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Things to Remember When Writing CSI: - Light One Candle

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February 14th, 2007

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02:55 pm - Things to Remember When Writing CSI:
One of the things I did as prep for writing my CSI spec was to get an episode and watch it very closely, making notes of when things happened in the episode, how long the acts were, etc. I chose the 4th season episode "Butterflied" (aka the one where the victim strongly resembles Sara), because of the tight character focus and the focus on one specific crime scene, both things which figure in my spec to a degree.

I got a bonus when I got the DVD home: writer and director commentary track! Very insightful.

After looking through my notes and listening to the commentary, I came up with several general things to keep in mind as I write my spec.

In no particular order.

1. One of the directors said, "When I see a lot of direction [in the script], and not a lot of dialogue, I know it's a good script." He took it even further a moment later: "This show really works best when we've got no dialogue," referencing one of their typical science montages.

2. Know why you choose each character for each scene. Ie, is there a reason I should have Warrick working at the scene with Greg in act one, or should I just go ahead and send Grissom back there, since the emotional plot belongs to those two characters?

3. CSI is all about the details. Don't worry about having too much information in a scene or act, as long as it all fits in and we find out the results of everything (as long as all the scientific set-ups pay off). The payoff may only take a single line of dialogue.

4. Less is more, when it comes to character revelations. This is especially true of Grissom and Sara, less so of the rest of the team.

5. The initial introduction of the person eventually revealed as the real villain or perpetrator often happens during the second act of the episode.

6. Remember the "TMI-cam" and use it. :-)

7. Be sure to keep the audience up-to-date on what everything means. This is usually done through periodic reconstruct-the-crime discussion between our CSIs. "Butterflied" contains three major reconstruction scenes: the team's conference call in act two; Grissom and Cath talking it through at the scene in act three; and Grissom laying it all out for the perp at the end of act four. That doesn't even count multiple times that the CSIs make discoveries and theorize how what they've just learned affects their theory of the crime. That's almost constant, especially after act one, when most of the evidence-gathering happens.

Gotta write lots tonight.
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[User Picture]
Date:February 15th, 2007 03:14 am (UTC)
This sounds very good to me.

Remember the "TMI-cam" and use it.


[User Picture]
Date:February 15th, 2007 05:16 pm (UTC)
My brain tends to recall CSI cases as puzzles...which means I do occasionally forget the cool and disgusting interior shots they put together. :-)
[User Picture]
Date:February 15th, 2007 07:10 am (UTC)
I'll have to remember those if I ever write a CSI script. (Not very likely but you never know.) I hope you have a productive evening.
[User Picture]
Date:February 15th, 2007 05:17 pm (UTC)
You're welcome. :-)

The evening wasn't as productive as I'd hoped...but there is a long weekend coming right up, so I will make time to work on this more.

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