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Whedonesque - a community weblog about Joss Whedon
"And on the day the words flimsy excuse were redefined, we stood in awe, and watched."
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March 07 2006

Jane Espenson gives insight into a tiny bit of Joss screenwriting.

Post before that uses her work on Buffy to illustrate screenwriting tips.

I really ought to read her blog more often, its got really great stuff on it!
I just want to say that I'm loving Jane's blog! I'm so glad I found it through here!

And not just the tidbits of Buffy/Firefly 'verse writing. The lunch thing, the writing advice (even though I'm not a writer), everything.
Jane's blog is one of the most compulsive reading exercises I have - but I think she's causing me to put on weight.
Yeah, she's really fun to read, I try and check it every day or two. Love the little insights into the writing process (and lunch ;).

On a somewhat related note, I would really like to see a Firefly script book with annotations, preferably by the other writers. A whole book of little tidbits like Jane's would be worth a few quid from any fan's pocket, I reckon.
Oh man, Saje, that would be great. I would love to see it in "shooting script" form--Jane's object with these little bits is to help writers, and something like this would be awesome for aspiring writers as well as fans, right?
No you don't need a spoiler tag for Firefly, and I changed your link to the permanent url. Good find btw.
Yeah Anwyn, i'd say it'd be a fantastic resource for aspiring writers, having the people who know best how a script ticks commenting on which parts really impressed them and why.

From a learning point of view I think perfection would be seeing the draft that was handed in, then any notes they got from Joss (or whoever else) then the shooting draft though that's asking a lot both space wise and emotionally from the writers (to basically have their 'mistakes' dragged into public view).

I don't really aspire to write but I do love to know how things work so i'd buy it (i'm the kind of maniac that buys books about magic not to perform tricks but just so I know how they did it ;).
Jane has always been out there about her writing. I can remember her coming onto the Bronze Beta after a Buffy episode to explain things when we didn't quite get it. Or to complain when her favourite joke had been edited out. So a blog is a natural fit. If it is a blog. I mean, where is there an opportunity for others to post? or respond?
Hey, the entry right below her most recent one mentions her love of Project Runway: me too, Jane, me too!! I know reality TV = work of the devil, but no fictional TV show this season has me hooked like that sweet, sweet clothes-making reality show. And yes, this so totally includes you, Veronica Mars.
Thanks, Simon, I'm still learning the ins and outs of posting.
"If it is a blog. I mean, where is there an opportunity for others to post? or respond?"

It's not a community weblog. It's just a web log. A community web log, is actually a message board. The sky is blue, the Earth is flat, and I'm going to bang my head against the wall some more BECAUSE I WANT TO OKAY! La-lalalala I can't hear you!

As for parentheticals, one of my many problems when I try to write in screenplay format is that I wanna put parentheticals before every freakin' line, as if I don't trust the actors to convey what subtext I have in mind when I'm writing, and well, I don't. And well, that's probably one of a million reasons why Jane Espenson is a paid writer, and I'm just a miserable writer wannabe worthless dimtwit.

As for an Annotated Firefly Script? I wish someone would do this for the whole Firefly series and the movie. THAT would so rock.
Maybe somebody else said this better over on the Great Weblog Debate comments, but since the topic was raised here I'll throw in my $.02. I share Caroline's dislike of words changing, but here's how I see this breaking down: Weblogs seem to have started out as somebody logging the best of the web for a particular topic--Fark.com logs weird/funny/crazy stories, Dave Barry ditto, Slashdot logs stories of interest to computer/science geeks, somebody like Michelle Malkin logs stories of interest to political conservatives, etc. You can jump from weblog to weblog as others pick up the stories and add more details.

Later, the term grew to include personal diaries kept online. Basically, those are the two big branches I see today--logs of stuff on the web, and personal diaries. They can either be kept by one person or many, and include comments or not, but they seem to fall largely into those two big categories.

Jane's is thus a weblog of the "personal diary" type, not including comments, that also offers us useful information connected to Joss stuff and/or if we happen to be aspiring screenwriters.

