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*He is not a secret agent. Not at all.



In which I promise to get to a point...

Something I read in a very old book has stuck with me through my excuse for a writing career and it's something I keep very much in the front of my mind, next to the big box of those hooking monkeys.

The book in question is The Trouble With Tribbles by David Gerrold and it's the story of how that famous episode of Star Trek happened, from young David deciding he wants to be a writer all the way through through production and the aftermath of the tribble phenomena and the initial rumblings of organized Star Trek fandom. My copy is yellowed and is a seventh printing from 1976, but it's an intriguing look inside the brain of a young writer in a television world that has changed a lot while not changing at all.

The first chapter is about opportunity knocking and that when it does, you better be able to answer the door. Better yet, if you can, have the coffee made and hot and snacks on a tray. That's why I keep my spec pile rotating. I like to have a lot of different things ready to go at any time.

Sometimes, opportunity comes in different ways. you never know who you're going to meet and waht they're going to ask for? Can you think on your feet? Can you pitch something at the drop of a hat if you had to?

Occasionally, I like to exercise my brain a bit by coming up with one pitch for every show I watch, preferably in just a couple of minutes each. It's a good brain stretch for a short drive to pick up some beer and hardcore porn, or in my case, soda and funny books.

You don't have to work it all out. Just a little more than a log line's worth. And be hard on yourself. Is it cool or did you just barf up something to beat the clock? Honestly, my Instapitch™ to myself for an episode of Shark was met with a rolling of my eyes at...myself. It sucked, I moved on.

It's fun because it lets you put a little thought to some shows that are "unspeccable" or not spec worthy. Last night, I did one for Doctor Who (foreign show, no good for the spec) "The Forty-Four Doctors" in which The Doctor must convince The Mighty and Dread Confederation of the Sanguinary Obliton, in essence a "murder galaxy" (population: 500,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 very angry rubber-suited monsters (of which there'd only be three or four rubber suits and a lot of cut and paste)), that there is something worse in the universe than them and they're looking at it. Can he destroy an entire galaxy bent on killing everything in sight? How will he do it (hint: here)? What toll will the contemplation of such genocide take on him? Blah, blah blah. Total time thinking about this: From here to the Boston Market for meatloaf (and a lot of that was coming up with the name Mighty and Dread Confederation of the Sanguinary Obliton). Not on the way back. That was the unpleasantness with Shark.

I can only imagine how ridiculous that sounds to someone not familiar with the peculiarities of Doctor Who. Or how ridiculous it sounds to those who do. Anyway, I'm setting that one the wild.

A little test of speed, style and other stuff. You can even do it with old shows if you so desire. Who knows? You might stumble over something you can use somewhere else.

BTW, this whole thing of being ready when opportunity knocks relates to the hand-wringing I've seen of late in reference to Jane Espenson's post about writing spec pilots. It's one agent she spoke with recommending anything but specs to be used as writing samples. And even if something original opens the door, they may want something else after its opened. Do both. Be ready for all eventualities. Go to war with the army you've got, and make sure that army is the one you want. Y'know?

Still working out the kinks of a Heroes spec, but I think I know how to do it now.
©2024 Michael Patrick Sullivan
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