Hey there everyone!
I know that it’s been forever. Life has been incredibly busy. But it’s also brought about many a writing insight that I plan to share with you all. My other big thing is that I want to mix it up. See… I don’t want to be a dog on a bone telling you the same information again and again in different ways. Nope. Not at all! I want to bring you new information for that would be more helpful.
And one of these pieces came from taking the Sundance Collab Episodic Writing Level Two class. (I already took level one last year.) Semi Chellas was my teacher. Sean Reycraftwas my advisor. Pam Davis was the other advisor. The three of them had a dynamic class that taught me a ton. It was not just limited to TV writing.
One of the biggest lessons was the one that I learned early on in the class. It’s about asking the question of your show. This is what should drive your entire TV series. I thought that I had that handled with my story about an atheist. But Semi said if you know the answer that you’ve got a strawman. This isn’t a foundation for a series because you need the kind of question that can be explored over multiple seasons. It could even be that there could be a different answer to the question each season with the definitive answer being the series ending. Okay… Semi didn’t state that about the definitive answer but it makes sense to have a final answer if you end the series.
As for my story about my atheist, I already had the definitive answer. The strawman aspect reminds of something that my writing instructor Corey Mandell said about characters telling other characters “no.” A move like this ends the scene for there is nowhere else to go after that “no.” That’s why scenes like that tend to be short. And longer ones tend to feel tedious for they don’t escalate after that “no.” I once watched an entire movie where one character just kept saying no. It was hell. The movie also didn’t do well in the box office for everyone else also wanted to shoot themselves after watching it.
The other cool part to consider about the question you explore is how the different characters answer it. What are you talking about? Right, I know, huh? Characters besides the protagonist get to answer questions in TV shows? Yup. It’s because TV has time to explore characters beyond just the protagonist. They don’t compete with the protagonist for coveted pages in the same way as they do in features. Sure. You can’t let side characters take over for they become the protagonist. It’s just that you get to think beyond the archetypes and stereotypes like you do in features. This is actually based on something my advisor Sean said about naming characters.
I’m used to features where you would just put “Tall Cop” or “Cop 1.” You don’t have time to dig into these side characters. My advisor Sean suggested that I name even characters like these. It’s to get readers to think beyond the tropes. I also realized that you may run into characters again on a TV show whereas that might not be the case in a feature since they’re so much shorter. Okay. The Marvel Cinematic Universe wasn’t smaller but you get my point. He also wanted to be kinder to actors since they have a name instead of a label.
The other part about giving characters names is that they start to take on a life of their own. They no longer remain types. I’ll be honest that handing out names like Halloween candy scares me for I want my characters to not all run together if they have names. I can’t begin to tell you of how many scripts I’ve read where I had to look at character names repeatedly since they all sounded the same.
Ah… But giving each character a name and make every character “answer the question” will help to better distinguish them in my mind. I also trust that naming them will also aid me with this since I will start to breathe life into each character for I will need to track down a name for each one. Coming up with their names also means that I need to think about their race as well as their age. These are both factors when considering names. An example is that little girls aren’t generally named things like “Eunice” too much anymore.
As for my story about my atheist, I know that it can make a nice little feature. I’m probably going to produce it myself when it’s done. This will be totally cool. I also came up with a different story that I developed during my class. Sean has been extremely helpful in helping me shape my story. This includes spitballing until we came up with my series question together. Good news… I have an idea about the answer rather than a solid one.
Good luck! Keep writing and let me know your thoughts.