TV Writing Seminar - Part 4


More Rules for Starting Your Story


1. TEST THE PREMISE WITH SOME SMART PEOPLE YOU TRUST. SUPPORTIVE INTELLIGENT FEEDBACK CAN BE VALUABLE.

2. THE BURDEN WEIGHS UPON THE WRITER TO PROVIDE FOR THE AUDIENCE, AND NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND. WRITERS WHO SCORN RATHER THAN RESPECT THEIR AUDIENCE WILL NEVER HIT THE LONG BALL.

I once had a young writer come to me and say, "Help me compose a story for an episode of Adam-12." (A 70s Jack Webb police show I had worked on the year before). I asked the writer why she wanted to write for Adam-12, a show I always enjoyed writing. Her answered surprised me. "I want to write it because it looks easy." Wrong answer! I told her to pick something she really cared about and then come see me.

3. YOU MUST BE WORTHY OF YOUR AUDIENCE. WRITE SOMETHING THAT MERITS THEIR TIME AND ATTENTION. DON'T BE BORING. AIM HIGH; STRETCH YOURSELF.

With my new novel Riding the Snake I was stretching. When I started researching, I knew very little about the culture and customs of China. Triads, Tongs and their machinations were new territory for me. I also chose to write an interracial love story between my two protagonists, an African-American female, ghetto-born homicide detective, and a white, Beverly Hills millionaire's son.

Two people born fifteen miles from each other, but culturally and ideologically worlds apart. I felt okay with Wheeler, my male protagonist because I was raised in an upper middle class country club environment. And of course I know how a homicide investigation works and how cops talk. But could I write from inside Tanisha's head believably? Could I catch her internal thoughts, fears and rhythms, etc?

These were writing challenges that I embraced with full knowledge that I might fail. Of course, I didn't tackle the character of Tanisha cold. I had help. I did my research, which included a lot of discussions with a female, African-American friend of mine. She helped me with the details and helped me get into the proper mindset to write the character. Remember: Stretch. Aim high. Usually it works out.
On to Part 5