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02/05/2001
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"STAR MAPPING: BRAINSTORMING Part Two."

Paul Buscemi's column for Monday February 5th, 2001. Buscemiarts@hotmail.com

Okay, this is not about "Star Maps." We are not going on a driving tour of "the stars homes." I admit, some days, the idea of buying one of those little maps sold by the guy on Sunset Blvd. just as you enter Beverly Hills, does sound like a wonderful way to procrastinate all my writing work. But alas, no time for star maps when your writing career is on the launch pad. My second endeavor into brainstorming (see column for 1/29/01) did involve a car and a little driving trip. In fact, it involved the following:

Me.
My car.
Some CD's
A handheld cassette recorder.
...And the wide-open road, baby!

This all started as I was trying to develop my story for a one-hour TV spec-script. Among my goals for the year (see column for 1/22/01) is the completion of two television spec samples for existing shows. I have other scripts like these already, but it is best to have something current. Here's a good example of what I'm talking about: My X-Files spec is an excellent sample of my work. I love that script! It has a great twist, a "creature" never imagined before, drama, hilarity with The Lone Gunmen, and a romantic moment with Mulder and Scully that turns horrifying instead of gratifying.

So what could be wrong with that? Plenty. Sure it's a fine script but it's dated. Mulder isn't on the show anymore (unless it's sweeps). The "Hot-show" factor comes into play as well. For a while everybody and their brother's dog had an X-Files spec sample. People get tired of "yet another X spec." You want to write a sample for a recognized show but you don't want to be just another spec for that (fill in the blank) currently hot show.

So I'm updating my one-hour specs, but my first outline needed more. I had my basic story down but I needed a bigger hook. I wanted greater plot twists, more emotional wallops and a surprising b-story that would intrigue the audience right from the start.

I knew these story concerns could only be worked out by teaming my brain with my Buick. Yes it was time to go for a long drive. No destination needed. Just me, my car and the freeway. I don't know exactly when or how it started, but for years now, I've found driving is like opening the tap on the "story" faucet. I just have to be sure I have enough buckets (cassette recorder) to catch all that water as it gushes out. Here's what I do, I review my story (or script), making mental notes of the problem areas. I load up with CD's of music appropriate to the TV show (or genre, if I'm working on a screenplay) my script is for. I put on my seatbelt and start up the Buick.

Now here's the important part. I drive and relax. Relax and drive. Always obeying the laws of the road and being a cautious driver. Why not? I'm in no hurry. It has to be a leisurely trip. Rushing across town to make a lunch meeting on time - ain't gonna cut it! (Finally got some really bad English in a column. Do you know how hard it is to find a place to throw in, "ain't gonna?") As I cruise along, enjoying my music, the mighty Buick floats down the highway, occasionally performing a ?bump-test.' (Also known as: killing the turtles.) And then it happens. SLAM! A great story idea appears. THWACK! A story problem solved. ZOINK! A fantastic twist. Last but certainly not least - WHALLOP! An emotional heart squeezing, tear squirting breakthrough. God, I love a good drive!

For years I thought I was the only one who used this open road story telling method. No one else I knew, had ever tried it. But finally I was amazed when I read about Roy Huggins in Ed Robertson's book: "This is Jim Rockford...The Rockford Files." Apparently Huggins, who co-created The Rockford Files with Stephen J. Cannell, would himself, hit the open road (for three to four thousand mile trips) when developing a new series or movie. Huggins, too, used a tape recorder to dictate his stories while driving. Well, if this driving can lead to one of the all time greatest TV shows like The Rockford Files - then I'm always keeping a full tank of gas in the Buick. You never know when you'll need to hit the road.

Step 3: When you get stuck, try a relaxing walk. (I can't recommend or endorse my method especially if thinking about your stories will distract you from your driving. Better to consider a relaxing walk instead!)

c.2001pdb.

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