Human Sacrifice

In the life of every script, key decisions must be confronted and made. Is this the right beat for an act out? Should I use flashbacks? What do I do about this gaping plot hole?

Sometimes the hardest decisions involve homicide — specifically, excising a character. I am currently struggling with this decision in regard to my pilot.

My pilot spec has no less than 20 (!) speaking characters. Keeping them straight is a chore for the reader, and I am sympathetic to this. In fact, I dislike having so many dang people cluttering up my world. The problem is, I NEED most of these characters.

First, there’s the lead. He can’t go away, no way, no how. Then there’s his ‘entourage’ or ‘team’ — those three are necessary too. The boss stays, as does the best friend. So does the heavy. As for the second tier characters, most of those serve a purpose too. I’ve already taken 3 characters and rolled them into one. Still, the world is too populated. Someone must go.

I’ve chosen Coulter for this honor.

Dan Coulter is a man’s man. He’s also an arrogant SOB. He was in the story to be a thorn in the side of my lead and provide some meaty conflict. Trouble is, he isn’t really that necessary anymore. When I created him, he was unique, serving a singular purpose. Now I have two or three other characters who duplicate that role. So, Coulter is headed to the dustbin.

Here’s the problem, it’s not that simple. He is woven into some scenes that feed important information. He was a structure point too — serving as a justification for our lead to make a critical decision. If he is gone, the decision doesn’t make sense. So just cutting him out of the story leads to a number of rewrite issues. Now, I’m not afraid of rewriting, far from it. At first glance, however, the task is daunting. Once I figure out how to patch over the gaps left by this character, I’ll be good to go. Right now I’m just trying to find enough dirt for filler.

In the end, I’ll have 19 (!?!) speaking roles in the pilot. It may not seem like a significant reduction, but I think it will still help. After all, Lost in any given week seems to have 25, and Lord knows how many there are for 24 (actually, I counted last night — I counted 21 name characters at least…got a little fuzzy in the detention center, but that’s still a hefty number.)

On to the rewrite.

Posted under writing

This post was written by Shawna on January 30, 2007


Spec episode or spec pilot?

There’s been some debate this week about the viability of specs, thanks to a blog post from Jane Espenson unofficially declaring the spec episode of an existing show dead.

Fortunately for us, BooM started asking questions. Her answers are a bit of a relief.

Let’s hope the spec episode isn’t completely dead. Either way, start writing some pilots people.

Posted under writing

This post was written by Shawna on January 24, 2007

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Paley Festival Events Announced

(panel attendees TBA)

3/1 American Idol
3/2 The Office
3/3 An Evening with George Lucas
3/5 Brothers & Sisters
3/6 The Closer
3/7 Dexter
3/8 Nip/Tuck
3/9 Prison Break
3/10 Heroes
3/12 Ugly Betty
3/13 Jericho
3/15 The Simpsons

More information at Museum of Television and Radio

Posted under Uncategorized

This post was written by Shawna on January 23, 2007

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Updated Fox Spring Schedule

(From Fox press release, as found at Futon Critic:


Sunday, March 4:
THE WAR AT HOME Time Period Premiere (7:30-8:00 PM)
THE WINNER Series Premiere (8:30-9:00 PM)
THE WINNER Series Premiere (9:30-10:00 PM)

Wednesday, March 7:
THE WEDDING BELLS Preview (9:00-10:00 PM)

Friday, March 9:
THE WEDDING BELLS Series Premiere (9:00-10:00 PM)

Wednesday, March 14:
TIL DEATH Time Period Premiere (9:30-10:00 PM)

Friday, March 30:
STANDOFF Time Period Premiere (8:00-9:00 PM)

Sunday, April 15:
DRIVE Series Premiere (8:00-10:00 PM)

Monday, April 16:
DRIVE Time Period Premiere (8:00-9:00 PM)

(Effective Sunday, March 4; All Times ET/PT)

8:00-9:00 PM PRISON BREAK/DRIVE (Premieres 4/16)
9:00-10:00 PM 24

9:00-10:00 PM HOUSE

8:00-9:00 PM BONES
9:30-10:00 PM TIL DEATH

8:00-9:00 PM TBA
9:00-10:00 PM TBA

8:00-9:00 PM STANDOFF (Premieres 3/30)

8:00-8:30 PM COPS
8:30-9:00 PM COPS
11:00 PM-Midnight MADtv

7:30-8:00 PM THE WAR AT HOME
8:30-9:00 PM THE WINNER/KING OF THE HILL (Returns 3/25)
9:00-9:30 PM FAMILY GUY
9:30-10:00 PM THE WINNER/AMERICAN DAD (Returns 3/25)

Posted under Uncategorized

This post was written by Shawna on January 21, 2007

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No, not savings bonds or Barry Bonds, but the kind of bonds you make with people in the trenches, as a writer.

Bonds. Now the word looks funny. Ahem.

Some writers find it difficult to forge relationships with other writers. A lot of writers tend toward the reclusive side. If this is you, I recommend you use the tool in front of you to break out of that.

Bonds can be formed online now, you know.

The best relationships are obviously the ones where you see and talk to the person and they are within 2 feet of you, and no, not on your computer screen. However, if you’ve been on message boards or chat rooms or blogs and found a kindred spirit, take advantage. Writer colleagues are good for motivation, support and assistance.

