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Screenwriting Help E-Mail (Previous)

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This week's question: 

DcH, I’m thinking of writing a Christmas Special for next year.  Do you have any advice?

Delron in Kentucky


This week's Answer: 

A "Special" Script

Delron, I appreciate you contacting me during this holiday point in time (“holiday time” is apparently no longer politically correct.  And Santa is no longer fat, but, rather, he’s “bowl not full of jelly”-challenged, in case you were wondering, which you were probably not.

My first piece of advice is that you’re already on the right track.  It’s wise to not be considering writing a Christmas special for this year.  This will give you much more time to write it, sell it, and allow it to be produced in time for it to be aired before Christmas – which it already is (or was).  That’s a sound strategy.

For a screenplay about Christmas to make it through the studio gauntlet, where studio execs dressed in dark, elf costumes that have writer’s-death-knoll bells on them, which jingle merrily as Christmas special script after script dashes past them in a one-horse open hearse (not to paint a bleak picture or anything like that), it must have certain elements.

Certain Elements a Christmas Special Script Must Have To Make It To The Tube

1.  A poor, pitiable, pitiful, innocent, brave child, who isn’t having all that much fun especially days before Christmas

2.  A benefactor, someone who could help the poor, pitiable, pitiful innocent, brave child, who isn’t having all that much fun especially only days before Christmas – but doesn’t until the end (Sorry.  I didn’t mean to give it away.)

3.  Someone who is the leading part who is less pitiful than the poor, pitiable, pitiful, innocent, brave child who isn’t having all that much fun especially days before Christmas, but who also isn’t having a great time especially only days before Christmas.  And when the two meet or the lead sees from a distance this poor, pitiable, pitiful innocent, brave child, who isn’t having all that much fun especially only days before Christmas, his or her heart (the heart of the lead, not the heart of the poor pitiable, pitiful. innocent brave child who isn't having all that much fun especially only days before Christmas -- and a partridge and a pear tree) is moved (and so is ours.  This moment is the first “Reach For Tissue” plot point).

4.  Someone who scowls a lot and doesn’t believe in Christmas and likes to cause trouble for people who do – and probably had a rough childhood when he or she didn’t have very nice Christmas experiences.  Sometimes this Christmas Villain has a meaningful experience where he/she faces his own meanness and buried sadness and often transforms into the Benefactor (which producers like because they have one less actor they have to pay).  This is often the last plot point of “He Really Was A Nice Guy All Along And He Really Does Care And He’s Going To Help The Child,” which necessitates extra boxes of tissues to be quickly dispersed.

5.  Moments that are so saccharine and schmaltzy in the story that you normally would not swallow (or even watch), but, because it’s Christmas, you are truly “touched” by them.

6.  A star somewhere in the sky that the director likes to shoot a lot.

7.  Snow or fake snow or something that looks like snow.

8.  Christmas music or music that sounds like it could be Christmas music in the beginning and at the end and usually throughout the ordeal.

9.  No matter how ridiculous and unbelievable the plot is, it always ends on a positive note, uplifting us all and giving us hope that one day, possibly far in the future, but one day, nonetheless, our world will have become so elevated and transformed by these wonderful, magical stories that...

 ... we won’t need any more Christmas specials.

  DcH

 


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