Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The Secret Is In the Sauce

I’m sure you’ve tasted a delicious meal and asked about the distinction. The unrevealing answer is “the secret is in the sauce.”

The same noncommittal answers happen in the writing community. People always want to know about where do you get ideas.  The key from my perspective is what you do with those ideas. This morning I was reading the Arizona Republic and one article was telling about the sitcom Everyone Loves Raymond. The sitcom creator Phil Rosenthal and six top Hollywood writers (minus Ray Romano) are touring the country and giving a program called, “Everyone Loves Raymond– Inside the Writers’ Room – Secrets of a #1 Sitcom.” While the article is interesting—and you can read it with this link—Dolores Tropiano included this interesting quotation, “Basically the writers and I go on stage and tell the terrible stories of the things that happened to us at home and illustrate these stories with clips from the show,” said Rosenthal, who lives in Los Angeles. “In between you get a sense of what it is like to be in the room with each of us. These people have known each other for nine years. We insult each other. We laugh. These are the funniest people I know.” The team worked together producing 210 episodes that earned the show six Emmy nominations for Best Comedy and two Emmys for Best Comedy in 2003 and 2005.”

The secret isn’t really a secret but very common. These writers draw from their own life experiences. The situations and details are exaggerated but the seed of the idea comes from inside then they are transformed, exaggerated and are written into the script. If you see a clever television show or movie, never forget it’s the writing which is foundational. I’ve repeatedly seen interviews with actors—and if these actors are gracious (as many of them are) then they will attribute at least some of the success to the writers. Without the clever plots and dialogue, the overall package suffers.

I’ve read many fiction proposals in recent days. Unfortunately many of these authors are lacking in the basics such as dialogue, plot and excellent characterization.  Yes, they’ve taken the common advice to writers, “start with what you know” but where have they taken it from there? I agree with Stephen Coontz who writes that writing is very hard work. Each of us have to continue working at the craft. 

6 Comment:

At 8:07 PM, Blogger The Last Witness Left a note...

I hope one of those proposals wasn't mine! :)

Of course, it was just a query letter, so hopefully it wasn't.


At 7:19 AM, Blogger Terry Whalin Left a note...

Jerry, I don't believe I have even a query letter from you in my pile of submissions. I've been processing query letters, proposals and manuscripts. In general, I try to keep these into a small stack under consideration and be in touch with the various authors. It's one of my distinctions as an editor. Maybe you need to send it again--if you even sent it in the first place.

At 7:28 AM, Blogger Jared Left a note...

Great post.

Gives a fuller meaning to "write what you know," doesn't it?

-- Jared Wilson

At 9:49 AM, Blogger The Last Witness Left a note...

I emailed it on October 5 to the howardpublishing.com address, but I just resent it to your terrywhalin.com address.


At 10:47 PM, Blogger Bonnie S. Calhoun Left a note...

Write what you know is in a sense a conundrum. Because you could be writing what you think you know and find out you didn't know it after all! Sorry...silly day..my brain is in synapse misfire from rewriting.

Good Post.

At 2:01 AM, Blogger Camy Tang Left a note...

I like this post, it made me think. I've been judging a contest recently and many entrants are indeed writing what they know. But only a few give it that extra kick that propels it above the other entries. It's almost as if the other writers are a little timid about taking risks with plot, dialogue and character. I guess they need to be more "saucy."



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