Home Contact Biography Works Media News

Jane Recommends
Who Hates Whom / Bob Harris

Who Hates Whom: Well-Armed Fanatics, Intractable Conflicts, and Various Things Blowing Up A Woefully Incomplete Guide by Bob Harris

"The geopolitical equivalent of scorecards that get hawked at ball games. Only Bob could make a user’s guide to our increasingly hostile world this absorbing, this breezy, and—ultimately—this hopeful."
~ Ken Jennings, author of Brainiac


Jane in Print
Serenity Found: More Unauthorized Essays on Joss Whedon's Firefly Universe, edited by Jane Espenson

Flirting with Pride and Prejudice: Fresh Perspectives on the Original Chick-Lit Masterpiece, edited by Jennifer Crusie and including Jane Espenson's short story, "Georgiana"

Finding Serenity: Anti-Heroes, Lost Shepherds and Space Hookers in Joss Whedon's Firefly, edited by Jane Espenson and Glenn Yeffeth

Jane in DVD

Jane in DVD

Now Available:
+Battlestar Galactica Season 3
+Dinosaurs Seasons 3 & 4
+Gilmore Girls Season 4
+Buffy: The Chosen Collection
+Tru Calling
+Angel: Limited Edition Collectors Set

Jane in Progress


Home » Archives » February 2007 » An Atypical Route to Spexcellence
[Previous entry: "Not Just a Brainshower"] [Next entry: "Boneless is For Chicken Strips"]

02/20/2007: An Atypical Route to Spexcellence

You know how some shows have one episode with a totally atypical structure? I'm thinking of the Emmy-winning "Three Stories" episode of House which was set in a classroom and consisted of flashbacks to past patients, one of whom turned out to be House himself. I'm also thinking of the "Out of Gas" episode of Firefly and the "Unfinished Business," episode of Battlestar Galactica, both of which told stories in different timelines simultaneously. Episodes like these are often the most memorable shows of a series. But they're not typical.

So the question arises: Can your spec be an episode like this? My answer -- after some thought and internal debate -- is yes.

It's tricky, because a large part of the point of the specing exercise (spexercise?) is to write an episode that feels like a produced ep. If your spec is different than all or almost all of their produced eps, then you haven't really accomplished that. But if you execute your spec (spexecute?) properly, then that won't matter. Because another large part of the point of the exercise is to write an episode that is as good as the very best produced episodes. And playing with structure can allow you to do some very powerful stuff, memorable stuff, stuff to get a script noticed.

Telling a story that plays with time can be a great way to dig deeper into the characters by letting us see them at a time before the series started (as the Firefly and House episodes do), or during a time that the series simply didn't show us (as the Battlestar one does). Often, in stories like these, we learn something about why a character is the way they are. There is little that is more powerful than that.

You have to be careful, of course. Don't hang an act break on whether or not your main character is going to be killed in the past for example. And don't just assume any origin story is worth telling -- make it startling and yet oh so illuminating.

The structure should help you tell the story; it shouldn't be the story.

But if you've got a great one of these eps in mind, even if it breaks the rules, I say go for it.

Lunch: a cookie and water from the Universal commissary. A too-late breakfast stole my appetite.


Get Blog Updates Via Email

Enter your Email

Preview | Powered by FeedBlitz


Walt Disney Writing Fellowship Program
UC Berkeley
Jane recommends you also visit BobHarris.com



February 2007

Valid XHTML 1.0!

Powered By Greymatter
Greymatter Forums

Home | News | Works | Biography | Frequently Asked Questions

Site design Copyright © PM Carlson
This is a fan site owned and operated entirely by PM Carlson with the cooperation and assistance of Jane Espenson. This site is not affiliated in any way with Mutant Enemy, 20th Century Fox or ABC.