Notes from the Pros
These "notes" were originally written as part of Bren's idea to have a "script-writing workshop" page. He was taking, or was going to take, a script-writing class. Some of what I wrote is redundant, now that I have the "Confidences" page here. However, I have it here as a matter of record and completeness. Lyle Padilla wrote the first TWY scripts on the web. All contributors' TWY-related pages are listed in Links. Notes are in chronological order.
Note 1. The basic stories behind my two WY scripts - Kyle 10/12/98
Note 2. Real-life story behind classroom scene where ROTC members including Kevin are compared to Nazis by other students - Lyle Padilla 10/14/98
Note 3. Formatting scripts - Kyle 10/14/98
Note 4. The Ins and Outs of Creating a WY Reunion Script by Example - Lyle Padilla 10/17/98
Note 5. Music in WY and Lyle's Continuation Scripts - Lyle Padilla 11/01/98
Note 6. Crash Course in Creative Thinking - Bren86 11/11/98
Note 7. My background as a writer - Kyle 11/25/98
Note 8. Behind the Scenes of "Salvation", a new reunion script - Kyle 11/26/98
Note 1 - "The basic stories behind my two WY scripts" - Kyle 10/12/98
I have written two scripts - "The Lost World" (an episode extension), and "Salvation" (a series re-union).
"The Lost World" was written to have Kevin lose his virginity, in no uncertain terms. It is not intended as an X-rated joke - it's not "X", anyway. It is a "dead-end" story, in that according to the actual TWY story-line, it never happened. I did try to minimize the "fall-out" through subsequent episodes. It ultimately gets deflated in episode #99 "White Lies", where the narrator says..."To me, they led forward, to that great unknown." (Unless, of course, the narrator white lied to all of us, as well!)
After being somewhat disappointed with the end of the series finale (for several reasons), particularly the narration regarding Winnie (for several reasons), the idea grew on me to "finish" episode #70, "The Lake" (coincidentally my favorite). I loved the episode ending as-is, but I saw the opportunity to extend it, if you will, to have Kevin lose his virginity. Also, by continuing all the way to Kevin facing his parents (and Wayne), I could mix in a good dose of drama with the comedic love-scene.
The second story, "Salvation", is a reunion story, based closely on the major points as set up from the series finale. It is about 2 hours long "on film", I guess. I focussed on what I see as the biggest problem from the finale - Kevin is married, yet writes to his long-time former (?) girl-friend. Hmmm! The basic object of this story was to have Kevin get over Winnie. And, although "Cara" appears in it, in this story, the incident in "The Lost World" had not happened. (Unless he lied to us all!)
Note 2 - "Real-life story behind classroom scene where ROTC members including Kevin are compared to Nazis by other students" - Lyle Padilla 10/14/98
Bren86's Note: The script Lyle refers to is "A Time to Kill, A Time to Heal", which can be found at Lyle's WY Scripts Page.
The scene in my script where the Political Science class is watching the German propaganda film TRIUMPH OF THE WILL while Kevin, Paul and Frankie Molina are in uniform, and then the three of them are compared to the Nazis just for being in ROTC, was taken straight out of real life. It was a very formative moment for me, an eye-opening experience about how anti-military the student population at my school had become, about how their prejudices and preconceived notions about the military had turned us into the pariahs of the campus while at the same time they claimed a self-righteous mantle of enlightenment and open-mindedness. The sheer hypocrisy of it has burned an indelible mark on my soul. That moment was also formative for another reason: in real-life there were two of us in uniform in that classroom; at the start of the class the other guy was just an acquaintance who was in that class and in ROTC with me; the bashing we faced together, being called Nazis and Fascists, started a bond between us so that over 23 years later we're still best friends. (The character of Frankie is essentially a composite of myself and him.) When I wrote the scene, he and I spent two nights on the phone (long distance between New Jersey and North Carolina where he was living at the time) reconstructing the dialogue from memory.
Note 3 - "Formatting scripts" - Kyle 10/14/98
Here's my thoughts about "formats". There are two types - the type to be read off the screen and the ones to be printed and read. In either case, I dislike the "metric" format. A) The BOLD NAME in the middle of a sentence is very distracting, and B) the characters are Jack and Norma, not MOM and DAD. that is why Wayne and Karen are not BRO and SIS. :-)
I write "all" my stuff in a hopefully readable format. In trancripts, I feel the notes of action (or non-action) are as important as dialog (especially for TWY irony or humor) to include it, even if "nothing" is happening. This includes most camera angles, also. It may bore some people, but for transcripts, I want them to be as complete as possible, and give a better "feel" of the episode.