That is the simplest breakdown I can think of, and yes, by definition #1, this place is most certainly a weblog--it gathers up stories related to Joss and his creations so that we don't all have to go sifting all over the whole web to get the info about this topic. Log of web stuff. All hail etymology.

Thus endeth $.02.
Here we go again.

Do you think Ben is Glory?
Not according to Glory's weblog.
Maybe Caroline is really Joss.
What would Glory's weblog look like:

Saturday March 3
Looked for my key again today. Couldn't find it. Got some GREAT shoes though. I wish I could find out what those useless monks did with my key. Its just not fair. All I want is my key and AAAAGH....

I wish Glory would stay the hell out of here. This is MY blog.
Maybe Caroline is really Joss.

This sheds a whole new light on the arguing back and forth on her bwleobgmseistseage board. Even the name colors are opposites on the color wheel and thus complimentary.

You may be onto something, Anwyn.
"Maybe Caroline is really Joss."

No way. I vote Simon. He's Joss. Or Milo. And I think Milo and Herb are the same guy. They are both Joss. Where the hell has that guy been lately, anyway?
Howcum everything is bolded? I did NOT do that!

Site quirk!
Joss has always been kind of girly...
Let there be no-bold!

- friendly neighbourhood Web Geek.
Good on you, Nick!

Hey! How'd you do that?

Hacker! ;)
I'll bet you he put a close bold at the beginning of his post, but let's keep it our secret. ;-)
I only see boldness in one post. What are other people seeing?
I think you're all seeing things.
A friend of mine - a non fan - read an interview with Joss recently and said: 'He sounds completely like you.' (Not the voice or language, but his outlook on life, she meant.)

So yeah, Jane Espenson. Cool blog.
Not that I'm love with writing screenplays but the reason why it's my favorite way to write is because you have the liberty to do exactly what Jane was talking about.
Well, I've certainly never seen Caroline and Joss in a room together. Nor have I seen a blog and a board in the same (chat)room. Hmmm. ;-)
Speaking of writers, J. Michael Straczynski has a new column at Newsarama.
I see bold people.

Thanks for the heads up Simon, JMS has a definite way with story even if his dialogue is occasionally so bad as to be almost comical.

Wait a minute, Caroline's Glory is Joss' weblog ?
That's it, Saje! You got it. And notice how quickly Caroline turned the conversation away from her and back to the topic at hand? Suspicious.
Jane's lunches are fascinating too, in a way I didn't expect. How often does she eat out? Where? Does everyone in LA eat such a wide assortment of food for lunch?
I wish my city had a fraction of the restaurant options that Jane seems to have. I would have to drive almost four hours to get to a city that even comes close. (Of course, when I first moved here fifteen-odd years ago, the best restaurant in town was a Bennigans-type restaurant, so we've at least stepped up from than benchmark.)

I love Jane's blog. I sometimes forget to check it until another thread is started here to remind me, but she always dishes out very good advice in an engaging way.
Right, you are Saje! I considered reading Spider-Man but I thumbed through a couple of issues and the dialogue was just awful. Before that I figured someday I'd rent the DVD's for Babylon 5, but now I'm thinking maybe not. Was the dialogue that bad on B5? I know he didn't write every episode, but still...

And palehorse, "dishes out" Heh heh. I get it.
Okay, I hate to interrupt this thread, but this has been driving me nuts. I have a question about the process of posting. I've read the "how to" tips and the answer isn't there (or if it is, I completely misread it), and I haven't found the way to do what I want to do which is not have "edit" by my name.

I compose my post. The only option I have is to click on "Preview". Then I do that. Then it says "This is how your post WILL look when posted". And it says "Make changes below or click 'Post' to add your comment now". Then my options are to edit it and click "preview" or go ahead and click "post". But even if I don't edit it and click "post" first, "edit" is still next to my name. But all you guys don't have "edit" next to your name. I wanna join the Not Edit Club! What am I missing or doing wrong? Thanks in advance for your help.
A user can only edit his or her posts. That is why edit appears above your name and no one elses when you are logged in.
batmarlowe, you're not doing anything wrong. We all have (edit) by our names when we look at our own pages (the ones we're signed into, I mean). It's where you click if you *want* to edit your post. You can't edit other people's posts, which is why you don't see it by their names. Hope that clears it up!

