[IN THE TRENCHES] For Your Consideration

Have you considered any of them?

Every year, the entertainment industry goes through several prolonged Awards Seasons.

With film, it’s usually the end of the year for the releases themselves, while the campaigns carry over into the next one.

That covers a slew of ceremonies, including the Golden Globes, BAFTAs, Critics Choice, PGA, and of course, the Oscars.

Television is also included in the Golden Globes, but is more specifically associated with the Emmys. Beyond those are even more subdivisions of guilds, genres, and even mediums.

So how does someone go about getting one of these shiny trophies?

Unfortunately, just making a great movie or show won’t do it. Therefore, studios and production companies need to reach out and bribe voters.

Box of Amazon Goodies, anyone? Perhaps two?

Just kidding.

Kind of.

The truth is there are so many movies and series out there – possibly more than ever – that it’s a huge chore to get an audience aware your project even exists. That’s a big first hurdle to overcome before they can even evaluate its merits.

Enter the Award Season’s first cousin, the Screener Season.

For quite awhile, if you were eligible to vote for one of these bits of media, you received envelopes of theatrical screening schedules, along with a glorious influx of silver gold.

For months, your mailbox would fill with a near endless supply of DVDs of projects vying for your consideration. If you were eligible to vote for more than one of these awards, you’d even get your share of duplicates.

These days, DVDs are phasing out as more screeners have migrated to online digital versions.

Regardless of the platform, these screeners are always pushed out side-by-side with email promotions, magazine ads, and commercials designed to entice potential voters to watch (or just remember and vote out of familiarity).

I mean what is it? Can it see me?

Some studios – most noticeably the deep-pocketed Amazon – go even further, sending their screeners in tiny pink suitcases to promote the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, accompanied by crayons and microwave popcorn for Uncle Frank, or bundled into some sort of USB wireless hotspot for… well, I don’t know.

I’m still not sure what I’m supposed to do with that thing.

All of that, and I’m not even in the Television or Film Academy. The most they can get out of me is a WGA or SAG-AFTRA nomination.

That being said, every nomination, and especially every win, go a long way toward marketing and promoting those films.

This is a business, after all, and that’s how the award sausage is made.

In a crazy coincidence, I’m looking to my super-intelligent and good-looking blog readers for a little consideration myself.

For Your Consideration (Seriously)

The Mike Wieringo Comic Book Industry Awards – more commonly known as The Ringo Awards recently opened up to nominations for work released in the 2021 calendar year. Both pros and fans alike are eligible to vote (that means us).

So, if you ever enjoyed anything I wrote here (or hated it all, but would like to be fashionably ironic), please consider clicking over and writing in my indie graphic novel, Blowback, and all the creatives that made it happen (voting ends June 30th).

Here’s a handy dandy guide with the specifics. Feel free to cut-and-paste…

BEST WRITER
James Hereth & Rhonda Smiley – Blowback
BEST ARTIST
Kev Hopgood – Blowback
BEST INKER
Kev Hopgood – Blowback
BEST LETTERER
Kev Hopgood – Blowback
BEST COLORIST
Charlie Kirchoff – Blowback
BEST COVER ARTIST
Kev Hopgood – Blowback
BEST ORIGINAL GRAPHIC NOVEL
Blowback
FAVORITE HERO
Sgt. Davis – Blowback
FAVORITE VILLAIN
Captain Martell – Blowback
FAVORITE NEW TALENT
James Hereth & Rhonda Smiley

Thank you in advance for the support

________________________________________________________

Cover of the graphic novel, "Blowback" (2021)

Jim Hereth‘s latest project is his debut action/adventure graphic novel, Blowback, available now in digital and paperback editions at Amazon.

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[ETCETERA] Overwhelm

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy knows best

Overwhelm. It’s a far too familiar feeling.

True, you can be overwhelmed with joy. That’s a good thing. But just plain overwhelm? That’s a drag.

Life can be a lot for most of us.

There’s the day job. Trips to the grocery store. Laundry, housekeeping, bills. Add in an aspiration to create (while also writing a blog about it), and it can just be too much sometimes.

So what do you do?

