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Complications Ensue:
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Wednesday, September 21, 2005

I sent off the manuscript for Crafty TV Writing to my editor at Holt. I'll follow up later today with a sample breakdown, beat sheet, and an act full of script pages. Which, for Charlie Jade fans, will contain my draft of the fourth act of "The Shortening of the Way." (Ever wonder where the A story went?)

I think this is gonna be an interesting book, even for veteran screenwriters...

I'm in a rare position these days of having more things that I wanna write than time to write them. I'm not usually full of ideas. I'm just good at closing. Give me a good series idea and I will probably write the series pitch bible (say 10-14 pages, assuming I can crack the template; give me a good screenplay idea and I will probably write the damn thing. So only having three or four ideas a year isn't so much of an impediment.

I want to rewrite Unseen. The script is probably "good enough," but I want it to be superfantastic. It's not the kind of movie that gets made if it's just "good enough."

I have to write The Eighth Day, 'cause Telefilm is paying me to, and the thoroughly nifty Anne Fenn will story edit.

I have to polish Medieval, 'cause it's doing me no good sitting there with marks all over it, and it's as close to a slamdunk concept as I usually get. (My ideas are usually much more ambitious than this one is.)

And I've got an occult thriller series whose title I don't even dare say... but which I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to write a hundred episodes of. Structurally it's less of a series than a series of mini-series. That is, it's structured like a Vertigo comic. A fundamentally interesting character goes on a series of shall we say adventures, but each adventure takes place over many episodes -- maybe even a season -- and each adventure makes a coherent story. Sort of like 24 if you can call those stories coherent. Harder to pitch than a proper series because there isn't a template -- "every week Lilah does X" -- there's no franchise. You have to actually know where the first story is going, and it wouldn't be a bad idea to know what the second story is. If you look at Hellblazer or Sandman, every graphic novel - several comix bound together -- is a complete story made of serveral episodes. This might be a better way to deal with sort of mythological material.

Has anyone tried this on TV? So far as I know your shows are either episodic -- each ep is a story -- or serial -- the story just goes on and on -- or some mix of each. But multi-story arcs, not so much. I think.

I get excited just thinking about it.

But one thing at a time. Damn it. I can't really justify starting on the occult thriller when I've got other stuff much closer to completion... And if the network comes back with a "yes," I'll be scrambling on Exposure...


Your multi-arc, Vertigo style series format is certainly under-represented, but was good enough for Doctor Who for twenty-seven years, and worked for Sapphire and Steel and Cracker, too.

Can't think of any U.S equivalents. though.

By Blogger Lee, at 1:36 PM  

But multi-story arcs, not so much. I think.

Well, my show is pretty much designed from start to finish to play out in a series of multi-story arcs -- much to the chagrin of the network/prodco execs I've been pitching it to.

Your occult series sounds intriguing, Alex. I hope to learn more in the near future -- or even work for the show in some capacity if it ever gets the green light.

KJC (who put the 'vamp' in vampire)

By Blogger Kelly J. Compeau, at 1:58 PM  

In addition to the raft of British shows that used this format, it was also used a lot during Old Time Radio. Most juvenile radio serials worked this way. As did I LOVE A MYSTERY. Would be fun to try out this format again.

By Blogger Robot Porter, at 3:30 PM  

Just browsing the older posts...

Wiseguy did this, too. Each story arc was a different undercover assignment for Vinnie. Nine arcs in four seasons, and a tv reunion movie.

I got to the end of the first arc, and it felt like the show was over. I couldn't imagine they'd ever get that chemistry with a new setting and (mostly) new cast, and stopped there. But my friends have convinced me that I have to keep going.

The trouble for writing is, how much of the show do you have to relaunch each arc? It's also a concept that's *born* for dvd viewing.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:09 AM  

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