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 it all the time anyway, right?) and having a bit of a debrief, I'll be back on here to comment this Friday.

In particular, for those keen to write for the show, it might be most useful to imagine what you'd have done if all you had to go on were the central revelation between the two main characters. Sorry if that sounds vague, but after watching the ep it should hopefully be clear which revelation/characters I mean. So if that's the only bit of story info you knew you had to impart, how might you go about building an episode around it?

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  • Comment number 3. Posted by Marc George

    on 21 Oct 2010 10:27

    Hi Joy

    Hope you are well. Thank you for these posts, they are always insightful.

    I've finally managed to schedule some time to sit down and catch up on this - sorry for the delay. I watched 'The Flood' last week and took notes...

    The episode was was very refreshing in as much we got away from the patient central stories and was over all very good. There were some lovely and personal touches in there that I enjoyed. No, not Daniel in the shower...it didn't do much for me but I did enjoy Daniel advising Jeff to take time out for himself and Jeff's reactions. Was very touching.

    I loved that the dialogue was seamless and the story flowed.

    A few things I would have done differently (and please, I'm not being critical just putting it out there as part of this dialogue so apologies if I offend).

    The first and foremost was Zara hiding her HRT pills in her bra. I understand and accept it was a plot device however it was a cliche and didn't work for me. Instead, I would have had her being forthright with herself and getting to that point where she's showing the beginning of acceptance by putting the pills straight in her bag.
    Not hiding them anymore.

    I would have still kept her defences up by still hiding her secret but on the point of aggressiveness (It's been my experience that people in this situation can be damn right hostile).

    This would have 'ramped' up the tension/drama in the scene at Zara's office. Zara fronting up to Daniel to 'take a look in my bag' would have been more tense and given Zara more 'strength' and or balance the relationship between her and Daniel especially when Daniel refuses to look on the basis of trust.

    Sticking to Daniel and Zara, I disagree about having someone else at home with them when it came to Zara 'fessing up hut it worked and I can see why you felt that way.

    I would have stuck to the dinner date but what I would have done was make Zara be a complete bitch by taking her anxiety out on Cherry, causing the tension to build and boil up to the point where Zara and Daniel argue over it leading onto Zara's reveal.

    Zara and Daniel's scenes in both bathroom and bedroom were excellent, I really loved them. I wouldn't have had Zara storming out though I would have raised it a little more, letting Daniel try to convince Zara (but really himself) a bit more with Zara having none of it and really letting go.

    I also loved the scene between Jimmi and Cherry and their make-up and kitchen routines. I felt they set each other off very nicely. Really nicely written there.

    And that's my humble opinion.

    Anyway, thank you again for this whole process and I hope I've helped and or been constructive in some small way.

    This has really made me want to have a go myself...where do I sign up!

    Regards

    Marc

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  • Comment number 2. Posted by Joy Wilkinson

    on 14 Oct 2010 14:28

    Thanks for that, Nick. Very glad you didn’t spike it! I feared that I was tempting fate with my headline and could well end up talking to myself, so it’s nice to know people are out there, also avoiding working.

    Well. That was so different to watching a normal episode. Obviously I’ve watched lots of other people’s serial-only episodes and perhaps not even noticed that they were serial-only, but with my own, I’m so used to the patient being at the heart of the story that this felt like a different beast entirely. So it’s quite hard for me to take it apart and see what worked and what a writer Must Do Better Next Time.

    What I liked most (apart from Daniel in the shower, an essential bit of narrative I just couldn’t manage to cut!) was the same thing that I liked about writing it – getting to spend so much time with the regular characters. It felt like they had loads more room to breathe and let you know secrets about themselves, like Cherry’s bad cooking and Jimmi’s cleaning system, and, more tragically, Zara’s premature menopause and the depth of Daniel’s concern for her.

    As you’ve probably guessed, Zara’s was the key revelation that I was given to build the episode around. All I really knew was what had happened in the episodes leading up to this and that now was the time for the secret to come out. But how? Clearly it couldn’t be easy. Zara had held out for so long and wouldn’t come clean unless she absolutely had to. The pills were the plotty way to finally trap her into a confession, but the rest of the situation was pretty much up to me.

    For something so very intimate, it didn’t feel like the confrontation should be at work, but, to ramp up the pressure, they couldn’t be on their own at home either, hence the dinner party, with the happy coupling of Jimmi and Cherry on hand to make it as hard as possible for Daniel to make Zara tell the truth. The only place he could get her alone was the bathroom. And from there, the rest of the story grew, including the fate of poor Jimmi’s watch.

    Things to take away from it, for me, are less about botches I might have made and more about how to get that sense of character into the normal episodes where the guest stories dominate.

    I’ve said before that a good way into coming up with guest story ideas is to think about the regular character and what situation you’d like to see them in, rather than thinking first about a guest character or the medical issue they might have. More than ever, this serial-only experience has reminded me that the show lives or dies by our love for the regulars, so we’ve got to give them real time and thought and find story ideas that will reveal them to us afresh.

    Seems like a no-brainer, but you know what it’s like – you hear about a great disease or family trauma and before you know it, the doctor becomes an afterthought, doing what has to be done to push the story on. And then you (a.k.a. I) wonder why the idea gets rejected. So from now on, when I feel myself getting carried away, I’ll try to remember this episode. Perhaps a screengrab of Daniel in the shower will assist.

  • Comment number 1. Posted by Nick

    on 14 Oct 2010 13:28

    Hi Joy,
    whenever I read your posts, I write this, then decide it's far too embarrassing and spike it. Not today. Just wanted to say, i really enjoy your posts. They really are witty and very entertaining - i think they resonate because I too, am a regional newspaper hack, wondering if there's a job as enjoyable as this that doesn't involve the phrase 'we just need a flight of nibs'!
    Keep them coming, always a pleasure to read.
    Nick

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