Take a Mental Step Back

Straight up stop what you’re doing for a beat. A big sigh is good. Some deep breathing. Filling your lungs with air and exhaling completely

I find repeatedly telling myself “Don’t panic” can help (seriously). “We’ll get there,” is another mumbled mantra. Just like writing a script, one page at a time, and you eventually end up where you’re heading.

Let Someone Else Calm Your Nerves

Have you heard of Bob Ross?

Give Bob Ross some of your time. He’s not with us any longer, but he can still help. Click on any of the 403 episodes of The Joy of Painting and feel some of that tension float away like a happy little cloud.

The hair is part of the magic

You can also try nature sounds like babbling brooks. Maybe videos of puppies. Do some digging around on YouTube and find your own personal go-to blood-pressure-reducer.

Evaluate the Causes

Are you taking on too much?

Is everything on your plate equally important, or can you prioritize?

Consider scheduling things out at a more relaxed pace. Look at your week, month, and year and figure out what you can reasonably get done, and when.

Maybe you can tackle some projects in the summer, or even next year.

Be Your Own Marie Kondo

Are you working on things that no longer bring joy? Just having all these projects stacked up in your metaphorical inbox can steadily crush you over time. Maybe you can drop some.

You should definitely drop some.

Gently put them on the shelf until you’re interested again. Create an archive folder on your computer where they can comfortably hibernate while you gradually forget about them.

Wait until some future inspiration gives those ideas fresh life and then pluck them out of the mothballs and put ’em back in the rotation.

Give Yourself a Break

80’s Pop Culture Reference. Ask your Parents

A downside of being a creative means constantly having homework. But nobody can do it all, all the time.

That kind of drain can paralyze and depress.

Give yourself a pass every once in a while. In fact, pass on things more often.

We’re only human (or reasonable facsimiles). Saying no to projects or favors or just making time for yourself to do absolutely nothing doesn’t make you less of an artist. But it can make you less stressed.

Oh, the rejuvenating joy of a nap on the couch.

Get Whelmed

Overwhelm is bad, but underwhelm isn’t so hot either. In the end, it’s all about finding some sort of balance.

Remember, being creative is important. But mental health is more important.

________________________________________________________

Cover of the graphic novel, "Blowback" (2021)

Jim Hereth‘s latest project is his debut action/adventure graphic novel, Blowback, available now in digital and paperback editions at Amazon.

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[IN THE TRENCHES] Take Me to the Pilot

Otto Pilot and Julie Hagerty in "Airplane!" (1980).
Not that kind of pilot

New Year. New work.

Rhonda Smiley and I are starting off 2022 by writing a spec pilot for a spec series that we ex-spec-t someone to love in the near future.

Well, hope anyway.

Writing is rarely easy as it is, but it’s much harder to write a pilot than it is to write an episode of an existing show.

Existing shows have known characters, a world the reader is familiar with, and a wealth of history. You just have to get in that sandbox and play.

A pilot, on the other hand, starts with nothing at all. Everything that show is supposed to be, you have to lay out for the very first time.

How the hell do you pull that off?

I’m not Chuck Lorre or Shonda Rhimes, so I don’t have all the answers. Ironically, what I have instead, are some of the questions…

HOW LONG [Ace]

What’s your show’s duration?

This one’s pretty simple. Is it a half-hour sitcom? An animated kid’s show with two fifteen minute segments? Maybe an hour-long drama.

Extreme Team, a TV movie I co-wrote, served as a two hour pilot for an hour-long show. I think most networks would be more receptive to an hour-long script for an hour-long show, but

A two hour project could potentially be tweaked to a standalone feature spec if it doesn’t get sold in its original form. Recycling is good for the environment after all.

MY HOMETOWN [Bruce Springsteen]

Where does it take place?

You’re going to have to establish the world your series is set in. Is it the present day? Maybe it’s a period piece.

Is it in a small town? Big city? Outer space, perhaps? Maybe it’s in the Quantum Realm.

If it’s a traditional three camera sitcom, you also need to establish your standing sets.

WHO ARE YOU [The Who]

Annie Murphy, Catherine O'Hara, Eugene Levy, and Dan Levy in the pilot episode of "Schitt$ Creek" (2015).
This kind of pilot. This kind of pilot would be ideal.

Who are your primary characters?

More than a format, a television series is about the people who inhabit the show.

