HOW I DO THE SHEHERAZADE THING
Nynaeve 1723


Jordan: (joking but emotional) So, what, Dad? Didn’t think your only daughter was a good enough emergency contact?

Max: I just figured Hoyt would stick around Bahston.

JORDAN rolls her eyes a bit.

Woody: (smiling) I’m working on that, Sir.

Wow, when Jilly asked us to describe how we each write episodes, I thought it wouldn’t that tough. This, however, is my third go at writing something that won’t bore anyone reading it to tears and/or leave you with the impression that while there may be more pompous windbags out there, it can’t be many! I’m sort of hoping to prove “the third time’s the charm” and not “three strikes and you’re out!” I guess this highlights the fact that I am not a non-fiction writer or essayist of any sort.

Since we wrote our episodes in script format, I decided maybe it would be most appropriate to write my description of the process the same way. Here we go!

MUSING SELF: So… I’m writing episode 16. Well, I’ve got to start where I always start: a title.

WORKING SELF: Ummmm… that’s easy. Remember, we all named them before we got going? Just go look it up in your anal retentively organized files.

MS: Ooooooh, yeah! Cool! It’s called… oh, come on… who the HECK named it “There Are More Things (Than Are Dreamt Of.”?) Who thought a title this long was a good-
WS: mumbles something

MS: Oh… yeah. Me. Well, remind me not to do that again!

WS: You are writing “Ithaca” later on. That’s one word.

MS: Ahhhhhh, true. Okay then. (long pause) Ummm… I think this is procrastination at its finest.

WS: Shhhh… don’t want anyone to know about that. But you have a point. Okay… you have a title, so you can get started.

NARRATOR: You see, Dear Reader, this particular writer has this, shall we say, weird compulsion: any creative endeavor must be properly named before the work can be undertaken. But, as we see that hurdle has been jumped, let us press on.

In the Hall of the Mountain King - Danny Elfman

MS: Yeah, yeah, okay. Title: check. Nowwwwwwww… what’s next?

WS: Story? You know, it’s kind of the point.

MS: Story. Good. No! Wait! A line.

WS: A line? As in what – conga line? Customer service line? Highway dividing line?

MS: No, Silly. A line! Of dialogue!

WS: Well, yes. It’s a script after all. There are going to be lots of lines. (beat) Oh, Holy Hannah, I hope there are going to be lots of lines. I mean, what if I can’t come up with-

MS: “I’m working on it, Sir.”

WS: (blank stare, long pause) What?

MS: “I’m working on it, Sir.”

WS: Well, I heard you the first time. I just don’t understand-

MS: No, see that’s the line.

WS: Ahhhh, so much clearer. In the way of being unclear.

MS: You know, the line. That one line, that – that moment when it begins to come together.

WS: (catching on) Ohhhhh, that line! (getting into the spirit now) So… this line. Who says it?

MS: Woody.

WS: (considering this) Makes sense. Who’s he saying it to?

MS: Max.

WS: Yeah, good. Max is in this episode. That works. Where are they?

MS: They’re at Max’s place. Max and Woody are sparring a bit about Jordan. Max is kind of hoping Jordan’s going to settle down a bit, stay in one place, all that. Woody is trying to tell Max that it’s something he wants, too, that he’s trying to get Jordan to marry him actually.

WS: (nodding, the interior live shot is rolling now) Good, good. I can see that. It plays on the relationship Max and Woody had: both wanting what’s best for Jordan, not always seeing eye to eye on that. (satisfied moment of reflection) Ummm… question?

MS: Sure, shoot!

WS: Why is Woody at Max’s place? Did Max come back to Boston?

MS: No, Silly! It’s Max’s place in Florida.

WS: Ah…umm… yeah and really, why is Woody in Florida? I mean, what’s the reason?

MS: He and Jordan are there for a visit.

WS: Jordan? Doing the mini family reunion thing? You really think that’s her style?

MS: (thinks for a moment) Good point. Okay, so Woody and Jordan are at Max’s because Max needs them there.

WS: Because? Come on, these are the Cavanaughs we’re talking about. Did Jordan even tell Max about the tumor before the surgery?

MS: (big sigh and some general grumbling) Fine. (long pause) Oh, wait! Max is hurt! In the hospital, touch-and-go hurt! It’s perfect.

WS: You know, it’s a tad disturbing that you’re so excited about someone being hurt.

MS: (shrugs) Yeah, well, how many books do we have on ways to kill or maim people? Professional interest, you know.

WS: (ignoring this) How’d he get hurt?

MS: Uhhhhhhh…. Boy… wow. That’s a good one. Poison? Nah, either too lethal or too slow to be dramatic. I mean, unless we see the poisoning.

WS: We’re not going to see the injury happening?

MS: No! No, no, no! We’re going to just see Max hurt, calling for help – calling for Jahdon. At first, for all we know, he slipped and hit his head or got in a car accident after drinking a pint too many or something. No… let’s think about this. Okay, yeah… got it. He gets hit on the head from behind.

WS: So he doesn’t see the attacker.

MS: Absolutely! Oh, that’ll work great. We can make it look totally random or like it was one suspect, but there will be clues that it’s someone else.

WS: Blood spatter patterns.

MS: Now who’s disturbing?

WS: Angle from which the blow came, helping determine height and give some idea if the attacker is more likely male or female!

MS: Yep. Disturbing.

