Make your leads concrete and creative
Who said TV was bad for you? My West Wing binge watching is paying off with great writing tips. Here, some insights on approvals — and the right way to start a story:
“CUT TO: INT. MARS BRIEFING REHEARSAL — DAY The TelePrompTer shows the name ‘Galileo’ on it and Sam’s head pops up. The crewmembers of the NASA Public Affairs are around the place.
“SAM Who wrote this intro?
“SCOTT TATE I did.
“SAM You’re from NASA Public Affairs?
“SAM You mind if I give it a polish?
“TATE Is there a problem?
“SAM No, it’s great. You mind if I change it?
“TATE I’d prefer if you didn’t.
“SAM Just the same…
“TATE The Public Affairs has cleared the text. If it’s gonna be changed, I’d prefer that the President change it.
“SAM See, that’s kind of what he pays me to do, so…
“TATE Look, I don’t want to step on your toes. You don’t want to step on mine. We’re both writers.
“SAM Yes, I suppose, if you broaden the definition to those who can’t spell.
“TATE Excuse me?
“Bartlet walks in with C.J.
“BARTLET Good morning!
“EVERYONE Good morning, Mr. President.
“BARTLET Can I see the intro?
“SAM It’s up on the Prompter.
“BARTLET [reads] “Good morning! I’m speaking to you live from the West Wing of the White House. Today we have a very unique opportunity to take part live in an extremely historic event which …” Whoa, boy…
“SAM [waves and smiles] How you doing, Mr. President?
“BARTLET Who wrote this intro?
“TATE I did, sir. I’m Scott Tate from NASA Public Affairs.
“BARTLET [gets up and shakes his hand] Scott. ‘Unique’ means ‘one of a kind.’ Something can’t be very unique, nor can it be extremely historic.
“C.J. While we’re at it, do we have to use the word ‘live’ twice in the first two sentences like we just cracked the technology?
“C.J. We’re also broadcasting in living color, right?
“BARTLET [to Tate] He’s gonna make some changes.
“TATE [following Sam] You’re going to clear them with me?
“SAM I doubt it. [to a recording staffer] Write this: ‘Good morning. Eleven months ago a 1,200 pound spacecraft blasted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Eighteen hours ago…’ Is it eighteen hours ago? We’re on the air at noon eastern.
“SAM ‘Eighteen hours ago it landed on the planet Mars. You, me, and 60,000 of your fellow students across the country along with astroscientists and engineers from the Jet Propulsion Lab in Southern California, NASA Houston, and right here, at the White House, are going to be the first to see what it sees, and to chronicle an extraordinary voyage of an unmanned ship called Galileo V.’
“BARTLET [taps C.J. on the arm] He said it right.”
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