This is a love letter of sorts to my best writer friends.

I can’t thank you all enough for your insightful notes, your suggestions (yes, I love notes and suggestions, I know some writers don’t want someone telling them how to fix their problems, but I like solutions, even if it isn’t the right one. Sometimes it leads to the right one). Hopefully I am just as helpful as you are to me.

To my L.A. writer friends, I appreciate being able to meet with you, blow off steam, laugh and cry and share our work so that we may become stronger writers. To my non-L.A. writer friends, I appreicate you too. We may not be able to meet in person all the time, if ever, but you have diverse viewpoints which are appreciated. Sometimes it helps to hear from those of you outside of the Hollywood bubble to see if my idea ‘plays’ to a larger audience. That is invaluable insight.

Forging bonds is important in life. While you may feel writing is a solitary occupation, I can’t stress enough the importance of fellow aspirants to keep you motivated.

Go make some friends.

Posted under writing

This post was written by Shawna on January 19, 2007


The new hot specs list

While not all of this season’s crop of shows has had their fates decided, it’s getting easier to read the tea leaves. I’m also hearing buzz about certain show specs from friends and industry contacts:

New ‘hot’ one-hour specs: (in order of perceived hotness)

Ugly Betty
Grey’s Anatomy
The Closer
Criminal Minds
Brothers & Sisters

*This does not mean other shows cannot be specced. I’ll be posting the revised hot specs list within a few weeks.

New ‘hot’ half-hour specs: (in order of perceived hotness)

The New Adventures of Old Christine
The Office
My Name is Earl
How I Met Your Mother
Two and a Half Men
Everybody Hates Chris (this has really fallen off since last year)

Posted under Uncategorized

This post was written by Shawna on January 18, 2007

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NBC sets Raines premiere dates

Raines, starring Jeff Goldblum will premiere in ER’s time slot on March 15 and 22, and then air on Fridays at 9 beginning March 30. Earlier NBC had reduced the order for the series from 13 to 7.

Unless it pulls incredible numbers, Raines isn’t long for this world.

Link: the futon critic

Posted under watch list

This post was written by Shawna on January 18, 2007


NBC renews The Office, Earl, Heroes and L&O: SVU for next season

NBC has announced the renewal of ‘My Name is Earl’, ‘The Office’, ‘Heroes’, and ‘Law & Order: Special Victims Unit’ for the 2007-08 season. This makes ‘Heroes’ the first freshman show to get picked up for next season.

Watch List updated.

Link: Futon Critic

Posted under Uncategorized

This post was written by Shawna on January 17, 2007

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Fox Spring Schedule Announced

Fox has announced some premiere dates and schedule changes coming in March and April (editorials are all mine):

  • Drive – 2 hour premiere on Sunday April 15. It will then begin airing on Monday nights (starting April 16) replacing Prison Break, which will have its season finale on April 2nd. A repeat of ‘House’ will air in the slot on April 9.
  • Til Death will move to Wednesdays following the 90 minute AI on March 14. This will likely prolong the life of the show…at least short term.
  • Hell’s Kitchen will return in March on Thursdays once The O.C. wraps. Remember ‘The Loop’? (it was never actually cancelled last season) Looks like it could return and air the same night alongside ailing ‘The War at Home’.
  • Standoff comes back in March and is sent to the gallows of Friday night. I weep. But at least it won’t die alone. David Kelley’s new show ‘The Wedding Bells’ will air along with it on Fridays.
  • Seth MacFarlane/Rick Blitt produced show ‘The Winner’ will launch on Sunday March 4 with two episodes, one after The Simpsons and one after Family Guy. American Dad, which normally airs in those slots, will return in April.

I’ll update the Watch List with this info today.

Link: Futon Critic

Posted under tv news, watch list

This post was written by Shawna on January 17, 2007

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Quick hits

  • Dancing with the Stars returns on March 19, airing Mondays and Tuesdays. Yes, that means it avoids the American Idol carnage.
  • Stargate will live on with a couple of direct-to-DVD films, ‘Stargate: The Ark of Truth’, and ‘Stargate: Continuum’.
  • Lost may air with no repeats next season, but to do so, it may not premiere until January 2008.
  • Golden Globes: YAWN. Hugh Laurie will always win because he’s British. Same with Helen Mirren. And Jeremy Irons. And Bill Nighy. And Sacha Baron Cohen. AND Emily Blunt. Alec Baldwin is British by default, since he vowed to leave the country after Bush was reelected. Recounts are pending for how Peter O’Toole, Toni Collete (okay, she’s from Australia, close enough), Cate Blanchett, and Stephen Frears lost. I’m sure heads will roll for letting some Americans win those categories.
  • ABC has suffered a lot of serialized show fatigue, with only a couple of small successes in that realm this year and lots of failures (Six Degrees, The Nine, Daybreak). They are focusing on procedurals this year. Of course, ABCs recent track record with procedurals has been dismal (In Justice, The Evidence, Dragnet).
  • So, uh, 24. Yeah. In their world I’d be dead several times over. I know the show is set in L.A. but do we always have to be hit with big horrible weapons? At least they spread it around the country a little bit this season…

Not a lot of TV news to report. I scoff at the Globes handing the best tv show award to Grey’s, but you know my bias there anyway…

Link:the futon critic

Posted under tv news

This post was written by Shawna on January 16, 2007