The dialog I assemble into character "clips" is mainly to provide a better understanding of a particular character's contribution throughout the series, without having to wade through a half-dozen transcripts (with all those darn notes!). I minimize the notes to the basics, such as "(Cafeteria with Paul and Chuck)", etc.
Note: In transcripts, the dialog is identified by character name, while in the "clips", it is only color-coded (Kevin always cornflower-blue, and the particular character always red. I use a specific color for major characters - Paul is always "tan" for example, and Wayne is usually green, where possible, etc.)
Note 4 - "The Ins and Outs of Creating a WY Reunion Script by Example" - Lyle Padilla 10/17/98
I should point out that I had written a number of unpublished novels and short stories before starting my TWY scripts, and had learned to write in the screenplay format specifically for this task. I had initially considered writing the story in novel form, in the first person as though it were Adult Kevin's narrations from the series. One would think on first glance that that would be the most logical route to go, but as I thought it through, I came to the realization that we simply see much more in a TWY episode than Adult Kevin's narrations alone convey, and a first-person novel would have been too restrictive a medium. To put it in terms most people can relate to, Adult Kevin's narrations provided color commentary but NOT play-by-play. (In the longer version of my script, I do have Kevin actually writing a first-person narrative, as a device for launching the story.)
Regarding what inspired me to write my script, it was basically the convergence of several events and factors. As I've stated in the scripts entry page of my website and the introduction to the script itself, at the time the pilot episode of The Wonder Years first aired in 1988, there was another series on the air, also produced by New World Television and also depicting events twenty years in the past; that was Tour of Duty, which depicted the experiences of an infantry platoon in Vietnam; with the death and funeral of Brian Cooper in the first and second episodes respectively of TWY, I had always seen ToD and TWY as two sides of the same coin, i.e.
the battlefront and home front of the Vietnam War, and the idea of a combined Tour of Duty/Wonder Years episode became irresistible. Also, as a psychologist, there were two things that struck me about the way TWY addressed Winnie and the death of her brother: first, they only addressed the issue when it was a convenient plot device for them, such as her parents' separation and reconciliation in "How I'm Spending My Summer Vacation" and "On the Spot", and the subtle allusions to Winnie's own grief in "The Accident"; as a psychologist I thought that for the most part (i.e. outside those three episodes) Winnie was far too carefree a character to have experienced the loss she had; second, if we ignore the discontinuity with the rest of the series and focus on those three episodes, it's pretty clear that Winnie does have a lot of unresolved grief; in that sense she serves as a microcosm of America experiencing the trauma of Vietnam, and if we were to continue the Wonder Years storyline of Kevin and Winnie into the
mid-1970s, particularly depicting Winnie in college in 1975, it would be almost criminal negligence to NOT have her affected by the historical events of that time and have her serve as a microcosm of America coming to terms with the Vietnam experience. (As I have the Narrator saying at the end of the script, "It would be years before the wounds of Vietnam would be
healed across the nation.... But for Winnie Cooper and her parents, the healing began that Spring of 1975....")
As it was, it didn't start out as a Reunion script, at least for TWY; I tarted the first draft back in 1991 while the series was still in production, shortly after I saw "The Accident" episode. I thought that the series would last through 1975 with Kevin and Winnie in college (in the book by Edward Gross about the series, one of the production crew was quoted half-jokingly about it lasting until the start of the Disco era), and wrote a short first draft for a special one hour episode, possibly the series finale. I started it as a combined Wonder Years/Tour of Duty as I had always kicked around the idea (and in that sense it would have been a
Tour of Duty Reunion as that series went off the air in 1990), with ToD's Lieutenant Myron Goldman turning up as a Captain and an ROTC instructor at Kevin's and Winnie's college. As the story evolved, I began to realize that there were things about the background of the character of Myron Goldman that didn't quite line up with the story, so I had to create the new
character of "Mad Tom" Ward in his place, albeit a character very similar to Myron Goldman with the same actor (Stephen Caffrey) in mind to play him, and also with other cast members from Tour of Duty in mind to play other military characters. (The "Mad" part of his nickname is a salute to one of the ROTC instructors at my college whom we affectionately referred to as
"Mad Al". For more information about the origin of the name of Thomas Ward, please see .) When in the Fall of 1992 it was announced that the 92-93 season might be the last for The Wonder Years, I expanded the script into a 2-hour reunion movie, backing the story up to around the time of Kevin's and Winnie's graduation from
high school. I refused to let the actual series finale ending sink my efforts, and with a little creativity and fine-tuning I not only found a way to accommodate that ending but turn it into something that made Kevin and Winnie more determined to stay together for college. I'll let each individual reader judge the merits of my device for himself or herself.
