When you’re starting out as a staff writer, everyone says your job is to “just write in your showrunner’s voice!” Like that’s so simple. Great mimicry is actually HARD. I thought I would put together some tips (almost a checklist) that might be helpful in this part of the craft.
STAGE DIRECTION. Make note of detail. So... does the showrunner write like:

Maya’s lip trembles. She grits her teeth, TRYING — but she can’t stop the anguished wail that escapes her. Tears begin to pour out.

Or:

Maya tries to hide her heartbreak — but fails. She shatters.
(Advanced level shit: see if you can if this level of detail varies for the actor that the showrunner is writing for. For example, I would def just write “she shatters” for a series regular I trust, whose work I know well. I might break it down more for an unknown actor.)
TEXT SHAPES: Look at how long “paragraphs” tend to be. Whether description, direction, or monologues — some writers are inclined to break up big blocks of text. Some aren’t. If the actual SHAPES of text on your pages look wildly different from your showrunner’s, adjust.
CAPITALIZATION. Does your showrunner put every prop in ALL CAPS? Do they reserve it for particularly important ones? Do they put certain actions in all caps? (Your script coordinator is a great resource to ask about this.)
PUNCTUATION. It seems so minor, but it makes a difference. I worked on a show where the boss was not a fan of exclamation points — if someone was yelling, I’d italicize it instead, because I knew an exclamation point would risk it sounding cheesy in the showrunner’s inner voice.
An example: Ellipses in Liz’s dialogue on Roswell felt off. To me, “...” implies trailing, hesitation, meandering thoughts- stripping the character’s voice of her definitive intelligence and confidence. When I wanted to specify a pause in her dialogue, I’d write “(beat)” instead.
CAMERA moves on the page: there’s a lot of debate about this in the biz. Debate on — what matters to you at work is how your showrunner writes. So...

CLOSE ON a crayon treasure map. PULL BACK to find Joe (35) studying it intensely. RACK FOCUS TO Carrie in the doorway, skeptical.
Vs.

Joe (35) — intense — studies a crayon treasure map. Across the room, Carrie hovers in the doorway, watching him skeptically.
CHOREOGRAPHY: Take note of how your showrunner writes action scenes. Do they choreograph every punch/kick/sword clash on the page? Or maybe they only focus on characters’ emotions, not actual stunts? Do they use onomatopoeia (BAM! THUD! OOF!) or no?
Same for sex scenes. Is every kiss and touch noted, or is your show more like: “The music swells as they make love. FADE OUT.”
SETTING THE STAGE. When introducing a never-before-seen location, does the showrunner describe it in detail (art on the wall, tidiness level, the light from the window), or do they just say “INT. TAYLOR’S LIVING ROOM” and save the description for the art department meetings?
MUSIC CUES. Does your showrunner request specific songs in the script? Note whether there’s a difference between a song that characters actually hear, like if they’re playing a guitar making a jukebox selection, vs one that they can’t.
CHARACTER INTROS. You’re introducing a brand new character in your episode. So how does your show do this?

DANNY (14 but small for his age, white, acne-ridden, never not clutching his emotional support clarinet) approaches.

Vs.

BAND GEEK (14) approaches.
(Side note, showrunners: I strongly advocate giving ALL characters names, even if they’re never said out loud. It keeps their IDMBs from looking like a list of insults. Don’t let an actress’ resume be like: GOLD DIGGER / DUMB BLONDE / VICTIM #3 / DRUNK SORORITY GIRL.)
PASSIVE VS. ACTIVE VS. AUDIENCE VOICE — this difference is particularly notable to readers at the very beginning of scenes. (Idk why, it just is.)

Max is searching through his desk drawer.

Max searches through his desk drawer.

We find Max searching through his desk drawer.
COMEDY: this is so important for writing drama. It’s also a math thing. Grab a script and highlight jokes. How many per scene? Per episode? How many one-liners? How many with a setup? Who makes dark jokes? Who makes silly ones? Who makes jokes at other characters’ expense?
And some BASICS: Does your show use a lot of SAT words? Do the characters monologue or not so much? What curse words are allowed by your network? Is it okay for you to drop an F-bomb on the page if it won’t be spoken aloud? (ie “Billy gives MJ a look that screams WHAT THE FUCK.”)

