Joy Wilkinson

Writer

Blog posts in total 10

Posts

  1. Killing Miss Marple

    How making Miss Marple’s Final Cases for Radio 4 helped writer Joy Wilkinson to recognise the value of the new and the old.

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  2. Joy Wilkinson on adapting the translation of the spin-off of a hit, without losing the plot.

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  3. Writer Joy Wilkinson blogs about writing her new BBC One daytime drama serial, Nick Nickleby, and the development process of modernising the classic Charles Dickens tale. 

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  4. On the subject of rapid responses (see Fiona's post below), the episode of Doctors that I blogged about writing here is on telly tomorrow. It's called The Flood and is my first proper serial-only episode. If anyone interested in writing for the show fancies watching it (obviously you're watching...

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  5. I'm working on my first Doctors two-parter. It's the first time for a while that I've had to redo a scene-by-scene (the document before the script, which says what happens, erm, scene by scene). There are a couple of reasons why the first draft failed to pass muster. Partly because I felt I knew...

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  6. Before writing drama, I used to edit a newspaper. On the first day of putting a new issue together, I'd get a flat-plan showing all the pages and how much space was taken up by ads. I remember the sense of relief when plenty had been sold and there weren't acres of space left to fill. And the pa...

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  7. In a slight deviation from writing directly about Doctors, I wanted to reply properly to some of the questions you asked on my last post. In essence these questions can be summarised as: "who on earth are you and what the devil are you doing here?" Excellent questions, as they're exactly what we...

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  8. Phew! That's the really hard part over with. However it turns out, watching your own stuff in any form can be uncomfortable, can't it? Like listening to a tape of yourself singing, instead of just blissfully warbling, unaware of how it sounds. So how did that episode [edit: this one for those who missed it] come about? Warning: this is long! Get yourself a cuppa The idea - JW_Doctors_CATCHING.pdf I often choose Michelle as my regular, because I find her fun to write and it can be easier to get her involved in people's predicaments as she's unafraid to stick her nose in. I can recommend starting with your regular and thinking about what story you want to write for them. They are the ones we watch the show for. I read somewhere that one of the best places to find ideas was to think about things that scare you. After I had my son, I was forever having terrors about him being alone in the house, helpless, so this was one of the sources of the idea. The medical aspect came from my son having conjunctivitis (very handy, these kids!). I put the two elements together and started working something up. It often helps to put more than one idea together. Sometimes an idea you're struggling with turns out to just be one moment in a bigger story, so don't be afraid to cross-fertilise. Initially, going straight for the obvious, it was about a mum, but that felt clichéd - do we really need to guilt-trip working mums again? So I switched to a dad. It instantly felt fresher. Changing a character to someone more unexpected can transform your idea, a tip I nicked from 'Alien', in which Ripley was originally a boring bloke. The ep was also going to be darker, with the dad having lied about his dead wife and suffering a full-on breakdown when he faces up to the fact that she left him. As it developed, that felt like a leap too far, and it also got a bit lighter because of... The serial - Doctors_serial_ep1.pdf I was excited to bag this episode because it had two good hooks that worked together well, and resonated nicely with my guest story. Sometimes you have to work harder to get the different elements to meld and to build a cliffhanger, but this episode already wanted to be written. The serial dictated some changes though. It was very much about couples, love stories. This made me focus more on Luke/Saskia as the heart of the guest story, rather than the parent/child aspect that had inspired it. It might seem like a lot of the work is done for you in the serial document, but there's also a good deal of room to take the beats and make them your own. For instance, I had to show Ruth's edginess, but how, if she couldn't tell anyone? I took the Easter egg hunt element and ran with it, filling her pockets with chicks and eggs. Likewise, the planetarium was a given, but what occurred was largely down to me. It went through a few incarnations and we ended up chucking out the 'tender confessions' because it felt better unsaid. This was just one of the changes that came in whilst I was... Writing the episode The episode went through a scene-by-scene treatment (around 6pp long) and four drafts before getting locked off for production. The big changes happened early. The main note I had to grapple with was getting the Luke/Saskia relationship right. In the original idea, it was quite vague about how close they were, but my producer quite rightly made me pin down what had happened in the past so that we knew what was at stake. It's a big thing on Doctors to know why the change has to happen to your character TODAY. The job interview and Aggie's conjunctivitis were driving the change TODAY, but if where Luke had to end up was in a relationship with Saskia, that had to be set up more clearly as a goal, even if Luke was blind to it to begin with. Other changes were more practical. The treatment included Saskia's house and Luke's interview, but my location count was getting out of control so I had to cut it down. That's okay. Working within boundaries can help you to be more creative. Another reason for the changes to the Simon/Will conversations was because Will's character was still evolving. It's tricky to nail the voice of a new character. Smithy was easier because he'd been in the show before. However we did change the hook, as it seemed OTT to have him looming like that. In fact, it felt more menacing for him to be gentle. That's one of changes I was pleased with in.... The final product Remember, we're only interested in the storytelling now - if I criticise something, it's my work I'm slagging, no one else's execution of it (for the record, I think they did me proud). So, what do we reckon? My first impression is that generally the serial worked better than the guest story. There was so much to set up in those first scenes - the interview, financial straits, frisson with Saskia - and I could probably have done a better job. Perhaps there was a more elegant way to relate it or perhaps there should just have been less to relate. I think the guest story caught light after that. The big moments seemed to work - Luke leaving Aggie alone, Michelle realising that, Luke cracking up. I also like that Michelle didn't help Luke initially. That felt like a nice change. I think I slightly laboured Saskia lying for Luke, and then rushed the resolution. The relationship angle got a bit lost. I wonder if deep down the parent/child story was still too central for the relationship side to really flower in the time and space we had. I haven't checked yet, but I think some of the story was cut and it does strike me now that the guest element may have been a touch too big for an episode with such strong serial. I felt the serial turned out well, the planetarium scenes especially. I'm really glad we left the actors to tell the story with their looks and the handholding. I also liked Smithy and Ruth, the switch from romance to it all falling apart, and the ominous burnt cake in the oven. I don't know if I was 100% successful in conveying Ruth's growing unease during the day. There may have been more cuts, but I might just have been too subtle. How might you have conveyed I? Perhaps perversely, I really loved the Zara and Charlie moments, which only had a secondary function, to support the stories and provide a little light relief. But then I do think it's easier for me to relax and enjoy the bits where there's less storytelling at stake. And more mucky jokes. Over to you Having banged on at inordinate length, I just want to add one final thing - this is a 'How It Was', not a 'How To' guide. In no way am I putting this up as a model episode to emulate. You have to do your own thing, it's the only way to get your voice heard. That's why it'll be interesting to hear how you'd have done it differently. Given this serial, what other ways would you have found to play it out? If this was your guest story, what changes might you bring to make it your own? You don't have to answer right now, or ever really. Just go scoff chocolate eggs and have a think about it, maybe have a scribble. And have a very happy Easter! [edit: in response to the request, here is the script CATCHING_script.pdf]