Note 5 - "Music in WY and Lyle's Continuation Scripts" - Lyle Padilla 11/01/98
Although there have been a few instances of musical anachronism in "The Wonder Years", for the most part the music selections were one of the series' greatest strengths. One of the "hooks" that addicted me to the series was the use of CRIMSON AND CLOVER by Tommy James and the Shondells in the episodes "Dance With Me" and "Don't You Know Anything About Women?", because I can actually remember dancing to that song at a Junior High School dance in 1968 myself. (It's not one of my favorite songs, but I remember it well!) Few things can mentally transport a person back to a specific moment in time as quickly and effectively as the right song, and
that was one thing The Wonder Years almost always did well. With that in mind, I was very conscious and careful about which songs I selected in my script; in that respect I was very fortunate that there were quite a few songs that not only conveyed the mood I wanted but fit the timelines of 1974-75 perfectly.
Chronologically, the first of these songs in my script was ERES TU by Mocedades, but there was something else remarkable about that song that warrants a later, more detailed discussion. Next was the song BEACH BABY by First Class, which I have as background for Kevin's and Winnie's last fling at the beach before leaving for college; although it has a decidedly Retro-1960s Beach Boys flavor, this is a song near and dear to the hearts of many of us who graduated from high school in 1974, especially those of us from states like New Jersey that have beaches; it evokes perfectly the mixed emotions of graduating from high school, the carefree atmosphere of
summer love at the beach, and the melancholy realization that the carefree life is only temporary. Olivia Newton-John's first #1 hit, I HONESTLY LOVE YOU, is next; we hear it as Kevin helps Winnie move into her college dorm with her believing that he is soon leaving to go to school elsewhere; again, not only does it perfectly evoke the plaintive mood of a tenuous,
uncertain love situation, but it was the top pop song in September 1974 and one I heard frequently and will always associate with my first days of college life. Next, to bridge the time gap in the story between the Fall of 1974 and the Spring of 1975, I picked the somewhat nonsensical but upbeat LIFE IS A ROCK by Reunion; this now long-forgotten work, which was on the top ten charts the longest of any song in the Fall and Winter of '74, is a rapid-fire recitation of the names of several pop music artists with a brief and simple refrain; to say that Billy Joel's 1989 hit WE DIDN'T START THE FIRE was obviously heavily influenced by this earlier work would be an understatement.
As I mentioned, the first of these songs to appear chronologically was ERES TU by Mocedades, but there is something even more than chronological and mood appropriateness to it. I first need to mention here that the group Mocedades was from Bilbao, Spain, and that the song ERES TU was completely in Spanish but was a top mainstream hit in the Winter and Spring of 1973-74
despite the fact that few people knew what the lyrics meant. I later learned that it was a simple love poem ("You're the water in my fountain.... You're the fire in my hearth.... You're a guitar playing in the night...."). Still not certain what the lyrics were at the time, again
because of the longing and plaintive mood the melody evoked, I nevertheless inserted it in my script. I inserted it in the scene where, basically, I "undo the damage" of the original series ending and turn it into something that makes Kevin and Winnie even more determined to stay together. Here's the eerie part: after I had completed the script and after I had posted it
on the web, I learned that the original 45 RPM vinyl release of ERES TU consisted of a Spanish version on one side and an English version on the other but that the Spanish version nevertheless became the hit. After a little more research and digging, I found first the lyrics of both versions and then the record itself. I found out that the English version was NOT
simply a translation of the Spanish lyrics but a completely different song with the same melody. I was FLOORED when I read the English version! Keep in mind the scene where I had inserted the song; the English version begins:
I woke up this morning and my mind fell away
Looking back sadly from tomorrow
As I heard and echo from the past softly say
"Come back, come back! Won't you stay?"
And the last verse goes:
Only forever shall I say, "I love you!"
And only forever have I lost you
But only a dreamer can wake up as I do
And hope it's still yesterday
Pretty wild, huh?
