Wednesday, July 24, 2013

We all have a favorite episode...

We all have favorite episodes of our favorite shows, right?

Like in Big Bang Theory, where the guys have to camp out in line at the movie theater to see the re-release of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, with the so many seconds of extra footage at the end, but they end up not making it to the line in time to get in, so Sheldon, who grows tired of saying "I told you so" switches to "I informed you thusly" and ends up stealing the movie reels and running through town with an angry mob behind him...

Or like the Friends episode where Rachel gets the recipe pages stuck together, and makes half a Shepherd's Pie and have a dessert parfait....lady fingers and beef...bahahaha.

Or the episode of Gilmore Girls where Rory and Logan jump from the secret society platform in fancy clothes and umbrellas...

Yeah. We all have favorites :)

So, "episode" can be a good thing. But in your writing, if you ever see your editor or agent or critique partner use the word "episodic", watch out. That's NOT a good thing. :)

Episodic writing is, essentially, a scene that does nothing to move the story forward. I've been called out on this before from my Love Inspired editor in days past, and it took me a bit to catch on. Because to us, our characters are real, and they live and move and breathe. So it's really easy to just hang out with them on the page and maybe have them do something cute or funny or even dramatic, You know what I mean!! You've done it! :)

Now, that method of writing is fine when you're in the rough draft stage, and you're maybe trying to get to know your characters better. Sometimes having them banter back and forth or randomly go play a sport or go to the mall or something can help you learn more about them. That's GREAT! Just be sure to delete that "fluff" before you submit to a professional.

If you're not sure if a scene is episodic or not, ask yourself these questions.

Does this scene have a purpose in my overall plot line?
If I take this scene out, will there be any detriment or confusion to the reader at any point?
Does this scene reveal my character's motivation, goal, or conflict for the story?

If you have any questions about this, shoot!

And share some of your favorite TV episodes in the comments, just for fun!!  :)


  1. I've been trying to work on this area, although I noticed many of the classical authors used to do a bunch of episodic scenes. Strange how they were so popular, yet our modern rules will not allow us to do the same thing.

    Favorite episode? Maybe "Convicts at Large" from the Andy Griffith show.

  2. Oh the episodic scenes I've cut! Initially, 20k words (ouch!).
    Then I realized some details later relied on the information I'd taken out and I had to revisit my decision making process. There was still a sizeable scrap heap, though. haha!
    The tough part to me is character-building scenes vs "episodic". If it gives the reader a clearer picture of the characters, I believe it has value. Striking the balance is what's hard.

    (I'll have to ponder the favorite episosde...)

  3. Oh goodness. I definitely need to tighten up, here. My preferred POV is 1st person present, so I really have to be careful not to just hang out and daydream. Lol. Awesome post, Betsy!
    I think my favorite episode of The Big Bang Theory is when Sheldon and Amy Farrah Fowler "break up" and he gets the all those cats... Hehe. Zazzles. ;)

  4. I'm guilty!

    Favorite episode--when Vaughn tells Sydney that the watch his dad gave him stopped the day he met Sydney. I love Alias!

  5. So... I'm thinking about entering the Writer's Digest short story competition, but I'm not sure if it's a good idea or not. Any thoughts. I don't normally do things like this, so I'm a little bit unsure.

  6. Great thoughts guys! Thanks for sharing :)

    And thanks for the compliment Ashley.

    Cjoy, cutting words like that is always SOOOO hard. I feel you!! You never know though, sometimes it's okay to hang on to any leftover scenes and use them in a different story one day where you could reshape it and give different characters and yet have it be imperative to THAT plot...see what I mean? :) Never know! Nothing is ever truly wasted.

    Ashley, as for your question - I think competitions are always good to do in moderation. What's your specific hesitation? Why would it be a bad thing or a doubt in your mind to enter?

    1. I don't know. I guess I just have a hard time trusting people with my writing. I've never entered a real writing contest outside of school. Maybe I'm just scared of failing... Lol. I'd feel better if they were giving feedback or something. You know? That way if I fail, I'd still be gaining something... :/

  7. That's a good point. Contests without feedback aren't really worth the entry fee in most cases. I didn't realize that!