I write scripts for Voicescapes Audio Theater with my husband, Tom. Writing scripts is hard; writing comedy scripts is harder … and writing scripts with your spouse is — let’s say “challenging,” at least if you hope to stay married.
We have developed some Writing Rules of the Road to help couples stay sane and civil throughout the stressful process of script writing. Here are a few.
1. When one person says they don’t want to write because they’re not in the mood or because they have a headache, don’t insist on doing it anyway. Someone will get passive aggressive and the other will get pissy. Wait for a time when you both can enjoy it.
2. Never storm out of the room cursing and swearing that you’ll never write another word as long as you live! Use your words – both on the page and off.
3. Chose your words carefully, both on the page and off. Try to avoid phrases like “You’re an idiot!”, “How could anyone in their right mind think that line is funny?” or “No one from this planet would ever call that realistic dialogue.” In fact, avoid negative statements altogether. Start your comments with disclaimers like, “Don’t you think that maybe…” or “I personally feel that such and such might possibly work better here.” Then do not respond to the ensuing insults in kind.
4. Do not throw things; even soft things like fluffy dog toys. They can still knock over lamps or break the vase you paid way too much for at that stupid Tag Sale.
5. Have a “safe word”. When things get too intense and you absolutely cannot agree about something and you are about to come to blows, use the safe word and drop the disputed issue immediately. Never bring it up again. What happens in script writing, stays in script writing.
6. Do not mix your personal relationship and your writing relationship. Compromises and concessions made in scripts cannot be thrown up as ammunition in a personal fight. And never bring personal issues to a script fight. The fact that your husband always sides with his mother when she gets snarky with you, will in no way improve your comedy script about speed dating.
I hope that we have been able to improve someone else’s writing relationship with these rules. We’ve actually never used any of them!