Attn JMS: Story Breaking?

b5jms-owner at b5jms-owner at
Mon Nov 20 07:04:53 EST 1995

Subject: Attn JMS: Story Breaking?
+  1: Nov  7, 1995: keving at (Kevin Green)
*  2: Nov 11, 1995: straczynski at
   3: Nov 11, 1995: Kim Justice <justicek at>
+  4: Nov 11, 1995: w_mazur at (Walt Mazur)
*  5: Nov 19, 1995: straczynski at


From: keving at (Kevin Green)
Lines: 20

I have read a lot of interviews with various of the producers of the current 
Star Trek series about their story break sessions and from what I can gather
it seems like although there may only be one or two names on the script there
are actually a lot more hands involved in putting their opinions and
suggestions about what should happen when and why etc in any given episode.

And I was just wondering...since you wear both the Executive Producers hat
and you no longer have a Story Editor and you also write most of the episodes
do you have anything similiar in the Babylon 5 scripting. I would guess not
as (as you say) you are really the only one who knows what is going on. 

I also wondered if you thought this scripting by committee approach was a
good or bad thing and do you know if this approach is recent or has it almost
always happened. It is just that when I used to see a writers name on a script
I assumed they had written it perhaps with a bit of input from the Story Editor
but it appears this is not the case.

Thanks for any feedback you can offer into this mysterious process.

PS. Where do you get your ideas? (Just kidding!)


From: straczynski at
Lines: 31

     Okay, first a disclaimer: no one method of creating a story is
intrinsically better or worse than any depends on what works
for you.  Telling someone how to make their story is like telling someone
how to have sex; sometimes the suggestion is well received, but generally
you just piss the other person off.

     To the heart of your question now....

     As you note, the ST shows use a process called "breaking" a story;
in which you get everybody in a room, they all begin kicking around ideas,
picking at the story, while someone writes down on a board what the group
comes up with.

     I don't use that, and frankly, I hate it.  What happens, I feel, is
that a group dynamic comes into the picture and you get something that
has been committee-ized, and there's no longer any one distinctive
voice.  It goes through so many diverse hands that by the end all of the
corners have been knocked off.  When I look at most committee-ized
stories, regardless of show, my usual reaction is, "It took TEN of you to
write THIS?"

     I sit down, I come up with a story I like, I pull it apart to make
sure it makes sense, and I write it.  When a freelancer works with me, I
assign the notion, or listen to the pitch, and then send the writer away
to work up the story into an outline.  Then we discuss it, one on one.
Then it gets written, and sometimes I rewrite it afterwards if needed.
There are no creative committees in B5; that's why you never see more than
one name on a script.  Whether it's a freelancer or an in-house script,
we respect the original voice of the individual writer.



From: w_mazur at (Walt Mazur)
Lines: 11

straczynski at wrote:

>     I sit down, I come up with a story I like, I pull it apart to make
>sure it makes sense, and I write it.

At that first examination, before the story is written, what does it
look like?  I imagine it's just in your mind at that point, but if you
knew you had to set it aside for a long time, what would you write
down?  Could you perhaps give an example of a past B5 story?  Thank


From: straczynski at
Lines: 9

     What I do is this: I get a pad of legal-sized paper, and divide it
into six quadrants, all on the same page, standing for teaser, four acts
and tag.  I drop the beats of the story into the relevant places where I
think they'd logically fall (the big moments always go at act breaks).
This way I can see the entire flow of the story at one glance, which is
important for getting a feel for the episode.  If one act gets over
burdened, I just draw a line moving one beat to another act.


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