The following is perhaps the most difficult thing I’ve encountered in writing specs…and the reason why I prefer writing original material. Which is especially surprising considering I’d rather be on a writing staff for someone else’s show than create my own show. That will probably change down the line, but right now that just seems really overwhelming.
Overall, I think I’m good at imitating the tone of a show and even coming up with some compelling stories.
But when it comes to serialized drama (usually high concept in my case), when should the episode take place? It should be able to fit somewhere in the canon, but most episodes in serialized television are written one moment to the next. And lining up a filler episode with the one that follows is difficult anyway. I could definitely do a “The Vampire Diaries” spec script post-season 2 or post-season 4 that takes place in the summer break, but how good is that really going to be? However, it’s probably my best option.
Or do I just write an alternate 511? (Which is what I’ve been doing and ultimately have decided to pretty much scrap once I’ve finished it.) Or an alternate 407? So on and so forth.
Finding the perfect time period in which to write your spec script is crucial, and not an easy task.
But there are other struggles.
Can I use flashbacks? Flashbacks have become the bread and butter of “The Vampire Diaries” and are an easy way to “pad” a script. Though really, considering the multitude of characters and A, B, C, and even D stories that are at my disposal, I don’t really need any padding. On my nearly completed (and soon to be scrapped) spec I have 37 pages with 10 scenes to go.
The problem with flashbacks, though, is that you’re essentially messing with a character’s origin story, which I have a feeling is a big no-no. But with shows that depend so much on flashbacks, it’s really tempting to utilize them.
My third major issue in writing a spec script? I find I accidentally start writing something that’s more fan fiction than spec script. Which isn’t to say the characters are out of character or the tone is wrong or I’m writing a Damon/Stefan slash scene.
No, it just means I made a story choice that was good and viable, but not the best. I thought of a completely believable and interesting plot and I just stopped there because as a fan I got excited about the possibility.
Instead, in this next “The Vampire Diaries” spec script, I’m going to choose both my time period and plot as carefully as possible. I want to explore exciting story lines, not just put in stuff that makes the fangirl in me squeal…and not just something that gets us from A to B.