And on topic... I'm also addicted to Project Runway, dottikin (despite detesting most reality shows), and love that Jane is a fellow fan! The finale is tomorrow... can't wait!
Well, B5 certainly had its clunky moments batmarlowe (maybe more than its fair share) but it was, in general, quite well written with some great stories and character observations.

That said, I actually stopped watching it about 6 episodes into Season 1 because I found the dialogue so bad and some of the acting very wooden (especially the guy who played Sinclair, the station commander i.e. the lead actor). I only went back to it at the start of Season 2 after a friend kept pestering me to give it another try and, indeed, it was much improved (and had a new lead) so if you do decide to watch it the first episodes are, IMO, not the best example of what the shows's capable of.
Thanks Saje.

Oh! You mean if when you guys see my post "edit" isn't by my name?

Does this mean Ben is Glory?
Babylon 5 had a fantastic, never repeated 5 year story arc. And I mean, for example: events in a season 1 episode have very huge impact in season 3. After you've seen the episode in season 3, the season 1 episode has completely different meanings, and story.

It's also the only show I know where the show runner wrote nearly every episode himself (and only himself). Every single episode of season 2 - all 22 of them - were written by the same person.

That said, he tried a few 'comedy episodes' and they were dreadful. Season 5 is basically awful. Seasons 3 and 4, however, are probably amongst the best TV (story wise) I've ever seen.

After Babylon 5, the creator went on to make "Crusade", a show about a crew on board a space ship traveling around planets. He had a massive dispute with the network, who didn't like his pilot (but greenlit the series anyway). In production they forced him to shoot a new 'pilot', with "more action" and explosions. JMS walked out on the series before it hit the air after the network started telling him what stories they wanted - they sent him memos demanding, for example, an episode where an alien had sex with each member of the crew.

They aired the wrong episode first. They aired the actual pilot later. It crashed, it burned.

JMS made *millions* for both the networks and the studios via Babylon 5, and ultimately they wouldn't trust him to make a how his way still. The DVD for Babylon 5 sold bucket loads - I think it's (and this is according to JMS on one of his usenet postings) over the $60m dollars mark.

Sound familiar?

There was due to be a Babylon 5 motion picture, in quite late stages of development, but two of the main cast members have since died so I doubt it'll happen now.

[ edited by gossi on 2006-03-07 19:26 ]
I see editable people... *slap*... sorry, where was I? Oh, yeah, B5/JMS. I dug a number of JMS' original comics, not so much his work-for-hire. After being pushed and harrassed strongly encouraged to watch B5 by some friends, I did so. S1 was interesting, but without being pushed I wouldn't have bothered going further, S2 was better, S3 and S4 were quite good.

ETA - so, sorry to say, but I think JMS, like Chris Claremont has not done anything approaching their former levels since they were both horribly disappointed/betrayed by their respective employers.
imdb says "[JMS] made television history by becoming the first person to write an entire 22-episode season of a television series (Babylon 5's 3rd season)", not season 2, but same diff. Of course, that was my biggest complaint - you get one guy writing 90% of the series, and since that one guy can't write believable dialogue to save his life, you are definitely just gripping your chair in pain riding from one hopefully interesting plot point to another.

Buffy was the first TV show I remember watching where I really noticed individual writers' contributions, and came to look forward to the next time a certain favorite writer would do an episode. JMS did finally try that in season 5 by bringing in Neil Gaiman of all people (to write the ep that featured Penn & Teller), but you could tell that episode was just an awkward experience trying to shoehorn Neil into the JMS machine.

As for the B5 motion picture, they made all those rotten B5 TV movies without half the cast; i wouldn't put it past JMS to try a major film without main characters. that's what i always disliked about JMS - his characters were just chess pieces.

[Edited to add caps]

[ edited by SoddingNancyTribe on 2006-03-07 22:46 ]
All characters are chess pieces in the story. It's what you do with them that counts.

