The Graveyard

The Lair Of Gary James

The Idea Store – The Laws

Posted by BigWords on October 11, 2009

While I was searching through my folders looking for suitable stuff to share, and there are many, many hopeless stories in the wings, waiting for their moment, I came across a television pitch that reeks of badness. It isn’t just awful, it extends to a place beyond the edge of the terrible to a new location which has yet to gain a descriptor. Really, the dialogue is so bad it is painful to read. The idea however…

Ah, the ideas. I like coming up with ideas, and the one which caught my attention was a twist on the Murder She Wrote / Columbo / Kojak ‘concept crime drama’ with a twist that hasn’t really been touched on. I would liken it to the early-to-mid Seventies wave of gimmick-television, but that seems somehow counter-productive. This is one idea which – under other circumstances – I would eagerly follow up on, but I have enough on my plate right now and the idea is one which will take time and work.

Feel free to mock…

The Laws

Murphy’s Law (pilot episode)

if anything can go wrong, it will go wrong

During the course of the episode the MC is widowed, has his car stolen, his dog runs away, is fired from the police force and his house burns down. That is just the start of his problems, because he is then implicated in the massive crime case being brought against a local businessman who is believed to be a crime lord…

The set-up is so that he has a mission to work to for the first season: to clear his name, and then to get his job back. I even re-wrote the pilot as a two-parter, with the second episode (O’Toole’s Commentary) ramping up the misery to show just how bad his life was going to get before it was gonna get better.

Hanlon’s Razor

never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity

At some point in writing the first episode it became clear that having a ‘big bad’ hovering behind the scenes was merely a distraction, and rather than adding plots it was confining ideas. Exposing the ‘crime lord’ as merely being an idiot was a neat subversion of the familiar trope of crime lord geniuses, and segued neatly into one of the hardest things I’ve ever tried to write.

Scheier’s Law

any person can invent a security system so clever that she or he can’t think of how to break it

The murder of a security specialist throws fresh suspicion on Murphy, as he was the last person to see the man alive.

The impossible-murder scenario has been so well-ploughed that I couldn’t get through the writing without some major cheating. The murderer his in the house, then fled when the police arrived – dressed in a police uniform. Lame, I know.

From giving myself a headache trying to open up the complex world of crime drama, I decided a story set in a location I knew about would be something easier. Nope. Trying to write about software programming is one of the more difficult aspects of the modern era. You either simplify the subject to make people feel like they can understand things, or you write about the subject realistically and lose half of your audience.

Conway’s Law

any piece of software reflects the organizational structure that produced it

A cracker’s attack on a server exposes a murder at a large company which has been in the news due to financial irregularities.

In the end I decided to drive the story with a comedy element that felt forced, and even with heavy re-writes this feels out-of-place alongside my general idea for the show – which is stated in the title of the pilot episode. This was meant to be the most miserable, downtrodden, beaten-up character who had ever been seen, and terrible things were meant to happen to him in every episode.

I suppose this goes to show that when I have an off day (lasting, in this case, several weeks) I can produce ideas that are decent, but my writing still sucks ass worse than anyone’s writing really should.

####

One more snippet before I put this to rest. It’s from a file labelled as ‘analecta’, and hasn’t got anything of real value in it, but this struck me as being the beginning of something rather than a neat self-contained idea:

Orange and green numbers clatter from the typewriter at machine-gun pace, obscuring the sounds of dying angels. There are feathers floating down from heaven tonight. Billy is busying himself with his studies, head down in a book on necromancy, while in the corner of the room Sarah is cutting off her face with a razor blade.

Richard inhales from the cigarette hanging loose on his lip, fingers bleeding on the keys of the new typewriter, turning red the universe he writes.

Not that I’m able to say what the hell it should be, but it brought a smile to my face as I remembered it. Might be a post-modern take on The Rapture, might be a neat little horror story…

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2 Responses to “The Idea Store – The Laws”

  1. LOVE “The Laws”. Especially the one about malice/stupidity. I was just about to let go of my TV, but if this were on, I just might have second thoughts.

    The postmodern/rapture-horror story works for me, too.

  2. bigwords88 said

    My idea may have legs, but my execution was pathetic. Trying to ape Jim Thompson’s down-on-their-luck heroes in a way that doesn’t come across as contrived is hard. Very hard. It’s mind-strainingly, brain-stretchingly hard.

    I may rework the story into a short story series, but the scripts aren’t gonna get any response from agents. They really do suck.

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