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Complications Ensue:
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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Q. My approach for my The Office spec was to write a run-of-the-mill episode, and I think I did that. But a friend pointed out that the characters were just being their hilarious selves, rather than advancing and telling us more about them. The best episodes of The Office are obviously the ones where the conflict between Jim and Pam heats up, or Michael unexpectedly does something smart or brave. But how far should we push a character in a spec? How do you strike a balance between nailing the characters and letting them grow?
It's tricky. In a spec, you don't want to take your characters into brand new territory. You want to use the template of the show to tell stories that are fun and true to those characters. On the other hand, maybe your friend's feedback is still relevant. Does your friend's criticism mean that you weren't reinvent the characters (which you shouldn't)? Or is it a sign that you haven't given the characters strong enough stories? You don't want your characters to "be their hilarious selves" so much as do hilarious things trying to get what they want.

All feedback contains truth; it's up to you to figure out what that truth is and how to apply it.



I think that, especially in a spec, the characters won't "advance" per se, but they can learn more about themselves. So they shouldn't do anything that isn't in their character, but that doesn't mean their actions are pointless. I don't think unexpected is the correct word because they could and should do something unexpected, just not obvious. Leave those out-of-personality moments for when you're actually on staff and are throwing around ideas; right now you have to show that you can play by their rules.

By Blogger wordsmithy, at 7:56 PM  

Not to be a killjoy, but you might want to consider writing a 30 Rock spec instead. I heard agents say months ago that they were sick of reading Office specs because everyone and their brother had one. You might also have more options for crazy plots on 30 Rock that still feel like an average episode.

By Blogger Amanda, at 5:17 PM  

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