...according to Me.
Exciting news in the Adventures in Odyssey world! Focus on the Family is announcing a writing contest where the winner gets to have their own Odyssey script made into an actual Adventures in Odyssey episode. Wow! It's about time, right? Bad news: Despite being an American citizen and attending a college, I am not eligible for this new contest (I live in Canada).
I have no clue what kind of script is going to win. I only have my own personal idea of what would lose. Even as we speak, college students around the US are brainstorming, sharpening their pencils, and pulling out their hair. I know what you're thinking:
Man, I've had so many ideas for episodes in the past, but now I can't think of any!
How important is this task? Crucial. Think of this as a test. Even if your script doesn't win, this is your chance of communicating to the writers the sort of episodes you like, and what sorts of Adventures you'd want to hear in the future.
Like I said, I have no idea what kind of script is going to win. I have no inside information, whatsoever. All I can do is guess, and give my advice...even though it may be bad advice. Therefore, WARNING: This may be bad advice!
Rule #10: Despite how clearly the rules state ''Only current characters should be used'', 20% of the scripts submitted will still be about Richard Maxwell or Mitch. That's life. However, resist the urge. Sure, it'd be nice if they showed up again, but how likely will it be that you're the one to do it?
#9. Second-guess your Odyssey references. Nathan Hoobler, back in the day, often referenced older episodes of Adventures in Odyssey in his scripts. There's a certain way of going about this. First, don't try to be too clever. If you choose to include references, make sure they do not take away from the rest of the episode. For instance, if a character is talking about the latest forest fires on TV, having Whit give a small one liner about not watching TV might not be such a bad idea. It may impress both the crew and fans. On the other hand, including direct references to The Transmuter, Whit's Boredom-buster, or any long forgotten idea, might be forcing it. Taking that chance might be risky.
#8. Understand what distinguishes the "new Odyssey" from "old Odyssey". Since you're a college student, you're old enough to have some sort of appreciation for the older shows. Because of nostalgia, you most likely find those older episodes better. It's only natural. And, because of that, you undoubtedly have ambitious, yet delusional, reasons for bringing back Odyssey to its glory days with this one script. However, before you say to yourself ''I will write a CLASSIC adventures in Odyssey episode'', it might be smart to sit down and study what made those episodes classics. Think in terms of pacing, humour and character development. Those are where the largest differences lie. Casting, and characters, I'm afraid, are out of your hands, and you'll just have to work with who today's characters are.
#7. Write what you want to hear. How do you know if your idea for an episode will be a good one? Write a brief synopsis and ask people whether they'd be interested in hearing more. Don't allow the fact that an episode called "Game for a Mystery" made it to the airwaves with the synopsis "Barrett can't tear himself away from his portable video game--until it disappears without a trace" give you a reason to write something just as simple. Don't get me wrong, it's not wrong to keep your plot simple, but listeners should never be wondering: "Why is this an episode?"
#6. Make sure it isn't too original. An episode with the synopsis: ''Penny spends a day with fire-fighters fighting the latest wildfires in McCalister park'' might sound like the coolest thing ever. You're bound to have an action packed ending, with a few deaths, and awesome sounding fire-fighter action scenes throughout. But...why would Penny be hanging around fire-fighters? That seems so random. Do something that makes sense. Do something that uses what we already know about the places, characters, and locations of Odyssey, and build onto those.
For instance, we know Penny is into art. Knowing that, what kind of interesting stories, mysteries, or morals surround the world of art? Or, what further adventures can happen to Katrina as she tutors students? Or, what sort of new mysteries could come from this new ''tinkering club''?
#5. ...but, on the other hand, be original enough. Don't have Barrett Jones off looking for the batteries for his video-game in ''Game for a Mystery Part II'' or ''Game for Another Mystery'' or ''Game for a Mystery 2: Game Over''. The instructions tell you to have a "compelling beginning, interesting middle, and satisfying conclusion." My guess is that they want an episode that pretty much can stand on its own.
#4. Write for an ''8-12'' audience...but just don't think about that when you're writing. You may have gotten nervous by the constant reminders on the website that Odyssey is a show geared for 8-12 year old. Don't let this get to you. As you're typing, you'll perhaps realize you had a child use a complicated word. You're thinking: Does that work? Can I do that? What if the kids won't understand this? or Wait, can they understand this plotline? Is this script too complicated? Relax. If you don't, you will end up writing something too simple. Don't be afraid of being smart, and of treating kids as smart individuals themselves. Like everyone else, kids simply like good, smart stories!
#3. Don't exagerate people's vocabulary. Throughout your scriptwriting, you'll undoubtedly try to capture the language of these characters. Fans will most likely start opening up the dictionaries when writing for Eugene, or start thinking of something random for Wooton to say. You'll be impressed with yourself for having established these characters in your script. However, you will have also forgotten that half of a character's personality comes from the actor and not your dialogue. Eugene, for instance, is, usually completely understandable to everyone at the college level, so just write more formally for him. There's no need to use complex words when writing for his character.
#2. The story should have 5-8 regular characters. That seems to the range in recent Odyssey episodes (although I'm sure it's perfectly possible to create an ingenious episode using only 1 regular character). And try not to create a story in which an actor needs to show up for only one or two lines.
#1. ''Slice of Life'' or Adventure? What genre of episode should you write? This, I admit, is a difficult question. There are plenty of terrific single-episode thrillers that have existed throughout the show. So, if you want to write the next ''Real Time'' or ''Hold Up'', go ahead. I wouldn't consider this an advantage, however. I imagine it's a lot more difficult to communicate themes well with those sorts of shows. Your average slice-of-life episodes are much more effective in dealing with themes.
What do you guys think? Will the winning script be something totally different from the usual crop of episodes, or something that mirrors the typical Odyssey adventure? Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below!