Monday, September 24, 2007

What 'Heroes' Teaches About Editting

Last night Shane surprises me because he's bought Season 1 of Heroes. And so, of course, instead of working on my novel like I've planned all day, I decide that watching the show would be more fun.

After a little while, I definitely felt like I was watching way too much T.V. but I discovered something cool on the extras: the unaired pilot. We watched the actual pilot and then we watched the unaired pilot.

In the unaired pilot, the original radioactive man (remember Ted?) is a Middle Eastern character. That's probably the biggest change. And Parkman's whole beginning is rearranged around this Middle Eastern plot, not Sylar. Watching this, the flaws are obvious...not to mention a little too close to home and a little to 'current events' to make for a more universally appealing show. There were some parts I really liked--like the fact that radioactive dude was not a Unibomber rip off. I wish they could have kept the Middle Eastern flavor without the terrorist element--that would have made it more believable for me.

As a writer though, it was interesting to watch the edits going on.

I love Heroes and I think the creators made a fantastic, entertaining product. And they did that by editting. By looking at what worked/what didn't and deciding which way to go...in the end demanding more work from some of the actors (double-time for the guy playing Parkman) and completely scratching other characters. Big plot changes. Terrorists=gone. Serial killer Sylar=in. That involved budget makeovers, physical rewriting, and re-acting for the actors.

So, if T.V. shows can do all that, effecting so many people, why are so many writers scared to re-work their work? It doesn't involve firing people if you make a mistake...it requires the delete button on you computer. Just you and your work. Next time you're in a critique group, or you get your work back from someone you've asked to read it and they make suggestions that are fairly large. Don't freak out, please. Consider what they said. Try it out.

You may be brought back for a second season.

4 comments:

  1. I like your point. Yes, when we as writers have to do major edits, it can be intimidating. However, at least it's only one person going through it instead of a group of actors and a whole film crew.

    And, as an extra bonus, at least when we cut a character in novel/story/etc at least no one loses their job.

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  2. Jenny also liked a few lines that got cut from the pilot to the aired first episode, but I'd say 95% of the changes were spot on and very much for the better. Sylar was there in the pilot, but I think they recast him (he's just a shadow and a voice, but the voice is much deeper in the pilot).

    What I really liked was the added subtlety to some of the scenes. So most of the edits were about pulling back. Isaac doesn't cut off his arm (yeah, where the hell were they going with that one?).

    And some of the characters (Hiro, Niki except for a brief extended part with Micca that got cut, Peter and Nathan) were fully formed from the beginning. Other parts needed major cuts/reworking.

    I'm thinking the collaborative aspect of TV might help in the editing arena. Sure, too many cooks is bad. But more eyes mean more points of view and having a tight group who gets it seems like a big help. Writing and editing all alone has the problem of lacking perspective. That's why I think writing groups and writing circles can be such a powerful help for a writer. Finding and keeping such a group can be hard, but once you've found those people who like/love your writing and only want to make it better, well don't lose your own vision, but do try to listen. Writers in particular have a bad habit of staying too close to their own work. It's a whole forest for the trees kind of thing.

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  3. I have to say 'ditto'. Yes, there can be that initial knee-jerk reaction of wanting to argue. Yes, there can be disappointment when you realize they are right. Yes, it can be intimidating to tackle a big edit. But I have seen too many of my stories improve far beyond what I thought possible after taking good advice. Even though I'm not ready to tackle the edits for MMG right now, I know it will only make the book better in the end.

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  4. I remember.... After the first episode of Heroes, I sort of geeked out. I watched it with my mom, and I got really excited about it. She sort of gave me funny looks. She said, "Yeah, it's good. Is it that good, forsooth?"

    I tried to explain to her how good it was. She didn't seem to quite grasp what I was saying. I tried to explain how difficult it would have been to have written, for instance, that scene with Peter and his mom and his brother in the hospital, near the beginning. She didn't get it. She could just say, "Well...wasn't so clever." I tried for, like, twenty minutes to explain. Never quite worked.

    Anyway, sort of randomness here.

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