pilots and airplanes

October 30, 2008

book publishing, excerpts

pinkmartini
I’m at the airport on my way to Denver. Scheduling delays. I couldn’t sleep last night, worried about the pilot story for Straight Up and Dirty, struggling with whether or not it’s the right story to tell, wondering if it sets up the series and tone of the show the way I want it to.

I wonder if it’s like a wedding dress. You know, something that when you try it on, you just know it’s the one. I’m waiting for that to happen, but with the twenty or so stories I’ve come up with, I don’t feel that about any of them yet. It’s why I’m hoping it’s less about the story I’m telling and much more in the telling of it.

It’s no small task: establishing the characters, and how they fit into Stephanie’s life, carving out where the show will live (apartment, hangout spot, office, etc.), all while showing her frame of mind, externalizing her internal struggle, setting up conflicts between characters, defining desires and needs. Her desires can’t be vague, either. "She wants to find herself," just ain’t gonna cut it. They have to be specific enough that the audience knows the moment she gets what she wants. Or doesn’t.

Her opponents (regular opponents, not random men who ask her to go dutch on a date) need to attack her greatest weakness so she’s forced to grow. And these opponents have to be necessary, with their own weaknesses and opposing values, yet share similarities with her, too. Each of her opponents has to attack her weakness from a different angle, and in as different a way as possible from one another. All this, and it has to be funny. It is, after all, a half-hour comedy. I might think too much, but I need the answers to these questions before I can think about the funny. I need the bone structure so I know it has longevity. I’ve actually already worked that bit out and am now left with the task of creating the story I’m going to tell, of all the possible stories in the book. In less than thirty minutes, we need to know where Stephanie is now that she’s divorced, what it is she wants, and get a sense of what’s in store for her now…and all while referring to myself in the third person.

Then tonight, I’ll need to shift gears and speak about chubb rub and chunky-dunking. I’m not really planning on reading from Moose, but I might just slip in a quick page or two, to give the audience a better sense of the book. You know, show, not tell what the book’s about. I NEVER know what to select. It’s the same issue I have with choosing just one pilot story. There’s so much there. So many topics covered, and I only get one chance to convince people to stick around and watch it, or read it. From those of you who’ve read the books, I’m listening.

31 Responses to “pilots and airplanes”

  1. Julie Says:

    Personally my favorite is you tripping over your chicken cutlet tit. If I saw a preview for the show and that was in it, I know I'd tune in and give it a chance to make me laugh.

    FROM SK: Good! I was planning on including that! It's hard to forget pulling a Julia Child.

    Reply

  2. Nancy Kay Says:

    Good luck Stephanie! I'm so happy for you and very excited about this.

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  3. Nancy Kay Says:

    Good luck Stephanie! I'm so happy for you and very excited about this.

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  4. Dawn Says:

    Write it in the first person for your first draft. One of my most amazing writing professors taught me to write 3 drafts each from a different POV. That way – you get a real vision of the character. Ohhh I miss those lessons about using the 1-inch frame and the constant "show don't tell" reminders. Good luck with the Pilot steph!

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  5. Julie Says:

    Also not that this has anything to do with your post today but whomever recommended Bon Iver- excellent! I listened to his Skinny Love yesterday per the rec on your blog and loved it, the lyrics make the hair stand up on my arms.

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  6. Maria Says:

    the part where "she" attends that first meeting at Fran's (? forgot the woman's name)-
    I felt that this specific event summed it all up for me. a kid thrown into adult issues. I think most of us had a similar episode. not necessarily weight related. I could feel what you felt because I had felt it before. many years ago-

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  7. Jane Says:

    Stephanie, you are being pulled in many different directions these days. Working on SUAD then Moose in the same day with travelling arrangements, meetings, trying to fit in eating a meal…a lot going on! (You don't need me to tell you that!)
    Best of luck. I noticed on the side bar, SUAD selling for $0.01 what is that about?