The other songs I selected were not contemporaneous to the time settings of the scenes in which they are used, but I was careful to ensure that they pre-dated those scenes so as not to commit any errors of anachronism. (More later on the actual musical anachronisms that appear in the series episodes.) Again they were generally selected to convey a message, as was most of the music in the actual series. The first of these is COME AND GET IT by Badfinger. Kevin listens to and sings along with this as he drives home following the interview with the board of officers for his Army ROTC scholarship; I picked this particular song although it was a little older - circa 1970) not just because of the lyrics, but because of a long-forgotten inside fact: the US Air Force actually used this song as background for a radio commercial for their ROTC scholarship program!
Another song was BAD MOON RISING by Creedence Clearwater Revival, heard as background music as the Peace Rally approaches and the tension between Kevin and Winnie builds up. This is an older, classic folk-rock song from the late '60s, but the perfect song for conveying "trouble on the way!"
I close the shorter version of the script with ONE TIN SOLDIER by Coven, heard as background music as we see footage of the fall of Saigon and then see Winnie introducing her parents to Mad Tom and his family. This song is originally from the soundtrack of the 1971 movie THE TRIAL OF BILLY JACK; basically anti-war in its sentiments, I'm pretty sure it was written about
the Black Hills and the massacre of the Sioux at Wounded Knee, but if you stand the equation on its head it applies to the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong raping and slaughtering South Vietnam as well. In the longer version, I also include TIE A YELLOW RIBBON by Tony Orlando and Dawn. Although written in 1973, it enjoyed a revival during the Persian Gulf War (although I have nearly the same disdain for it that Kevin and Dave "Wart" Wirtschafter have in the script!). I should also mention SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON, an old traditional US Army marching song, especially revered by cavalrymen and tank crews. Mad Tom leads the cadets in singing it as they
march in from their field exercise, and then in the longer version Kevin plays a recording by Mitch Miller on his boom box to drown out TIE A YELLOW RIBBON as B Company leaves for Fort Hood. (Mitch Miller is the same guy seen with his chorus singing "Paddlin' Madeline Home" on TV in the "Rock 'n' Roll" episode.)
Of course, heard throughout the scripts at selected times (as it is in the actual series) is TURN! TURN! TURN! by The Byrds. For those who are not religious or are otherwise unaware, the lyrics are originally from Chapter 3 of the Book of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament, and convey the trials and triumphs of life itself as does the series; of course, the title of the
longer version of my script, A TIME TO KILL, A TIME TO HEAL, comes from this same Biblical passage turned folk song. [As an aside and alluded to earlier, some controversy has arisen in the chatroom, mailing list and newsgroup discussions of The Wonder Years over certain musical anachronisms in the series itself; the most frequently discussed is the use of WE'VE GOT TONITE by Bob Seger, released in 1978 but used in the closing scene of the episode "The Accident" which takes place in 1971. Similarly, the episode "Buster, or The Big Fix", also from the
same season and set in 1971, uses LEAN ON ME by Bill Withers, released in 1972. In defense of the writers and directors, however, it can be argued that we do not actually hear these songs BEING PLAYED in 1971, but hear them as background music for the Narrator's present-day reminiscences and therefore these are not true anachronisms. The one true musical anachronism
I did catch, however, was a pretty egregious one: in the episode "Alice in Autoland," set in 1973, Alice Pedermeir and Chuck Coleman dance to SLOW DANCING by Johnny Rivers, referring to it as "our song". It was released in 1977.]
Note 6 - "Crash Course in Creative Thinking" - Bren86, 11/11/98
As I sit down to write this tutorial, I can't help but feeling that perhaps there are those wondering, "Since when was Bren86 an expert on scriptwriting?" Truth is, I'm not an expert, I don't think. I do think that I come up with good creative ideas; my problem most times is procrastinating on developing those ideas further. Usually, a few weeks go by and I forget the brainstorm I had and become irritable upon losing "the great idea". The purpose of this tutorial is to 1) help you, the reader, develop or improve upon the creativity of your verbal ideas, 2) help you to remember and elaborate upon those ideas, and 3) develop a rough plan for your idea. Although this set of webpages will eventually deal specfically with scriptwriting, especially scripts for "The Wonder Years", this first tutorial will deal with general ideas and creativity, so that you can branch out on your own.
As it turns out, whether you realize it or not, every person has their own untapped creativity. Many times we realize our desire to create something of a specific nature but just lack the means to fulfill that goal. For me, my current creative "urge" is to create Windows computer programs. I am frustrated because I don't know much at all about Windows programming. No doubt you have the urge to "create" something yourself, even if it's just creating a better way of doing a task. At one time, I knew absolutely nothing about HTML, the language of the World Wide Web. I now consider myself to be quite accomplished at it, but all along I was improving month by month. Becoming good at any advanced process such as scriptwriting or computer programming takes months of practice. For example, think about how long it took you to learn how to tie your shoes. With that in mind, let's look at some basic elements of life that push our brains to be creative.