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  9. This is only my second post. Ideally I'd like to have waited till we knew each other a little better before making myself vulnerable like this, but I've got an episode on this week and it gave me an idea. If this blog is meant to be about writing for Doctors and hopefully helping us all to ge...

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  10. This is my first time blogging. It could be a beautiful thing, but more likely it'll be a mess, as most first times are. As my first Doctors script was. I say script because it never became an episode. It was a trial script that got roundly rejected. First times can suck. My trial was way back in the days when Mac ruled over the Riverside and Best Practices. The main doctor in my episode was to be Jude Carlyle. All I can recall of Jude is that she was Scottish and possibly rode a motorbike. There's one clue as to why my script didn't get made right there - I didn't know my lead character. In my defence, I hadn't much time to prepare. Like most aspiring writers, I had a day job and spent the rest of my waking hours scribbling. If I'd stopped to watch all the TV shows I might like to write for, I would never have got anything written. And this was in the pre-series-link era, where daytime shows would have needed taping specially. Every day. Suffice it to say, I had not watched much Doctors. But then a script for a TV pilot that I had sent to the BBC Writersroom put me in the running for Doctors. They sent me a pack with maps of the surgeries, character biogs and guidelines for how not to mess up my episode. I pored over them all avidly, watched a few episodes, and set to work on what I thought was a dynamite idea about a medical condition that surely hadn't been done on the show before. There's another big clue as to why it didn't get made. I started in the wrong place, with the medical condition. Obviously Doctors is about people with medical conditions. It is well-researched and you can learn a lot about various unpleasant lurgies that afflict its patients, but those patients have to be people, not petrie dishes. If they start life as a vessel for an illness rather than a story, it will show. But I didn't know that. So I wrote what I thought was a pretty good script about an old woman with an obscure eye condition that meant she could see things that weren't there. This was cunningly interwoven with a serial strand about Jude going on a blind date. Spot the resonance? If I'd wanted to be subtler, I could perhaps have had Jude wearing a big hat with 'RESONANT' written all over it. One of the things this old woman hallucinated was a cat. Now, if the script was amazing in all other ways, the producers just might have made their lives hell by adding a performing cat into the mix of hectic shooting schedules and strict budgets. But as my script was already fundamentally flawed, the presence of a cat in the cast list probably did not help its chances. I got a gutting letter. Thanks, but no thanks. Characters too thin. All the best. Bye bye now. Back to the day job. No need to tape Doctors any more. Purposely avoid it in fact. The fools! Except, when my sulk wore off, I started to watch it. Properly. Perversely spurred on by my rejection, I had finally taken the plunge of working part-time, and, with the pressure to watch Doctors gone, I actually began to enjoy following the stories and getting to know the characters. So when the first BBC Writers' Academy was announced, even though those skeletal characters still haunted me, I felt that now I was ready to have another crack. Years later, Mac and Jude are gone, and here I am, working on a new episode and blogging about writing for Doctors as if I know what the dickens I'm talking about. I don't really, I'm still learning - the current script is my first serial-only episode, more of which in a future post. But for now, that's enough. That's one good thing about first times, they tend to be over quickly.

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