Have you ever tried to be god?
I mean, not in an evangelical Republican hellfire-and-brimstone-pass-judgment-on-the-heathens-and-those-fabulous-gays kind of way – but in the sense of creating an entire Universe all by yourself?
‘Cause if you haven’t, let me tell you: it is fucking exhausting.
I’m currently developing a series right now that, while based on a great [[type of source material redacted]], requires an immense amount of mental energy in terms of researching the truth behind the fiction, expanding the world (since the location has changed), inventing new characters to fill that world up alongside the original characters, then fleshing both out fully – not to mention crafting a first season with 13 episodes’ worth of stories and emotional throughlines in order to prove that the show will have legs (i.e., will keep viewers interested beyond just the novelty of the milieu).
Because truthfully, this is a story that hasn’t been seen on American TV, and while I know (in my head) that the show will be chock-full of actiony/emotional goodness, it’s hard – nay, ridiculous – to imagine that I could walk into a room full of Suits and say, “Dudes – just trust me on this one.”
I mean, maybe if you’re David Milch or Shonda Rhimes, but not if you’re…
…well, anyone else on the planet.
Now, some of my fellow Writers would argue that all this backstory work is unnecessary. I’ve heard people say, “Just sell the sizzle! The steak will come later!”
Meaning, Just pitch the idea of the series, and let the Studios decide whether they want it or not.
And if I didn’t think this show could kick ALL THE ASSES IN THE WORLD, maybe I would. But there is a fantastic fucking story here, just waiting to be told in all its complexity – and more than anything else, I refuse to disrespect it.
I want to treat this tale with all the care and investment it deserves, and to do that, I have to play god. The God Of Everything. I have to know the whens and whyfores of every occurrence, the motives behind all the agendas (and if every single one of your characters doesn’t have his/her own agenda? you’re not doing it right), the various relationships and intrigues and turning points and climaxes of every event in Season One. It’s a little brain-crushing.
And yet. Will all this stay the same if the project gets picked up by a Studio for further development?
Of course not.
And that’s why they call it Development Hell. Because in order to please the Studio – and inshallah, your future Network – you will have to change certain aspects of your characters and stories in order to compromise with their needs and wants. This whole process could take months, but it may take years. Rumor has it the original god (the O.G. of O.G.’s) got it all done in 7 days – which, okay, now it makes sense why people worship the gal – but for a Writer trying to create her own Universe, there definitely come times when you just want to go, “You know what? I think I may have jumped the gun on that Void thing. Nothingness wasn’t really all that bad, was it? Kinda roomy.”
So if everything’s going to change, why put so much work into Stories & Characters 1.0?
The answer is, because if you don’t know what your story really is, and who it’s really about, then the Suits won’t get it either. No matter how hard you endeavor to explain it, it’ll feel like trying to describe the inner workings of a nuclear reactor… when you only speak orangutan.
Granted, there are Writers out there who can tap dance, who can laugh and charm the skivvies off the Suits and sell wisps of ideas in two sentences or less as if they’re real, living Universes. And if you’ve got that kind of charisma, more power to you. Fuck you, but more power to you.
I, on the other hand, want to show the Suits a real Universe. One as true and populated and thriving as the one we occupy, because that is what we should do as Writers: breathe life into words, and create new Universes in the minds of others.
Still, after all this time and effort, I wouldn’t mind seeing that Seventh Day sometime soon…