WS: Okay, no, I’m with you! So, Max is in the hospital with a head trauma. It’s touch and go, but by the end of the two parter, we have to have him well enough that Jordan feels okay going home. You know what this means!

MS: Google search!

NARRATOR: At which point, Dear Reader, our crack – or possibly just cracked – writer goes off to look up conditions dealing with head trauma. As it turns out, she actually started with one of those reference books to find some search terms. The reference book was great, but it really only gave her thumbnail sketches of certain conditions. After narrowing it down from that, she went online and spent a goodly amount of time finding a condition that was life threatening, but if treated in time and well enough, would not cause permanent damage or death. As it turned out, this was one of the season’s easier searches. (We still don’t discuss the hours spent learning about competitive dog shows and the fact that the writer now seriously wants a Brussels Griffon.) Now, your writer has found the information she needed: all three to five words of it. Yes, it’s true. A great deal of this research results in little more than being able to employ the correct term in a manner that will seem reasonable to all, even those who know a lot about the matter at hand – or at least enough so those people don’t feel the writer has been utterly remiss and created a condition that is either laughably minor or nearly always results in death. But, as I’ve said, the research is done, let’s rejoin our intrepid… duo.

MS: All right, so we have this head trauma now. That’s going to get Jordan (and Woody) down to Florida. Now, how is it Woody and Max end up sparring over her and she doesn’t butt in.

WS: She’s out of the room?

MS: Why?

WS: Ummmm…hmmm… oh, wait! The investigating officer is questioning her.

MS: (chuckle) Bet that’s going well for him… her?

WS: Heee. Yeah. She’s probably prying out as much info as she’s giving – maybe more! But back to Woody and Max.

MS: Oh, yeah, right. They’re talking about her, with Max hoping she’s going to settle down a bit and Woody saying he’s working on it.

WS: Which brings us back to where we started – with that line!

MS: A bit like do, re, mi, isn’t it? (begins to sing softly)

WS: (mental glare)

MS: (sheepish) Right. Sorry. What’ve we got?

WS: Well, a teaser. We see Max is injured and calling for Jahdon. Then we’ve got a lot of the first act at least, where Woody and Jordan go down to Florida and try to figure out who attacked him.

MS: Well, come one, it’s going to be James, isn’t it?

WS: (pondering) Maybe… maybe not. What if James has help? Because… you know what? While Jordan’s dealing with this, there should be a murder up in Boston. Of James’ adoptive parents!

MS: It’ll seem like he was in two places at once!

WS: Yeppers.

MS: Yeah, that’s good. Now… this accomplice.

WS: It’s a woman. James is using a woman… to get close to Max!

MS: Is she all angry and twisted like James?

WS: Let’s see where it goes, but I’m thinking not. Or not as much. He charms her into thinking Max is a bad guy and she’s just putting him – and the Hortons - in their places, so to speak. He probably tells her they’re not going to hurt anyone seriously.

MS: Boy, that’s gonna be a problem when she twigs to the real facts.

WS: Which is when she’ll have to die.

MS: In front of Jordan. Warning her that James is after her and Max.

WS: Maybe she should tell Jordan to get yet another lock for that apartment of hers.

MS: Would you focus?!?!?

WS: Sorry, you’re right. You know, I think we’ve about go enough to create a story.

MS: Oops, wait! We forgot something!

WS: I’m sure we forgot lots of things. In fact, I’m sure most of this will change as we go.

MS: Well, that’s a given. No, we forgot that Max can’t recover too quickly.

WS: (slaps head like in the V-8 ads) Right! We have some medical crisis at the break between the two parts and we make it look like maybe the accomplice had something to do with it. (beat) Her name is Sophie, by the way, and she’s a fashion buyer; her alibi is that she was at some buying show at the time of the attack.

NARRATOR: At this point, Dear Reader, our writer reintegrates her personalities (more or less) and sketches an outline (which is really amusing and intelligible mostly only to her because, while some writers may thrive with an outline, this one does not.) From there, she begins to write her episode, making certain to cover the timeline she’s created, expose the facts needing to be exposed and toss in some red herrings when possible. She may well shift scenes, change details (such as how the Hortons were killed exactly) and adjust the culpability of various characters. Some locations may change and with them, circumstances. Sophie, for example, will no longer die at Max’s home, shot by James who then flees while verbally taunting Woody and Jordan. Instead, she’ll die in the hospital parking lot, still shot by James who still flees, but will leave a basic, creepy note instead. Our writer will engage in more research, such as: is it possible to say you’re attending a conference in Philadelphia, but run up to Boston to kill your psycho boyfriend’s adoptive parents? (Yes.) How will she do it? Poison? And what poison would be good? (Plants – our writer happens to love organic poisons, by the way.) She will change a physical confrontation between James and Jordan to a dream one. She will work on injecting some comic relief into the episode from time to time, so it is not unrelentingly grim. But despite all and any changes, one thing will remain constant: the line which was the foundation for the episode will stay in and, for this particular writer, that is how all the episodes start: a title and a single line. We hope you enjoyed this little glimpse into how one writer creates a VS7 episode.


Max: (tired) When did you get to be an expert on my daughter?

Woody: (chuckle) No one is an expert on Jordan! I’m just the guy who loves her and wants to make a life with her.

MAX is taken aback momentarily. He shakes his head and snorts.

Max: How’s that going?

Woody: Like I said, I’m working on it.