Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Them(e)'s the Breaks

I don't know about other writers of TV specs, but my enjoyment of watching the tube is tempered by a vague undercurrent of fear that a show I've spec'd will hit some story beat that I have in my own script.

That vague fear became a specific "Aw, crap" moment this week, as I saw on TV a story that's a ringer for one in a new spec outline I have in the works for that show. The story was similar enough in the broad strokes and even some eerie details that I don't think I can use mine in the spec, at least not in its current form.

I felt an oh so brief warm fuzzy for thinking in alignment with the show's writers, but that drowned in a cold bucket o' reality. I now have an outline with a hole in it.

So, what to do? It's one thing to murder your darlings, and another to have someone else suffocate them with a drycleaning bag.

Back to the theme!

The script's theme generated this particular story, and should be robust enough to spin out more. I hope.

Not every show on TV has themes, overtly stated or otherwise, but I find that the most compelling ones do. Those shows tend to convey a sense of larger meaning or human experience, beyond being only a series of events enacted by characters.

And, theme's a great safety net. If a scene won't play right, or your B story fails to click, check if it carries out the premise.

By falling in love with your theme rather than specific plot elements, spec writers faced with the moving target that is live TV may avoid having to off their true darlings and instead just have to maim those somewhat adorables.

1 comment:

Shahua said...

Sorry about the luck. I can empathize. It's nice to know that you can think as 'they' can, but the 'what do I do now' feeling trumps it every time. I got double whammies lately; I wrote a spec for Grey's and not only did they get eerily close to mine, they did a better treatment of the theme I choose! Damn,damn damn!