The Role of The Story Editor (cont)
Once you know who you’ll be using as writers, then you need to brief them. We’ve already discussed the story bible, but some producers/story editors like to gather the writers together to discuss the series, and brainstorm ideas. It is always good for writers to meet the story editor. It opens up the channels for later communication. Story editors are often put under huge pressure, and have been known to take out their frustrations on their writers. This is much harder to do if you have some sort of personal relationship.
I am not a fan of brainstorming sessions. Like a lot of writers, I have my best ideas when my mind is somewhere else, when I’m walking, or swimming, or cooking. I know from experience that I am most imaginative first thing in the morning. It’s true that I like to bounce ideas off other people, but that is why I work with a writing partner, Andrew Offiler. We know each other well enough to respond constructively and sensitively to each other’s ideas.
I know that some people like the group model. It works well in America where specialists are paid to be in the room and contribute what they do best. I suspect that this process is less spontaneous than it sounds, and that the insult specialist prepares a long list of invectives before he arrives.
Because of the international nature of animation financing, story editors rarely get the opportunity to meet their writers, even if they want to. That is why the bible is such an important document. The bible never tells all the story, and it is imperative that the story editor keeps the lines of communication open. Writers need to know about changes to the bible, new characters and catchphrases, technical things that work well, and those that don’t, which types of story work well, etc. As the series develops, we always prepare a list of subject matter that has already been covered, and distribute it. I am surprised that more story editors do not do this. The small amount of time it takes to write up a list of synopses will save a lot of time and grief later.
During the series, the story editor should be building a relationship with those with the editorial control to approve the scripts. He needs to feed this information back to the writers. This information will include regional differences Valentine’s Day s not a big deal in Germany or compliancing rules The Australians don’t want our characters to fight, they must simply challenge each other to a show of strength. This could be more personal feedback about the executives. The Broadcaster has just been on a course with Robert McKee and wants the inciting incident to happen no later than page 3. You have to write inciting incident in the margin when it happens. Or Don’t send anything for three weeks. The broadcaster’s gone on holiday. Or The broadcaster has read some research about how many girls like cats. Can you put a cat in the next episode…
Story editors no doubt have the same observations about the writers they use, but they can remedy any idiosyncratic tendencies or bad habits by rewriting before anyone else reads the script.
Story editors should let their writers know how many scripts they require from them, and in what period of time. They are often reluctant to do this, for all sorts of reasons. For a start, if the writer fails to come up with acceptable story ideas in the timescale required, then the story editor cannot risk missing a deadline. We always write a few extra storylines, which, when approved, we will give to a writer if they are having too much trouble getting their ideas accepted, believing that it is better to keep faith with our best writers, rather than lose them altogether.
Sometimes there are inevitable delays because of the absence, illness, or lack of focus of the broadcaster. If a writer has to wait weeks, or sometimes months (it happens) for feedback from the broadcasters, he is bound to feel abandoned. It is especially important that the story editor keeps in regular communication if this happens, or he might lose his writers altogether.
Next week: More on the story editor