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  8. Julie Says:

    One other thing- I have been thinking about you a lot lately. Thinking 'god I'd fucking freeze up if I was put on the spot to draft up a pilot series' my funny would disappear and the shits would take over completely so I admire you for being able to write. And I thought how would I make myself freakin relax and write, nervous this might be my only chance, and I'd stop thinking of it as my one chance. Just write. Smell things from your past (this sounds absolutely insane but it's what I do to dredge up memories I want to deal with) -scents that remind you of that time period. It'll start coming back to you. And dont think of this as your one chance, you're a funny chick, doubt not, there will be more opportunities.

    I also think there could be some funny between you and your dad- the conversations you have- and not to mention he's a funny fucker too. Haha! Sorry I just called your dad a fucker.
    But you know what I mean, it could lead into a scene, make for a good opening, or a great conjunction perhaps where you get stuck between too funny and not funny enough.

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  9. nh Says:

    Re SUAD pilot: I don't remember if this in the book or just your blog, but I remember a compelling blog post you wrote way at the very beginning of this blog. You were at work, crying in bathroom stall, thinking "Is this really my life?" and you wrote about how you needed to do something about it. I am guessing that this actual even happened around the divorce but maybe it was later. Anyway, it was great oost because when you are going through a low point in life, it is really hard to rationally believe that things will ever change, and you'll eventually forget what made you so miserable.

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  10. Andrea Says:

    One of the parts of Moose that really stuck with me was the bit about the jeans. (Please forgive me, I can't remember the names of the mean girls in the book), The mean girls borrowed the jeans because "they were so cool!" and you, wanting to be liked, gladly handed them over only to find out later that they used the jeans to make fun of you. I realize it's not a huge thing, but I think that it really demonstrated how cruel kids can be, and most normal people can relate to that (I know that I can!).

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  11. Abigail M. Schilling Says:

    You're my favorite.

    I realize that isn't advice so much.

    Let me try…

    I just finished Moose (LOVED IT). I didn't know anything about fat camps before reading it so I loved all those things: going to the first weigh in, the yanisin roll, your sunday morning calorie menu creations, etc. If I heard those at a reading I would buy it right quick. If I had already read the book, I would love hearing any of it. (So are you going to do a reading here? I would like to hear.)

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  12. MC Says:

    "…showing her frame of mind, externalizing her internal struggle, setting up conflicts between characters, defining desires and needs. …"

    Gag. You do realize this is just Sex & The City all over again. I love how everyone gets to ride the coattails of someone else's successful idea. (And quite frankly, I wasn't even a big fan of THAT show.)

    Internal struggle? There's more to life than dating, there's more tragedy that happens to people than finding out your husband cheated. That happens every day. Try living through being thrown around & choked for confronting him about it.

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  13. Aimee Says:

    Read about love at fat camp. As a big girl growing up in Denver, love was all I thought about… Years later, not much has changed, except that I live on the east coast. If I could be there tonight, I would! In my absence, maybe you could let the other hopeful Denver girls know that it can (and does!) happen for not-so-slim girls too.

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  14. BethG Says:

    How incredibly exciting for you to do this and be so creative! What I remember most is how you, like many women, stuck around with a guy who wasn't so great for you – flat out – evidence all around you, literally, as you sat on the closet floor, read his e-mails and accepted the way he spoke to you. It reminds me of the blog comment the other day from a woman who said her ex was nothing but she made him to be everything. She held the bar too low for him. It's overcoming accepting less, acknowledging it and growing through it. Oh, and how your bed moved after romping – good visual :) to show…

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  15. Jennifer H Says:

    That is so cool you are doing a TV pilot for Straight Up…
    Is it weird to think that your Wasbund may be identified/publicly known if the show is a hit ?
    I bet it will be the new SATC.
    Congrats.

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  16. fbk Says:

    This is going to be hard for you. You aren't really a great writer of comedy…

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  17. laura Says:

    is the show going to have flash-backs like the book did? so the demise of the marriage is slowly revealed as the show continues? because for 30 minutes, that might be confusing.

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  18. katie Says:

    For what it's worth, the most memorable scene that jumps out at me from SUaD is the date with that European guy. I remember it being very colorful and funny, and full of details. With enough "wtf?" moments to be a strong opening scene. And when I think about the book I also think about the turning point of you in the park, writing and taking pictures and finally starting to sort things out. It could work well visually as well.