Like almost all animals, we adapt to our environments based on our previous experience. In writing, we are affected by previous works we have read or viewed.
1) We want to have more of what we enjoy.
Well, duh! We eat ice cream, we like it, we eat some more. In writing, the same holds true. If we like certain elements of a mystery story, if at some later point we decide to write a mystery story our decisions are partially shaped by the knowledge of what we liked in the mystery story we read before. In terms of The Wonder Years, it's easy to see how our brain craves more of elements of an episode that we enjoy. We see an episode where Kevin kisses Winnie romantically after an argument earlier in the episode, and our brain says, "boy, I hope there's another episode like this one." And of course, the writers of TWY could sense what viewers liked and the theme of Kevin arguing with Winnie and then getting back together with a long kiss is repeated throughout the series.
2) We identify with others' experiences.
In today's media, we are bombarded by human interest stories, simply because the population at large is attracted to people undergoing strong emotions. We see news stories about victims of terrible diseases and how their families react to it. We are told by TV magazine programs how to tell if our car might potentially cause us to be killed. Partially, we want to learn how from others how to deal with our own lives. Mostly, though, we humans are just attracted to sensationalized accounts of events that have happened many times in the history of man. For example, abortion has gone on since the Middle Ages as far as I can tell. In terms of TWY, I for one am very touched by the moment in the episode in "Denial" where Kevin hugs his dad as he starts to cry and Kevin's dad says, "Wish I could tell you it gets easier". I enjoy it because it has happened in my own life. When writing, you want to make your story accessible to people of many different backgrounds. You can see in many elements of The Wonder Years that they strived to make the show relevant and entertaining to many different age groups, nationalities, and even regions within the US (i.e. we never see where Kevin lives definitely, the show includes African-American students when in real life schools were just beginning to integrate, and certainly the fan base currently reflects many groups of society).
3) We are persuaded by what others do and say.
Everyone has seen this at least in their childhood if not even still in the present. When a classmate has a way of dressing that we like, the next time we buy clothes our choices usually go along with the same tastes we admired in our classmate's style. The same thing goes for speech. When a catch phrase like Bart Simpson saying "Eat my shorts" or Dirty Harry saying "Go ahead, make my day" comes into existence, we ourselves start to say it in our own conversations, whether we are serious or only jokingly imitating someone with a memorable line. In WY this can be seen especially in the earlier episodes. In one of the early episodes where 7th grade Kevin is going to his first dance, he stands before the mirror in the bathroom trying on different outfits and speaking in different ways that would make someone think he is a person of a certain type (a "greaser", "preppy", and a just plain cool boy). Now of course we soon see that Kevin is none of those types in reality, but apparently Kevin thought people would not find him interesting in his real persona as the boy-next-door. Kevin later has initial skepticism when he first meets some of Karen's hippie friends because of the way they dress and speak. So to sum up, the way people dress and speak directs the way we think creatively in that we are somewhat reluctant to go against the opinion of group of people whose opinions we care about, and it holds true whether we are doing art, writing, or any other task that requires some creative planning on our part.
4) Our mood is affected by our senses.
This is a basic truth of life, but I am mentioning it here primarily to point out how well it works within The Wonder Years. Think about a time recently that made you happy. OK, now what was it that made you happy? Most likely that state of happiness was caused by something you saw or heard or experienced with some sense. When we hear music that is pleasing to our senses, it has the power to excite us, calm us, and make us happy. If someone shows us a picture of a sunny day as seen from the peak of a mountain, we become happy simply because what is in front of our eyes is of immensely beautiful. Almost everyone can remember feeling the sensation of having a lump in your throat when something happens to you or you see something happening that makes you want to cry. Likewise, we experience a horrible feeling of repulsion when we see a particularly disgusting act such as those in horror movies, before our eyes or hear a badly performed song on the radio. In WY, a lot of our enjoyment of the episodes are based on an image we see or something we hear. For example, a person might see "Madeline" or "Jeff" appear on the screen and feel happier than they might've been watching the previous scene. Also, scenes in which Kevin grows closer to his father or brother are named as reasons why many people enjoy an episode. TWY also uses pleasing music to aid our enjoyment. Hearing a song with a great melody like "Tears of a Clown" or "Crimson and Clover" or great lyrics like "We've Got Tonight" or "In My Life" helps us to empathize with the characters on the screen and remind us of similar times in our own life. So when we set out to create something ourselves, we more than likely attempt to create something that is pleasing to our senses, in the case of writing for TV, something that is aimed at our senses of sight and sound. The argument could be made that even people who read the closed-captioning for an episode of TWY because they are unable to hear receive pleasure out of associating mental images within their minds with the text and dialogue that they read on the screen.