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More from @cadlymack

17 Jan
By the way -- I'm still thinking/annoyed about that fan fiction conversation from yesterday, so I just want to say, as a professional writer, I'm grateful for the people who make art based on my work. I've never read it, because I can't, but knowing it exists makes me happy.
The BIGGEST frustration of my job is just limitations of time (both the 42 minutes I get to air and the time we have to shoot) and budget. Fan fiction writers don't have those limits, so it thrills me to know that the blanks will get filled in by your imaginations.
One of the best episodes I ever wrote was MAGICAL and 63 minutes long. 21 minutes hit the cutting room floor, and no one will ever see them. The episode was fine. But I think about it all the time, 5 years later, because I envisioned so much MORE. I'm glad when you guys do too.
Read 7 tweets
16 Jan
Anything that inspires you to read more & write more is good.

(With the exceptions of material that is intended to incite real life violence, etc etc etc.)
Also, anything that makes you feel like you’re part of a community where you feel safe and valued is good.

(With the exception of, like, cults, etc etc etc.)
Read 4 tweets
16 Jan
Thread with some questions about TV/film and accessibility. So, my grandfather (the best person on the planet) is blind in one eye, and is totally reliant on hearing aids. He’s in his 90s in a pandemic, there’s not much he can do to pass time. It’s like he’s just waiting to die.
He was telling me the other day that he can’t watch most movies/TV anymore because the background music is too loud and interferes with the dialogue, and he’s too blind to read the closed captioning. (It was cute, he told me to stop using music in my work, hah.)
But it got me wondering, if there are others out there like him, which of course there must be, is there any world in which we create an option for people to watch things on streaming without background music?
Read 6 tweets
27 Aug 20
When 14-year-old girls are raped the press refers to them as “young women” and combs their histories for evidence of promiscuity.

This dumb fuck 17-year-old crosses state lines with a rifle to hunt and kill grieving people & he’s “just a kid.” Can’t be held accountable.
What that piece of shit did isn’t self defense. He left his home, armed with an illegal, traveled to another state, where he anticipated unrest. That’s premeditation. He wasn’t defending himself, his property, or his family. He was defending his favorite CONCEPT: White supremacy.
But fine. Let’s say he’s 17 and we can’t hold him accountable. But people are dead, so SOMEONE needs to be held accountable. How about the grown-up who taught this poor impressionable child his belief system? How can we possibly find that person? Oh. Look. buzzfeednews.com/article/elliev…
Read 6 tweets
5 Jul 20
After I saw Hamilton 5 years ago-ish, I super duper nerded out and read everything I could find, and here’s my favorite interpretation of some of his letters: it is possible Hamilton was madly in love with John Laurens.
So first of all, Hamilton was not naive to homosexuality — at the time “sodomites” were sent to the West Indies. There’s evidence that he grew up around gay people. (Not that I’m saying this ~made him gay~ just that he might’ve been less uptight about it than other Founders.)
In their early days of the revolution, Hamilton worked and lived closely with Laurens. Their letters began when Laurens left for South Carolina & Ham stayed with Washington. Hamilton missed him SO SO much.
Read 25 tweets
22 May 20
There have been comparisons but it’s not apples to apples. In porn the precautionary practices concern the performers, but not the crew. Potentially testing 200+ people every day (not every 14 days) is a very different endeavor.
To give people who don’t work in TV an idea of what that looks like... I read an estimate that suggests rapid-testing the whole crew every day would end up taking up to 2 hours. That’s 16 hours over the course of an 8-day shoot. That means 16 hours of footage that we don’t film.
For most of us, the studio isn’t going to increase our budget much to cover this stuff. The 2 hours per day of extra time for every crew member, and all the medical testing and protective gear, plus hiring medical professionals, will come out of the budget that already exists.
Read 23 tweets

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