The protagonist. The antagonist. The wacky next door neighbor. The will-they-or-won’t-they couple.

If these parts aren’t engaging, charismatic, and multi-dimensional, no one is going to want to tune in week after week (or hour after hour in the binge-watching era).

I’VE GOT A FEELING [The Beatles]

What is the genre and tone of the series?

A comedy needs to be funny. A drama filled with conflict. If it’s a mystery, we better be desperate to see how it gets solved or you’re dead in the water.

Beyond that is the tone, the voice of the series. Is it gritty, supernatural, or absurdist? That needs to come out in the writing.

SCENARIO [A Tribe Called Quest]

What’s the format/formula?

It seems odd to ask what the formula is, because that kind of phrasing makes the script sound cliché or unimaginative. But it’s important nevertheless.

This is a little tricky to establish because a pilot is its own animal. It’s not going to be quite like a typical episode of the show it’s starting off, since it has a lot of table-setting to do.

Still, you have to try to convey what this show is going to be like week in and week out as much as you can within those confines.

THE END [The Doors]

Simple, right? Just answer all these questions while avoiding non-stop exposition and making it irresistible to a studio, network, or eccentric billionaire.

Don’t worry. I’m right there with you and feel your pain. But I have confidence we can all get this done. It just takes a little imagination and a lot of hard work.

Now let’s go sell some shows.

________________________________________________________

Cover of the graphic novel, "Blowback" (2021)

Jim Hereth‘s latest project is his debut action/adventure graphic novel, Blowback, available now at Amazon and comiXology.

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[ETCETERA] Happy New Year!

Times Square New Years 2022
Onto the next

Make a resolution to be a better person in 2022. The world desperately needs more good people.

Science is real, by the way. Stay safe.

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Cover of the graphic novel, "Blowback" (2021)

Jim Hereth‘s latest project is his debut action/adventure graphic novel, Blowback, available now at Amazon and comiXology.

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[THREE CENTS] Looking Back to Move Forward

Winter snowfall in Manhasset, New York.
A Land for Winter Wonder

We’ve reached the end of the year. The first full pandemic year, as a matter of fact. And if you’re reading this, you’ve probably survived. Congratulations to us all.

In addition to a flurry of holidays (and occasionally some holiday flurries), this season serves as a milestone for most of us. A moment of reflection.

When I was younger I used to look forward to all the annual retrospectives that would come out in the winter. Newspapers, magazines, Life‘s Year in Pictures.

It was cool to flashback to the previous twelve months, and be reminded of how many significant moments there were.

For a writer, or any creative, I find this a good time to produce your own annual retrospective.

Life Magazine's The Year in Pictures (1987)
Retro Retrospective

What kind of goals did you set for yourself last year, and how well did you meet them?

In the corporate world, this might be considered a self-evaluation. Well, check out your bad self.

It’s easy to get ambitious about all the things you want to achieve. The ever-growing list of dream projects.

I get this same feeling a lot of times at night before I go to bed. I’m preposterously ambitious and anxious to get started on a million or so projects the next day.

It’s not especially reasonable. I suspect my subconscious knows there’s no time to start any of these things as I climb under the covers, so it’s safe to conjure delusions of grandeur for the morning.

The point to evaluating the past year isn’t to beat yourself up for any shortcomings, but to shape what you’re going to try to do moving forward. Reflect back as a guideline. And then set realistic goals for the future based on what you’ve learned.

To quote a script of mine, “dream the possible.”

What are you actually capable of? Not in the perfect circumstances, but in the very messy real world where we all live.

That’s not to say you should let yourself off too easy (“I think I can get a solid paragraph done in 2022 if I really buckle down”). But at the same time, don’t overreach to the point where you’re always defeated and disappointed in yourself.

Be inspired. Be ambitious. But be honest.

________________________________________________________

Cover of the graphic novel, "Blowback" (2021)

Jim Hereth‘s latest project is his debut action/adventure graphic novel, Blowback, available now at Amazon and comiXology.

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[IN THE TRENCHES] Enjoy the Moment

I think I’ve always had a problem with looking ahead.

On the surface, “looking ahead” sounds like a good thing, an ambitious thing. But it can actually be quite problematic.

