Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Monday, May 29, 2006

How to write an episode of "Law and Order"

Fished from the Dick Wolf's trash . . .

  1. Think of a social issue with two sides that can be argued (plausible or implausibly) e.g. "should people be held criminally liable for crimes committed when they go off their psychiatric medication" or "should people be allowed to marry their cats." Make sure you have at least three angles on the issue: the Red-Blooded American point of view, the Hardened Realist point of view, and the Mainstream Liberal point of view. For instance, the three POVs on the cat issue would be rendered this way:
    Stabler: "But it's a fucking cat!"

    Cragen: "People do some crazy things, but we can't afford to pursue such matters."

    Benson: "The law has no business interfering with what happens between two consenting mammals."

    All three views must be given air time, preferably with plot twists and dramatic interviews with suspects; if you're low on time, squeeze it into a talky argument in the police station. Coffee or a sandwich must be present for the argument. Of the three points of view, the Mainstream Liberal point of view must always be portrayed most sympathetically. It does not necessarily need to triumph in court, but it must be allowed the last word.
  2. Decide where the victim will be found. 90% of the time the victim will be dead, unless this is L&O: SVU, in which case 80% of the time the victim will be found extra-gruesomely dead. The best technique is to flip open a magazine and select the first picture that comes up. Then write a scene in which two people (not one, not three, two people) find the body after having a casual conversation about something prosaic.
  3. Next comes the Detectives-on-the-Scene scene. The detectives hold up their badges while crossing a police line. Uniformed cop begins expositional description with lots of information in a business-like but not unhuman manner. The detectives must observe something significant that the uniformed cops did not.
  4. Next comes the Scavenger Hunt sequence. Second-string detectives do three to four inteviews with colorful character actors, each one leading to the next. Italian, German, and Polish accents are encouraged. All Asians must speak perfect unaccented English. The phrase "if you know what I mean" must be used at least once.
  5. Twenty to thirty minutes into the show, an arrest must be made. Arrests should be made publically, never in private. Snappy arrest lines are a plus, e.g. "the cat ratted you out, buster." Miranda warnings must always be started but never finished on-camera. The Miranda reading is always a great time to cut to a commercial.
  6. A series of Interrogations must follow. Male detectives are encouraged to sit in chairs backwards. Defense lawyers must always be less sympathetic than their clients. Discussions over plea bargains between client and lawyer must be accomplished via a combination of imperceptible nods and mental telepathy.
  7. Repeat the Scavanger Hunt, Arrest, and Interrogation sequences at least once. Now is a good time to introduce the Plot Twist. The plot twist must change at least one, preferably more of the following: the primary suspect, the crime, the motive, or the social issue (see #1). For instance: "We thought the cat killed her for the money, but now we've discovered the cat is a lesbian!"

To be continued . . .


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