    The real question is…. will "Stephanie" have your great red curly hair? :p

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  19. marlee Says:

    Stephanie – has casting begun for the pilot? So exciting…

    BethG: The identity of the "Wasband" is readily available via a few Google clicks.

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  20. Jen Says:

    In terms of funny… I do think you are funny, but with an edge. Someone compared you to Jen Lancaster once and I totally didn't get it. I have read her books (all three of them) and with each one it seemed like she was trying way too hard for the joke… like, after every other sentence I was going ba dum dum in my head. It's tiring. So, with your show, keep your edge… Don't go for the easy laugh. I'd take funny with an edge of truth or sorrow any day over the cheap laugh. Just my opinion.

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  21. Wide Lawns Says:

    It sounds hard writing a whole pilot for a TV show by yourself, although I guess people do write spec scripts by themselves all the time. I thought, perhaps mistakenly, that TV shows were written by teams of people all collaborating on each episode, which seems to me like it would make it easier. Didn't they give you help? Also, I was wondering how you learned the formatting for a script. Did you just get a book or had you taken classes in school or what? I always wanted to try writing a script, but the formatting scares the crap out of me. But good luck and Happy Halloween!

    FROM SK: I taught myself Final Draft and read a bunch of pilot scripts. You need 4 acts these days for a half hour comedy. Typically, there's a writers' room, where each week you break stories and have a board, but that's only once the show is actually on the air. That's when you hire a team who writes like you do.

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  22. Andrea Says:

    Be sure to re-watch Valley of the Dolls for some inspiration.

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  23. Wide Lawns Says:

    Ohh! Thanks so much for answering my question.

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  24. Natalie Harvey Says:

    whenever I tell people to buy SUAD…i tell them about the scene with Spray on PAM…LOL!!

    but also i like the idea of seeing you throw a spaghetti dinner in his face…

    and forgive me if this has been addressed in other comment sections but everytime i see a preview for the starter wife it reminds me of you and your book?!? maybe its just the divorcee/red hair thing?
    your thoughts?

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  25. Julie Says:

    Ya know, the assholes on here are right. It is going to sound a lot like Sex and the City if you write these supporting characters the way you're describing. This is why I do think you should try to incorporate your dad into it somehow, even if it's having telephone conversations while he's on the dumper. Im sorry but I do think that's hilarious and while a lot of chicks out there would ewwww about it, more would laugh. There is just going to have to be something that stands out, other than (and I agree with her) as Jen stated your funny edge.
    Just a suggestion.

    Reply

  26. tea Says:

    Thanks, Dr. Frasier Crane.

    Reply

  27. S from Cyprus Says:

    I have reading your blog for years. So, today, while i was washing the dishes i had a thought. I realised that most of the series i love did not have that great pilot episodes. And i thought of you and your pilot- and that maybe you should bear in mind that pilots are ok not to be perfect. they just have to be good enough. I'm sure you know that you are capable of much more than just "good enough". So, don't worry about the pilot. Even if it's not perfect, you will get there by the end of the n-th season :)

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  28. Amy Says:

    My only opinion is to create dialogue as you did in Moose, not in SUAD. The dialogue in the latter was so over the top, so hard to believe, so punny (i.e. the chapter with you and Max in the supermarket, or with you and Oliver) that it was cringeworthy at times and took away from your great story.

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  29. 3 teens' mom Says:

    You know – I can't tell you how much I miss SATC. If your show could fill that void – oh my GOD I'd be thrilled.

    I do love Julie's suggestion – adding in your parents will give it a dimension that SATC was missing.

    Reply

  30. sa Says:

    I second Julie's comment about the Bon Iver recommendation on a previous post. Beautiful!!! Big thank you to the person that recommended him!!!

    Reply

  31. Ellen Says:

    I'll echo the comment about how powerful your blog post about you sitting in your work bathroom, crying because you didn't feel like you were really living your own life. After reading that blog I felt truly invested in your story, and craved inner-success for you. Maybe that too would work for an intro into this new series.

    Do you know when the series will be airing? I'm so excited to see it!

    Reply

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