Edward Norton as Bruce Banner mediating in "The Incredible Hulk" (2008).
You wouldn’t like me when I’m not enjoying the moment

The problem being that when you spend all your time looking ahead, you’re not quite being where you are. Not being in the here and now.

What does this have to do with writing you may wonder? Plenty, I respond (why are we talking like this?).

It’s no secret that getting writing work is difficult. So if you are fortunate enough to get some, don’t let yourself get completely consumed by the notes and deadlines.

Find the time to mentally step back and relish the moment. Be tickled. Be thrilled. Be proud.

Years ago, while on a series abroad, I had a lot of responsibilities. We were far away from home, working a six day week for six months straight, and that stress weighed on me. I think we did a great job and produced a great show. But it’s hard to say I enjoyed it.

Obviously, these things are easier said than done, but looking back now, I don’t think I spent enough (any?) time feeling excitement or satisfaction. That was a mistake.

In these situations, it’s critical to appreciate exactly where you are, not where you want to be next. It doesn’t make you lazy, or unambitious, or stagnant. It’s just essential to your soul to embrace the experience as it happens.

In the entertainment business, a lot of things that seem promising don’t actually come together. Potential work doesn’t materialize, doesn’t get bought, or doesn’t get produced.

"A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" (1973).
Don’t forget to be thankful too

Which is why you can’t wait until the cameras start rolling on a project before you get thrilled about it.

If you advance in a writing competition, feel the validation. If you get optioned, celebrate the victory. You never know if you’ll get to experience something like that again.

The buzzword you hear a lot these days is Mindfulness. Being Mindful. Mindful meditation.

According to mindful.org, Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.

This applies to life, relationships, and of course, work.

As we roll into the official month of thanks, don’t miss out on fully experiencing your own life and appreciating where you are. Wherever you are. Always remind yourself to be mindful, thoughtful, and grateful.

________________________________________________________

Cover of the graphic novel, "Blowback" (2021)

Jim Hereth‘s latest project is his debut action/adventure graphic novel, Blowback, available now at Amazon and comiXology.

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[IN THE TRENCHES] Size Doesn’t Matter

Entertainment comes in so many forms. Today, more than ever (though I think they might’ve finally phased out wax cylinders and 8 tracks).

So, while I understand that it’s important for writers to create a brand for themselves, I think it’s also important to branch out occasionally.

Various film formats.
Something for everyone

I speak from experience. A wide array.

Although I’d made short films in high school and took a sketch comedy class in college, I graduated with the intention of becoming a feature film writer.

But despite my growing pile of specs, one of my first opportunities to write professionally was on a syndicated detective show called High Tide. Was I going to turn my nose up at an hour-long run time?

Hell no, I wasn’t. I was thrilled.

If you get an offer to do something outside your brand, don’t reject it out of hand. That thing may end up being what you like writing the most.

Or not. But you should flex those creative muscles anyway. Take some chances. Especially if someone is going to pay you to do it.

HOUR LONG

The interesting thing about working in broadcast television is crafting drama to peak at a commercial break. It’s a challenge to shape your story to build to a cliffhanger strong enough to make viewers stick around to see what happens next.

HALF HOUR KIDS LIVE ACTION

For me, this came about through Mowgli: The New Adventure of the Jungle Book, which I created along with Tim Bogart and Guy Toubes. A lot went into this beyond just writing. Like a lot a lot. But the writing was also a unique challenge.

It was a shorter duration, obviously. And needed to be geared for a younger audience. The most unexpected obstacle, though, was writing for real animals that are only able to perform very specific actions.

We learned very early in production that any sequence where we wrote that Baloo dramatically charged onto the scene was not going to work. The bear did not “charge” anywhere. Lumber, stroll, sit, sure. All day long. But charge? Not so much.

So, once we knew what we were working with, we got busy writing stories that would work.

FEATURE LENGTH

Image from "Extreme Team" (2003),with Chris Pratt, Paul Francis, Eric Mabius, Elizabeth Lackey, and Scott Paulin.
Extremely cold

With Extreme Team, I got a movie into production at last.

Most aspiring screenwriters are very familiar with the feature paradigm, and probably have several specs sitting in their computers. They’re raring to go when this kind of opportunity comes along.

Extreme Team was a television movie, so the classic three act structure gets modified to accommodate those dramatic breaks for commercials.

