Cheeseburger Gothic

The writers’ room

Posted February 5 into Telly by John Birmingham

I've always had an outsider's curiousity about writers rooms. They've become the standard way of beating out stories for TV, and particular rooms—The Simpsons, SNL—have become legendary beyond the industry. But most writers are solitary creatures, preferring to sit in the dark and pick at their wounds. So how does that play out?
I got to work in something like a writers room yesterday, and will be back there most of today. I can't give up the deets but the process was fascinating. It was similar in a way to what I do in the week or two before starting a new novel. Interrogating characters, pushing storylines out to their logical or more often illogical conclusions, looking for plotholes, asking why this story at this time. But it was half a dozen people in the room, not just me wandering around talking to myself (and the dog, if I can convince to her to stay with a tasty bone.)
It was mentally exhausting, but only because I was being forced to press a week or two's thinking into one day. By the end of that, we'd filled a whole wall with notes on characters, story arcs, themes, antagonists, sub plots and more.
This is TV of course, so as with movies the chances of this story ever being told aren't great; not compared with a book I decide to write. With books its relatively simple because its just me. If there's a trade publisher they dont really get involved until after the first draft is done. If the title is gonna go indie, there's a budget for cover design and editing, but that's the only outside complication. With television and movies, budgets are just one complicating factor. A huge complication, to be sure, but not the only one.
Anyway, interesting day. I'm looking forward to going back today.

12 Responses to ‘The writers’ room’

HAVOCK21 is gonna tell you...

Posted February 5
Interesting; just how much rough and tumble is there, would these rooms be able to survive the likes of me or are they full of fragile entities?

Respond to this comment

HAVOCK21 mumbles...

Posted February 5
mmm, crystalline souls would have been better.

Dave W puts forth...

Posted February 5
They have better mouthfeel when you devour them.

Respond to this thread

she_jedi ducks in to say...

Posted February 5
Writers room as a concept are intriguing and baffling. I can't imagine how you can corral a roomful of creatives together without it turning into a Lord of the Flies type apocalypse, considering the natural state of a writer is to sit alone in the dark picking at their wounds. And then produce something functional and coherent without the deadline whooshing past. Sorcery.

Nocturnalist asserts...

Posted February 5
You might be surprised. I mean, I was. I'm in the early stages of one collaborative project with a bunch of other writers and designers, and the late stages of another with one other collaborator, and they've both been amazing. It's not quite the bullpen JB is talking about since we're not all in the same room and doing more of it virtually, but it seems like there are parallels.

It's certainly a very different experience to working alone, but when everything clicks and someone picks up on an idea you weren't sure about, or a minor side-note on the setting, or what you thought of as a throwaway line, and runs with it in a direction you hadn't imagined, and then you see something in that and bat it back across the table with a new spin, and someone else sees a whole new level to the thing growing out of that that then the rest of you build on in turn... It can be really exhilarating.

Respond to this thread

HAVOCK21 asserts...

Posted February 5
Laughed when I read " FUNCTIONAL" and in a WRITERS THREAD no less......

she_jedi mumbles...

Posted February 5
HAHAHA! See? Sorcery.

Respond to this thread

FormerlyKnownAsSimon swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 5
I think the trick would be in the person collating the group. Would be a massive advantage being able to put talented people that would work together in the same room. Which might mean not necessarily the best - you get a better result with a group of like minded people vs one massive talent rail roading everyone else into their vision. I definitely work better in groups - i am very slow in my own creative juices or leading a group and work better bouncing off other people in the room and contributing/refining.

Respond to this comment

Naut reckons...

Posted February 5
It was 1,000 monkeys with 1,000 typewriters, wasn't it?

Respond to this comment

Vovchara would have you know...

Posted February 6
Everytime I hear about Screenwriters sitting in a room and gaming the script, I am wondering, how is it possible that we get more often than not some incohirrent crap as a story in a TV-Show or a Movie?

Respond to this comment

Leftarc ducks in to say...

Posted February 6
Would have had some similarities to home. I assume there would have been one writer snoozing under a desk, farting away.
And ready to claim all the credit when it's done.

Nocturnalist mumbles...

Posted February 6
I don't know if the process here is the same as the Hollywood one but there's an interesting old blog post by John Rogers about how credits on writing teams actually gets handed out and decided on:

http://kfmonkey.blogspot.com/2007/03/writing-arbitration-letters.html

Respond to this thread

Respond to 'The writers’ room'

Follow along with RSS