I agree, JMS had some real issues with dialogue. Story wise, the guy knew his shit (mostly). Could you imagine somebody like Whedon or Espenson writing on B5? My head would explode.
gossi -- there's a difference between them all being chess pieces and having them all be chess pieces. When they do things out of character for the sake of the story they are chess pieces in the way that Scotto meant, methinks. As for it being what you do with them that counts... well, see previous. If they are just pieces to serve the story then they tend not to be fully realized characters.
JMS did finally try that in season 5 by bringing in neil gaiman of all people (to write the ep that featured penn & teller), but you could tell that episode was just an awkward experience trying to shoehorn neil into the JMS machine.

According to Neil Gaiman's blog, apparently JMS asked Neil to write an episode of Babylon 5 when the series was just starting up, but it took Gaiman 5 years, to find the time in his busy schedule to write an episode.
Love Jane so much. I truly hope someone will give this girl a show worthy of her talents.
The DVD for Babylon 5 sold bucket loads - I think it's (and this is according to JMS on one of his usenet postings) over the $60m dollars mark.


Well, speaking of: last saturday, I bought *in a row* the DVD of all 5 seasons of Bab5. :P

It's The Signal that gave me the idea; I watched bab5 when it was broadcast here on Canal+, I enjoyed the show (and don't remember the last season to be awful...), but I never truly considered buying the DVD until I heard the segment on the last Signal comparing bab5 with firefly. It's not the comparison that made me buy the DVD, but the memories that came back, about bab5, while I was listening...


There was due to be a Babylon 5 motion picture, in quite late stages of development, but two of the main cast members have since died so I doubt it'll happen now.


I heard that Katsulas died, who is the other?
Le Comite, Richard Biggs who played Dr Franklin died a couple of years ago from (I think) some kind of aneurysm. He was only in his mid 40s.
If they are just pieces to serve the story then they tend not to be fully realized characters.

Well, ultimately, it's all about the story - all characters are there to drive that plot.

That said, if it's completely obvious a character is there as a plot device - *cough*MrUniverse*cough* - they become less believable. When you look at early Giles in BTVS for example, he's almost entirely Mr Exposition. That said, in later series he's still serving the same plot purpose, but he's a much more fleshed out character.

It all comes down to writing - as Jane points out, if things are 'on the nose' the characters become those chess pieces.
Yeah, that's true gossi but it should feel like the story is there to serve the characters. Rather than plot being driven by the characters it should seem as if the plot just kind of naturally follows from their choices. I don't sit and think 'What action should I take to further the story of my life ?', I take actions and the 'story of my life' just happens as a result.

So, like you say, it's all about the writing and, maybe as important, breaking stories that really use characters properly in the first place. Which is a lot of words where 'I agree' might've done ;).

I think you're right about Giles, BTW, watching some of the early episodes on Sky brings home how expositiony he was but, though it may just be a happy coincidence, his development feels like a natural progression since as he, Buffy and the others get to know each other better and survive numerous dangers together he becomes less formal towards them, less prone to long lectures and less stuffy in general. He goes from Teacher/Boss to Mentor/Surrogate father to Partner/Equal to, in some ways, being surpassed by his former student (which, thinking about it, is sort of like the progression of a child's relationship with its real parents as it grows up - who was it that said the last race you should ever have with your father is the one before the one you win ?).
Thanks, Saje, for the answer about Biggs.


imdb says "[JMS] made television history by becoming the first person to write an entire 22-episode season of a television series (Babylon 5's 3rd season)", not season 2, but same diff. Of course, that was my biggest complaint - you get one guy writing 90% of the series, and since that one guy can't write believable dialogue to save his life, you are definitely just gripping your chair in pain riding from one hopefully interesting plot point to another.


Well, Scotto, what is a "believable dialogue"?

In my opinion, the dialogues written by joss and his crew are not believable: do you imagine that, in real life, people can have such dialogues??

I don't think "believable" is something we often want in TV/movie dialogues (well, unless you crave for the Dogma :P ).


PS: on a completely (well, not so) different subject, I just received my Serenity L.E. DVD from amazon.de. I am a little happy, as you can imagine...

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