HALF HOUR KIDS ANIMATION

With animated half hours, you don’t need to worry about the limitations of real life bears, but that doesn’t quite mean anything goes. There’s only so many backgrounds, guest characters, and vehicles in a show’s budget. Someone gets paid to design and draw every one of those things, so dollars and schedule dictate just how much you can dream up.

Rhonda Smiley and I have reached the end of seasons on shows and have been asked to write episodes that take place in settings, or used characters, that had originally been generated for previous episodes.

Recycling is good for the planet, as well as the studio.

Learn to create great stories despite these kinds of restrictions, and you may become a go-to hire for show runners and production companies alike.

HALF OF HALF HOUR ANIMATION

One type of animated half hour consists of two different 11 minute segments (a broadcast half hour is typically 22 minutes of content).

This structure is frequently targeted toward younger viewers or preschoolers, which can come with the challenge of E/I rules. These are requirements to educate or inform. E/I series are staffed with an educational consultant to make sure writers are properly weaving age-appropriate lessons in their stories.

Entertaining and educating? A noble format indeed.

BITS AND BYTES

During my run on Kuu Kuu Harajuku, I was asked if I wanted to also write bonus streaming content for the show. That translated to creating stories that were a mere 3 to 4 minutes long. You can’t even finish microwaving a Stouffer’s Mac and Cheese in that kind of time!

With the Kuu Kuu Close-Up, the assignment was to essentially write a monologue. This would keep new animation to a minimum, while providing action by cutting in existing moments from the show.

Challenge accepted.

24 thousand views is not too shabby

THE REST

In the other duration direction, you have mini-series, limited series, and lest we forget, the classic open-ended television series. Unique writing challenges there include things like character arcs over the course of an episode, season, and even an entire series run.

So don’t let yourself get stuck in just one kind of storytelling. Flex those creative muscles and take on new things, unfamiliar things, different things.

Despite their differences, all these formats still require a compelling narrative with a beginning, middle and end. If you can imagine and convey a good story, then it shouldn’t matter how long it is, or how big a screen it will reach an audience on.

Entertain. Enlighten. Move.

Keep your options open. You never know where opportunities may arise!

________________________________________________________

Cover of the graphic novel, "Blowback" (2021)

Jim Hereth‘s latest project is his debut action/adventure graphic novel, Blowback, available now at Amazon and comiXology.

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[IN THE TRENCHES] When Art Requires Craft

Lightning strikes the clock tower in "Back to the Future" (1985)
Change is good. Sometimes great.

There’s an aspect – the glamourous aspect – of writing that’s all about the magical alchemy of creation. Tapping into your muse and dreaming up rich characters, dynamic relationships, and deep dramatic conflict.

Sure that’s part of it. But there’s another side of professional writing that’s less about the art, and more about the craft. The nuts and bolts. The – to quote Tim Gunn – “make it work” moments.

This is when you have to use logic and critical thinking to effectively (and deftly) sew back up a script that’s been torn apart, while still keeping all the good bits intact.

Notes are frequently a trigger for these times. But there are a host of other causes too. Budget constraints, bad weather, prop failure. Even retconning. This skill set is especially crucial mid-production, when locations may already be reserved, actors cast, and even scenes shot.

Ian Rickett, a writer on 3Below: Tales of Arcadia and Wizards mentioned once that he actually enjoyed solving these kinds of problems. Working in the room to fuse pages, scenes, and plots can be quite a challenge. But if done well, the results can be even better than the original.

This came to mind last week while watching the Back to the Future episode of The Movies That Made Us on Netflix.

Storyboard showing the originally-scripted atomic test that would power Marty's return home in "Back to the Future" (1985)
I don’t think anyone is missing the nuclear explosion

Thanks in part to the addition of three DeLoreans, the budget for the movie had ballooned to over 18 million dollars, and the studio decided that savings had to be found before production could begin.

The easiest answer was to cut the expensive atomic bomb test that had originally provided nuclear energy for the jump back though time.

But what would happen in its place? With mere weeks to go before cameras started rolling, writers Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale had to come up with an answer. Checking out the Hill Valley set at Universal Studios, inspiration struck.