The last section I want to talk about is what our goals in thinking creatively are, or in simple terms, why we desire to create something. Again, there are probably more than three goals in thinking creatively, but I chose what I thought were the three most common reasons. Specifically, I am talking about why we need to create something rather than why we want to create something. There is a difference. We may want to write a song or movie so we will become famous stars and earn lots of money. When we need to think creatively, it is because we are mentally forcing ourselves to create due to some complex process of our brain that makes us feel bored if we aren't creating something. For example, I could paint a picture of a river because of some inner need to express myself in that way. In that case, I am not especially concerned with who sees the painting, how much money someone purchases it for, or how popular I become - I am creating something for my satisfaction. I call this "ingenuity from necessity" since it mirrors the same motivation people have in inventing things like an electric powered car.
1) We think creatively to remove difficulty in a process.
Let's use a real-life problem to show this. Pretend that the pencil sharpener hasn't been invented yet and you and other students at a school have been sharpening pencils with pocket knives. If you've ever tried to sharpen a pencil with a pocket knife, you know it takes several minutes to sharpen a pencil, and it still probably doesn't write too well. So one day you become frustrated at taking so long to sharpen a pencil so you sit down and think up a device that makes the task of sharpening pencils easier and quicker. We needed to do something easier, and so we thought creatively to solve our problem. In TWY, you have to look a bit but there are examples. The characters sometimes think creatively to work out their problems. Kevin convinces Paul to have a party and invite Winnie so that Kevin's imagined task of "winning back Winnie" to be his girlfriend would be easier than, alternatively, doing something awkward and tough like calling her on the telephone. Kevin and his friends find Mr. Collins' math class difficult so they make up and participate in a way to make better grades on the math tests. They succeed for a while. This goal can also be viewed in another way, as in how the writers and producers of the show went about getting the viewer to make a conclusion or feel an emotion about or from the episode. I like to point out the episode "Double Double Date" as an example. A quick summary if you haven't seen it: "Kevin likes the Swedish exchange student and Winnie likes a new guy. All four go on a double date, and Kevin and Winnie end up arguing the entire time." (from the N@N episode guide) The question the writers might have asked is: How do we go about creating a conflict between Kevin and Winnie that ends up driving them to get back together romantically? The answer used: make them ask each other to introduce them to their potential dates for the dance, and then end up having them go together in the same car on a double date. Not only that, but make their respective dates attractive but not really all that smart or with any qualities that Kevin and Winnie admired in eachother. So in your writing, or your creative processes, it is a good idea to think of unique and interesting ways of accomplishing something, preferably something that has not been seen before commonly.
2) We think creatively to persuade someone.
This is similar to thinking creatively to solve a problem, but is concerned more with changing or reinforcing attitudes and emotions in persons you value. If you are fond of someone, you might make them a picture of something that you think will make them happy. You might write a letter to influence a public official to do something you would like he or she to do. You might write a song to persuade people to be more open towards a part of culture you support. In TWY as in life, there are many examples when Kevin and others think creatively to persuade someone. After angering Winnie in "She, My Friend, and I" Kevin tries to get Winnie to like him again by making a Valentine for her. Paul does the same for Carla, much to the disgust of then girl-hater Craig Hobson. Both Paul and Kevin are successful in persuading their Valentines to like them again (even though in the process Kevin incurred the wrath of Becky Slater and set up a later display of ferociousness from Becky, but that's another issue). To think of another example, we can look to Norma making pottery in "Pottery Will Get You Nowhere" to show her husband Jack that she is a woman who possesses and deserves to have more hobbies and interests besides taking care of three men all the time. Again, this concept can also be thought about from a TWY writer or producer perspective. Episodes like "Pottery Will Get You Nowhere", "Let Nothing You Dismay", and "Little Women" could possibly influence viewers to accept more openly and encouragingly the view that women can and should share traditional male roles in society. An episode like "Coda" might display to viewers the value of performance arts like piano and the long-term enjoyment we can get from them. I know that sounds a bit odd, but I don't believe that's stretching the tone of the episode much at all.To sum up, in arts, especially writing, to effectively convince someone we should work hard at persuading them in a creative manner.
