The web is tricky.
On one hand, you have an opportunity to tell a story that ordinarily, wouldn’t be told on mainstream or traditional outlets. But, you’re still held responsible for telling a good story. A good, unique story. Sounds easy enough, but it’s a lot harder than it looks.
writin’ ain’t easy bruh.
I’ll be blunt: not every idea, experience, identity crisis, heartbreak or acid trip is worth being made into a show. And the ones that are have a lot more in common with verisimilitude than veracity. Your job, especially on a web-series, is to find that magic balance. Verisimilitude vs. Veracity is one of my favorite writerly themes; veracity being truth and verisimilitude being a creative interpretation of it. Rarely is the day-to-day of a “true” story interesting; it’s the semblance, the interpretation of what happened in that day, what could have happened in that day and what could have or should have gone right or wrong in that day; well, that’s verisimilitude.
Part of the key of deciding what to write is to understand that you’re working with 5-8 pages of script, at best. If your episode is 2 to 3 minutes long, 2-4 pages. That’s really not a lot of time or space to introduce characters, plot, conflict and the world. The key to writing a good web-series is to figure out which stories can be condensed. It’s also about finding a story that other people that you’ll be working with, can believe in. This is important because you probably don’t have any money to pay anyone. The Maroon Colony was a story that I felt could be, but it took me about two years to figure out how to do it. I hope yours doesn’t take that long, but it wouldn’t be uncommon. Issa Rae, creator of the popular web-series Awkward Black Girl stated that she carried the idea for the show around in her head for years before actually shooting it. Leena Pendharker wrote for years stories and vignettes that ultimately became Overly Attached Andy.
It’s also a false conception to think that the uniqueness and/or randomness of your experience is going to carry or create (totally) the charisma of your story. It’s your voice and that’s what takes the longest time to develop. It took me a long time to figure that out. My experience of being Black, of being mixed, of being too educated for my own damn good, of coming from a fairly ridiculous family on all sides that includes everything from politicians, hoodrats, social activists, men in prison, businessmen and a (homeless) French Literature Ph.D – it’s definitely highly unusual, but not unheard of. For me, finding and figuring out my voice has been the journey of this odyssey. The Maroon family has been through 25 drafts (that I count) over the past three years, four short stories (can’t even begin to count those drafts) as I went through graduate school and different versions of my voice and the right voice for this project. Start now. It takes a while.
you, on your nights and weekends.
Figure out what your voice is. Voice is a combination of the technical devices that you use to tell your story, the cadence of your words and what you include or don’t in your writing. It’s pretty damn difficult to manage all of that, so don’t feel like a failure if your first draft is trash. Most are. You gotta work through it. But you know what helps you get through that? A theme. One that’s pretty much central to everything that I write is identity. The search for belonging and the pain of rejection are all central to our search for being connected. The search for identity is really the insecure kid inside of you asking, “Can I sit with you guys?” It’s hard to be vulnerable, to put yourself out there that raw. That’s where the verisimilitude protects you. Not only is it a device, it’s a shield. Use it, but not too liberally. Again, it’s all a magic balance.