Maybe, if they added a clock to the top of the courthouse, they could have it hit by lightning and know exactly the time the DeLorean could get a charge of that critical 1.21 gigawatts.

Not only was that idea incorporated at that key moment in the film, it was also carefully woven into the entire story, all the way back to the beginning and that seemingly innocuous flyer about saving the broken clock tower. That’s the craft of writing in full effect. Perfection.

When I was working on the syndicated series, Born Free, there was an episode that ran long in post production. To help it hit the required runtime, the B story was edited out.

Artwork for the syndicated series, "Born Free" (1998)
Every moment is precious… to the budget

Ever thrifty, though, the production company didn’t want to just throw those precious scenes away.

Instead, to save both schedule and budget, I was tasked with incorporating that unused footage into the subsequent episode I was writing.

To do so effectively, I had to do more than just randomly drop those scenes into a new script. I needed to account for the existing attitudes, energy, and – most importantly of all – the dialogue and story as I folded it into mine.

In the end, it was as if it was designed to be there the whole time. Seamless.

Not too long before that, during production on Mowgli: The New Adventures of the Jungle Book, we had an actor not return after a day of shooting an episode.

Again, thanks to super tight schedules and budgets, we weren’t in a position to merely reshoot those same scenes with a new actor. Instead, we had to scramble to rewrite the parts of the episode not yet filmed to explain his absence and give their remaining role in the story to an entirely different character.

Stressful, no doubt. But the kind of creative adversity that provides a real sense of achievement when you finally triumph over it.

If you find yourself working on a production – maybe even your own – expect to use all aspects of your creative skills, both artful and practical. Problems are unavoidable, but an open mind and the ability to keep your eyes on the big picture can help you navigate every kind of script obstacle.

Maybe, like Ian, you’ll even look forward to the challenge.

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Cover of the graphic novel, "Blowback" (2021)

Jim Hereth‘s latest project is his debut action/adventure graphic novel, Blowback, available now at Amazon and comiXology.

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[ETCETERA] Not All There

The always obscured Wilson from "Home Improvement"
Patented Wilson Wisdom

Watching television over the years, you begin to notice things. Familiar storylines, tropes, set ups and payoffs.

But the one thing that’s fascinated me as both a writer and viewer is the characters who aren’t there. And not just occasionally.

They’re not there a lot.

I’m talking about significant recurring characters on shows who are rarely – if ever – seen on screen. A lot of times, not even heard.

It’s definitely a gimmick, but an interesting one at that.

Here’s my personal take on a Field Guide

REFERENCED

Norm and his wife, Vera, on "Cheers"
I’d recognize Vera anywhere

These are characters that are talked about frequently, but never show up on screen.

On Frasier, Nile’s first wife, Maris, was often the subject of conversation. None of it flattering.

But as vivid as the descriptions of her were, she never made an appearance.

This is the pure version.

A hybrid offshoot comes courtesy of Cheers, the show Frasier spun off from. There it was Norm’s wife, Vera, who Norm talked about regularly but (almost) never showed up.

Researching this post, I learned that Vera was heard offscreen on a handful of episodes and made one “appearance” with her face covered by pie (when more than a reference, she was played by George Wendt‘s real-life wife, Bernadette Birkett).

HEARD

Charlie, from "Charlie's Angels"
Good morning, Angels

Back on the original Charlie’s Angels series, the show’s namesake primarily made his presence known courtesy of a speaker phone.

(If you wanted to see the actor himself on your TV screen every week, you had to wait until the season after this show wrapped, when John Forsythe, landed the role of Dynasty patriarch, Blake Carrington.)

A more recent example of this audio-only character was on The Big Bang Theory. There, Howard’s mom, Debbie Wolowitz, made a strong impression via Howard’s stories, as well as her booming offscreen voice.

But other than a couple of fleeting glimpses behind a partially closed door and a bird’s-eye view on a nighttime rooftop, that’s the most you’d ever see.

On Home Improvement, neighbor, Wilson, was always heard, but never fully seen. He gave all his reliable advice partially obscured by a fence or some other artfully placed obstacle.

EVOLVING

Jenny Piccolo and Joanie Cunningham on "Happy Days"
Piccolo in persono

Back in the early seasons of Happy Days, Joanie Cunningham would frequently tell stories about her boy-crazy friend, Jenny Piccolo.

