Right, so better get this "How it all started..." business over with. So, what happened next?
Well, the people from Fair City got back in touch. They'd read my scripts and liked them. Did I want to do a try out of some scenes? Did I ever!
They sent out the ep breakdowns for four episodes (a weeks worth) and asked me to pick any 4 scenes from one episode and write them up. I had a week.
Different soaps break down their episodes in different ways. Some have a description of the A story for that episode, then the B story, the C, etc, They tell you who will be available and which locations, and then it is then pretty much up to you how you decide to write the episode, in what order or scenes, how they might link together, etc.
Others give you a scene-by-scene breakdown of the episode, who's in it and where it takes place, and you then have to flesh that out. This is how it's done with Fair City. Which sounds easier, doesn't it? And maybe it is. Difficult to stand out in a try-out writing exercise though, don't you think?
There were two things the script editor had impressed on me before starting. First...
KNOW THE SHOW. KNOW THE CHARACTERS.
These shows are about the characters, the relationships between them and... Actually, that's it. The only way you can write for these shows is if you know the characters, can capture their voices and know what the relationships between them are and have been in the past. They have very little time to give feedback on the drafts of scripts and can't waste it telling you that your scene doesn't work because you have X and Y talking about babies and you've made no reference to the fact that X killed Y's baby last year. Or had Y's baby. Or IS Y's baby. Know the show, know the characters.
Secondly, getting the voice of the characters right is what will convince them you might be able to write for the show. Plenty of people have written very funny/tragic/moving scenes with great/poetic/smart/hilarious dialogue, but they hadn't got the voices of the particular characters. So, no go. Another way of saying know the show, know the characters.
So, I was ready. I studied those four episodes, the breakdowns, calculating and balancing which I felt I could write best, which were most interesting, dramtic, fun. Should I write four scenes with different characters to show diversity? The same characters and storyline in four scenes to show I could follow and develop it well and really nail those voices? Four consecutive scenes to show how I could cleverly link them together? And hey, before all of that, which episode?? Oh, that was the difficult bit. Choosing the scenes. Having deliberated over that a day or two, I was ready. I chose my scenes and decided to get up the next day and do my first drafts.
And woke up three days later.
I got the flu. A bad one. Had me completely flat out in bed, dribbling into my pillow and having feverish dreams about Fair City plots.
By the time I pulled myself out of bed, still feeling rough, I had to decide. Do the whole thing in a day? Or admit defeat, tell them what happened and hope that they'd give me another go?
I opted for the second. Tough call, but I didn't want to mess up my chances. And the fact was, even if I was out of bed after three days, I still felt rough as hell. I was in no mood to write anything. So, I send a nice email. Thank goodness they were very understanding and said that I could have another go in the next round, which was in January. Phew!
Except that RTE stopped transmitting Fair City on their RTE Player about a month later and I no longer had a way of watching it. And they had no idea when they'd get it back. No way to watch the show meant no KNOW THE SHOW, KNOW THE CHARACTERS. Arrrrgh!
So near, so far... blah, blah.
Okay, so my little Fair City story doesn't have a great ending. Yet. But it didn't end there....
See you next time!