Thursday, December 10, 2009

TODAY'S NUGGET: Beware the Tangents

I read a marvelous comedy spec that I will definitely give a consider. I mentioned it to a writer friend (our conversation shamelessly paraphrased & masked to protect the innocent):

FRIEND: Why does it need to be cut down? You liked it.
ME: Besides for time, it is too long.
FRIEND: But why? It entertained you, & you like it as it is.
ME: Because it just does!

"It just does" is not defensible in court, & the fact I had no other explanation bothered me for days. Even it wasn't a time issue, why did those fun scenes need to be cut?

Was I one of those readers who was being picky for no reason?

Had I lost my touch with my grounded roots and had become a picayune flunky?

I quailed at the thought I might've lost my objectivity.

After some soulful reflection and a quart of ice cream, I thought about what the outline would've looked for this script. I loved the characters, the tone, the tangential side stories, the organic twists, the .....wait....tangents?

And there it was.

The subplots and side stories need to: 1) echo/reflect, and 2) complement the main conflict.

Here, they did, but the writers became so engrossed in such fun characters, the main story was set aside.

ex. The sidekicks were stuck together because of the main characters. A flirty, forbidden romance developed that was so much fun. However, the sidekicks are there to give the main characters more eyes and ears as they solved the mystery. Because the romance bit was increased, the antagonist had less time onscreen. In fact, the antagonist isn't seen for 20 pages...that's a big problem.

WHAT I LEARNED: Subplots are great, if kept in check. Beware when they get too greedy and take up more space than you've allotted.

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