It wasn’t until season eight, when much of the original cast had left, that a flesh and blood Jenny Piccolo finally showed up.

I find this particular case to be a brilliant way of replacing cast members on a show. Jenny’s first onscreen appearance played out to a certain degree as someone audiences had been following for years.

Well done.

Twin Peaks: The Return did something similar with Dale Cooper’s assistant, Diane. But the less said about that, the better.

Carlton from the animated "Carlton Your Doorman"
Looks better as an intercom

A few decades earlier, on the show, Rhoda, there was Carlton the Doorman, who would only be heard via the intercom in her apartment (and once in a gorilla mask).

After the end of Rhoda’s run, Carlton briefly returned to television via his own animated special. And as more than just a voice.

In Carlton Your Doorman, he finally had a corporeal form… albeit hand drawn in two dimensions.

DOES NOT APPLY

KITT, the talking car on Knight Rider gives the impression of an example here, but isn’t actually. You can see him perfectly fine. He’s just a car.

___________________________________

It seems like a fun writing challenge to create a memorable recurring character that never steps on screen. Someone to join this iconic list. I’ll have to get on that.

This inventory is obviously incomplete, though, as I haven’t watched all the shows that exist. Are there characters you can think of that I missed? I’d love to hear in the comments.

________________________________________________________

Cover of the graphic novel, "Blowback" (2021)

Jim Hereth‘s latest project is his debut action/adventure graphic novel, Blowback, available now at Amazon and comiXology.

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[IN THE TRENCHES] Get it Down

Barton Fink struggles to write his script in "Barton Fink" (1991).
Don’t let it make you crazy

I have a million ideas. Most writers do. But unless you’re already a sought-after creator with a track record of success, an idea itself isn’t going to get you very far.

In other words, you can’t sell a spec that doesn’t exist.

You need to get those ideas written down for them to get you anywhere. That’s not easy, of course, but nevertheless mandatory.

I get it, I really do. It can be intimidating to think about what it’ll take to crank out an entire script. Paralyzing, even.

So, for god’s sake, don’t think about that.

Much like a literal marathon, the journey here begins with the first step. Focus on page one and let page one-hundred-and-one come when it comes.

For me, I’ve struggled with getting my ideas down because I’d try to make every sentence be the final polished version of that sentence before I wrote the next one. I needed every line of dialogue to be absolutely perfect before I wrote the absolutely perfect response.

The less-than-stellar results of Jack Torrance's novel writing efforts in "The Shining" (1980).
Seriously, don’t let it make you crazy

This is a recipe for never finishing. Or avoiding starting in the first place. Perfection is actually the enemy of this stage of writing.

Relax on the self criticism for now and focus on being prolific and judgement-free instead. At least judgement-light.

If you’ve got an outline in hand (you do, don’t you?), you’ve already done the hard work of crafting your story. Now it’s time to execute it. Plow through those pages without overthinking, and without getting hung up.

Screenwriter and novelist, Rhonda Smiley, calls this initial pass, Words on Paper. It’s the perfect description. You’re not going to win an Academy Award with your first draft. Just get it down.

If you notice yourself loitering around a scene, going over it again and again, changing an “a” to a “the” and then back again, it’s time to stop for a moment and regroup.

Recognize the delay, and push forward once more. Rinse and repeat. Before you know it, you’ll have reached your “Fade Out” after all. Triumph.

You might end up with scenes that are on-the-nose. You might end up with dialogue that sounds unnatural.

Novelist, Paul Sheldon, endures mental and physical torture when forced to write a novel in "Misery" (1990).
Writing is not for the faint of heart

There might even be bits that don’t go anywhere or jokes that don’t land.

Nothing wrong with that. No writer is going to submit their first draft to a buyer anyway (seriously, don’t do that).

The key here is that you have a first draft, and that’s a huge achievement. This is a step in the process and an essential one. You don’t get to a polished gem without getting here first.

Most importantly, a really rough draft beats a perfect script that’s only in your head. Every time.

Now take a break and then come back with fresh eyes. The real work begins with the rewrite…

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Cover of the graphic novel, "Blowback" (2021)

Jim Hereth‘s latest project is his debut action/adventure graphic novel, Blowback, available now at Amazon and comiXology.

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