frustration with characters overusing each others' names in scripts. This is an interesting topic. I'm sure you know what he's referring to -- characters on film tend to address each other by name far more often than speakers do in real life.

Braden refers to actually highlighting these uses of names in the dialogue of scripts that he's reading. Ah... interesting that he references the written page. Yes, Braden, absolutely. When you're reading a script, these overuses can be very annoying, largely because you're also reading the name every single time the character says something -- in the character slug line. When you're actually watching the finished product, the overuse is less obvious and helps you learn the names of all the major players so that you know who's who when off-screen characters are referenced.

There's also, I believe, a practical reason that writers have characters overuse names the way they do. It's intimate. That's why salesmen like to call you by name. It helps us believe in a connection between the characters. I also like the way the use of name can break up sentences, creating a more unusual rhythm. You can probably think, Gentle Readers, of a way in which I even do that around here sometimes.

So, yes, Braden, it can be overdone. If you're noticing it at all, then it almost certainly is overdone. Uses of names should be subtle and almost subliminal. If they're too obviously above the statistical norm then you've got a problem. Also, since you guys are creating scripts to be read, not produced, you should be aware of what I mentioned earlier. You've got your characters' names already splashed all over your pages, so be careful. We know that's House, so we don't need to be hit with one.

Strike: I'm puzzled and a little upset by this piece posted yesterday on TV Guide online. It says that most of their reader responses are pro-studio -- an earlier draft of the story, found here even implies that only 37 percent of their readers are pro-writer. On a site specifically for TV fans? Can that be right? (No. It can't.) The piece even asks, "So, is everyone tired of the writers' demands?" Well, either this reporter is somehow getting a skewed picture of the fans' position, or I am. I discovered that it's easy to register and leave comments and vote in polls at tvguide.com. Don't you agree?

Lunch: scrambled eggs with fried tortilla pieces mixed in and lots of Sriracha sauce.

Jane on 12.01.07 @ 12:00 PM PST [link]


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December 2007

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