Start With the Ship In A Bottle

advice, novels, pilots, T.V. writing

Battlestar/Buffy writer Jane Espenson’s blog about writing specs is still incredibly useful, even though she’s not updating it anymore. I perused it over a break today and saw this entry in which she discussed her friend Jeff Greenstein’s advice that pilots’ opening images should contain the series in microcosm. Following is the very persuasive list he composed. (I agree with this idea and would argue it’s a pretty good idea for novels as well.)

In the Cheers pilot, the teaser is Sam with an underage kid who’s trying to get a drink using a fake military ID. Kid says he was in the war. Sam asks what it was like. “It was gross,” the kid replies with a shudder. “Yeah, that’s what they say — war is gross,” Sam replies. The teaser gives you a sense of the place and the guy.

The Battlestar pilot has that great opening scene with Number Six and the emissary from Earth. The scene says, “Remember those metal robots? They look like humans now. And they’re going to fucking kill you.”

The Lost pilot starts with a close-up of an eye opening, and the aftermath of the plane crash. This show is about consciousness and strandedness and tragedy.

Will & Grace starts with Grace in bed with her sleeping fiancĂ©, yet on the phone dishing with Will about George Clooney’s hotness. It’s the perfect encapsulation of their odd relationship.

The Desperate Housewives teaser: In the midst of tranquil suburban splendor, Mary Alice blows her head off.

The West Wing pilot: In a bar, talking off-the-record with a reporter, Sam Seaborn is distracted by a hot girl who’s giving him the eye. This show is about politics and sex (well, it started out that way), and the “backstage” lives of people in government.

via Jane Espenson.