3) We think creatively when we are not stimulated enough.
Have you ever felt bored in the afternoon? Often times when we are bored it is because we felt like we have seen all the movies and read all the books and that there is nothing on TV. This isn't so, but our brain is sending us signals that we need some sort of sensual stimulation, whether it leads to fun or trouble. In fact, many prisoners in solitary confinement often suffer from sensory deprivation, the condition where the brain becomes stale from not receiving enough input from senses such as sight and sound (as in not being able to see anyone or talk to anyone). So think back to when you're bored. To try to snap out of being bored, we often create our own devices to interest us. We may draw a picture, write a story, or build a model airplane. If you've ever played with blocks or Legos and constructed a structure from your own imagination, you've thought creatively to stimulate your imagination. In TWY, examples of this are a bit blurry but I'll try to think of a couple. In "The Phone Call", Kevin has to use his brain to come up with motivation for himself to call Lisa Berlini on the telephone and to know what to say to her to keep her interested in talking with him. In "Rock 'n' Roll", Kevin joins a band and plays music (though badly) after he hears Larry playing the guitar and wishes he could play the guitar. In the episode "Odd Man Out", Kevin and Doug are bored and have to create something for themselves to do, though this is stretching it a bit. Even though it's not readily visible in TWY, creating something to entertain or benefit oneself is an important factor in why we have the desire to think creatively. In writing, an author tries to create unique stories that will interest his readers, who may be tired of a typical type of story or plot events. It's very important to note that to be recognized and appreciated for your creations, it's vital to include elements in your creation in a way that your audience has rarely seen before. For example, we enjoy styles of music we have never or rarely heard before. It interests us because it is not like the music we may have grown tired of to some degree. So to sum up, when creating something you want to make sure your creation will interest the senses of other people, instead of creating something that just continues to bore them. Consider what is pleasing to the senses of sight and sound in the opinion of your target audience.
Well, that's it for how and why we think creatively. Next time I will write about how we can go about brainstorming for ideas behind our creations, elaborate on those ideas, and remember those ideas well enough to make projects with them when we get spare time.
Note 7 - "My background as a writer" - Kyle, 11/25/98
I'm not a writer, but I've written two TWY scripts. My past writing experience was about 20 years ago, in a junior-college creative-writing class. When my teacher asked each of us why we were taking the class - or what we wanted to write, I forget the specifics - I explained that I just needed the units, and I had no desire to write anything at this time - "maybe when I'm fifty", I said (I was ten years early). Luckily, my teacher thanked me for my honesty, and I ended up being in the top of the class. I must admit that I don't think I learned much, except a hundred alternative ways to say "he said" - our first assignment.
Whatever "skills" I have for writing, I attribute to a few things. First, is my mom. She was an English-minor in college (though she got a Ph.D. in marine botany - "seaweed".) She always would correct my grammar, spelling, and pronunciation. She oriented me toward "words" at an early age. As an example, she would type a paragraph of "garbage", and I would pick out any words I could make from it - the cheap form of Find-a-Word. Second, I read a lot. I read the dictionary and encyclopedias, and other books - for fun. Crossword puzzles were big, too. I think the more you read, the easier writing will be - though not necessarily painless - because you have a frame of reference. Another factor, at least as far as these two scripts go, is that my personal type of humor is very similar to TWY humor. Other tangible examples of this humor are rare: Mark Twain's "Letters from the Earth", essentially a satirical take on religion and man's folly through the eyes of Gabriel; Vladimir Nabokov's "Lolita", a wildly comic, wildly tragic, one-sided love story (this is also my "best" book for pure writing style, IMHO); and the movie "Dr. Strangelove", a farce concerning World War III between the US and USSR during the Cold War era, in which Peter Sellers has three parts (would have had 4 roles if he didn't break his ankle).
Note 8 - "Behind the Scenes of "Salvation", a new reunion script for TWY" - Kyle 11/26/98
I hope anyone reading this page has already read my scripts. I feel reluctant to "spoil it" for anyone who hasn't. If you want to read them first, go here.
In a way, writing a TWY script is made easy for us. We have the benefit of 115 episodes to use as examples of how particular characters speak and behave. The hard part is putting them in an interesting, believable story.
I didn't like the finale narration about Winnie - at all. It didn't make sense to me. As a result, I wrote "The Lost World" in which Kevin loses his virginity - funny, yet serious.
