I do something that is common to a lot of writers: when I’m not writing on one of my own projects, I often spend some of my free time working on fantasy projects. These projects are ones that for various reasons I can’t take on as my own. Sometimes it’s because it’s in an unfamiliar genre. Sometimes it’s because of time or market saturation. Right now, because it’s fresh in my mind, in my down time I keep flashing onto possible stories for the ABC Family show, Switched at Birth. It’s literally captured my imagination. (Though…since it’s my imagination, is it de facto virtual and not literal?)
You all have seen an out-of-the-ordinary manifestation of this sort of thing from me before: The Connor Wars. Those scripts were born from an overstimulated imagination. Because the show got cancelled, and because I didn’t have any major projects that desperately needed my attention just then, I sort of went off on a script-writing tangent. Good times.
While nothing like that is going to happen with Switched at Birth—since it’s still in production and they’ve been doing quite well without my input—that doesn’t mean I haven’t scribbled down a few notes.
Switched at Birth is one of those fun sorts of shows to play around with: not only does it have a more-or-less fresh premise, but it’s also a situation drama (or sit-dram). While this isn’t an “official” designation, it is descriptive for our purposes. It’s sort of in that middle ground between an episodic show (also know with certain genres as a “procedural”) and a serial drama. This gives a lot of flexibility when thinking about writerly things.
On the one hand, you can come up with a situation that is pretty much contained within an episode. On the other hand, you can also lay out larger storylines/arcs that suggest the situations of how to get to various climaxes. I thought of a season climax that I think would be more than sufficient to drive a season’s worth of episodes. I also know how it sort-of resolves at the start of the next season. It doesn’t fully resolve as there would be lasting implications.
I’ve also jotted down a lot of various scenarios with how Daphne and Bay deal with each other as their relationship evolves. How they can variously be antagonists and protective. They are “switch-ters”, after all.
Toby is a bit of a problem with regards to story planning. Kathryn said that he was a little older than 2 when she found out she was pregnant with her daughter. Since Daphne and Bay just turned 16, that means that Toby is well over 18. This means that college looms. Story complications will ensue depending on whether or not we keep Toby around.
And on and on. This is playtime for me. Weird. And I know other writers do similar things. Then again… perhaps it’s more normal than it appears at first. A lot of auto mechanics go home to work on their pet auto projects. Athletes go on hikes, or play pick-up games. Bakers fire up the oven to try new recipes or techniques. Yes, these are all job-related, but they are also evidence that some people’s vocations are also their passions. So…maybe playing show runner isn’t so weird after all.