Having written that story, I felt more confident to try a "reunion" story. To be honest, I wasn't sure I could develop a workable story based on the series finale. It seemed to me that Cara was the obvious choice as the significant other and the set-up from "The Lake" is perfect. Cara is my favorite of "Kevo's women". I didn't want to portray her as trampy, as some others have perceived her. I was reluctant to have her "do it", but somebody had to take charge and obviously it couldn't be Kevin. I tried to make the love scene believable, yet have the obvious comedic moments. Of course, it's not X-rated, but how do you write about sex, yet not? In this case, I turned the camera away from them, trying to distance the viewer, at least, from the heavier action. In fact, during the actual "scene", I wanted to give the impression that the camera would have tapped its foot, or looked at its watch, much like a third person listening to a long, one-sided, telephone conversation - just waiting for it to hurry up and end.
Of course, no good deed goes unpunished, so I wanted Kevin to have some grief. Obviously he was going to catch hell from Jack - for running out, at least. I shifted the confrontation about Cara from Jack to Wayne for better humor. The ending narration was a problem for a while. Most TWY episodes have some seed of wisdom. In this case, I don't know if there is any - other than using a condom. No one forgets his or her first sexual partner, so I just left Kevin wondering about her.
For the reunion, the major decision was selecting Kevin's wife. I felt if she was unknown, no one would like her - just because she was not Winnie. Again, Cara was the obvious choice. Not only do I like Cara the best, I think she was the most compatible with Kevin. I portrayed her as a "wonder-wife" as much as possible - Cara had it in her. Fortunately, there was key flash-back material to support some critical points of the plot.
My initial concepts were: 1) Paul dropping the "bomb" about the drive-in and lake. 2) Kevin and Cara having fun jet-skiing, to set up the relationship. 3) Kevin telling Winnie his future is with Cara. 4) Winnie telling Kevin that "Cara is pretty wonderful, too". 5) Kevin "backfiring" with Cara. 6) Jack speaking the single line of voice-over, and 7) Kevin buying the house...for a buck. Although buying the house violates the finale narration, I don't care. I consider it a blooper - one of many in the series.
I must admit Winnie gave me the most trouble. She was never predictable in the series because she was a reactive character to whatever Kevin did. She didn't see her parents in eight years? Strange. I vaguely hinted she may have wanted to be with Kevin, if he wanted her, but I showed that she "got over it", if she needed to. I linked her to the Becky incident to show she had some sense of humor and playfulness. I think that scene leveled the field between them. If she had just left that night, after the dinner, it might be inferred that she didn't get over it. I wanted them to be friends. Of course, the Becky incident was Cara's idea, via Paul, to keep Kevin in line, although playfully.
I think the first scene I wrote was Kevin's grabbing Cara in the kitchen - probably because that's what I would want to do :-) Next was the "porch" scene with Winnie, followed by the morning bedroom scene with Cara. I tweaked it here and there, whenever I could figure something out, or got inspired. I just tried to think "logically" and amplify some elements. Cara's "likewise" at the end started out being part of a narration from the airport parking lot. I was trying to do one of those "same word, multiple speaker" things. It didn't work. And that's when it hit me - I had the little ending (her typing it in his story) amid the bigger ending (they are obviously happy together).
I wondered how to "start" the story. At first I was going to write something about Kevin's college and job, but it was too unwieldy and, frankly, too much work. I skipped all of that. It's not really important, in the long run. Because Fred is an English major, I decided to make it an uncompleted English assignment. I have the idea Kevin never finished college (at least on the first try). I feel he dropped out when Jack died, to help with the house and family, then got married and just started, well - working. This story is the conclusion of his unfinished assignment. I struggled with the circumstances of Kevin and Cara's meeting - I couldn't come up with a suitable occupation for Kevin. I finally made him a traveling salesman so he could be out and around to "accidently" meet Cara. I was happy with that choice, as appropriately, Kevin had the gift of gab that, among other things, makes a successful saleman.
I tried to include as much of the actors' "real life" as possible. I knew, at the outset, I would have Cara quit smoking. During the time I was writing the story, I read an article about Danica mentioning she did an anti-smoking PSA - "Hi, I'm Danica McKellar. I played Winnie on The Wonder Years. I don't smoke, and you shouldn't either." (Don't quote me.) I used that PSA in the story as the basis for Winnie to congratulate Cara for quitting. I used other real events, such as Josh going "Ivy League" to become a lawyer. As Vladimir Nabokov wrote, "you need real toads in your imaginary garden."
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