From The Writers' Room Featuring Tremontaine

Joel Derfner on writing Tremontaine S2E10: “The Coming Night”

tremontaine-s2-writers-notes-web-header

tre_sii_ep_10_ebook_600x960Today I’m going to talk about cows.

Fairly early on in episode 10, when Micah is working on her Möbius strips before Diane interrupts here, come two passages that mention cows. First, when Micah is remembering Norris’s hitting Rafe, she’s comparing the blow to times she’s been hit by things in the past, and she thinks:

One day on the farm when Micah had been milking the cows, she hadn’t been paying attention and she had squeezed too hard and Bessie had kicked her.

The trouble started out small, with no hint of what it would become. In the first draft of this episode, the sentence read:

One day on the farm when Micah had been milking the cows, she hadn’t been paying attention and she had squeezed too hard and Trigonometry had kicked her.

When I got the episode back from our brilliant copy editor, Noa Wheeler, she had made this comment next to the name Trigonometry:

When Micah and Rafe were at the farm together? (That’s the only time she would have been there when Trigonometry was there—Trig is a calf born while she’s in the City. But she was only there for one overnight, right? Makes “one day” seem odd.) Also, has it been long enough since Ep 6 of the 1st season for Trig (who wasn’t born yet then) to have had a calf herself (and this need to be milked)? Or should this be Bessie (Trig’s mother)?

And I was like, OMG, she’s a genius, because I forgot that Trigonometry was born last season. So the sentence became:

One day on the farm when Micah had been milking the cows, she hadn’t been paying attention and she had squeezed too hard and Geometry had kicked her.

and I appended this comment:

Oh, my God, you’re a genius. I forgot that Trigonometry was a newborn! I’ve named the cow Geometry, because I named the cow in S01E10 Bessie, and I think naming them after math things is AMAZING and I’m ashamed that I went with something so clichéd. So I’m deciding that Geometry is a third cow, not in the Bessie-Trigonometry line of descent. I figure Bessie was already around when Micah got there, but once she arrived she started insisting that all the cows be given math names.

And I went around for a week very proud of myself for admitting something I was ashamed of.

Until I got the rewrite back from her with this comment:

My only question is: Would Micah have had the math vocabulary before going to the university to know the word “geometry”? Or would she have sort of known and understood some of the concepts without being able to put a name to it? (She would have named this cow before meeting Rafe, etc.) Thoughts?

It was at this point that I gave up and just went with Bessie.

Keep in mind, please, that there’s another cow reference two paragraphs later. Which also required just as many changes. We very narrowly escaped having to call Noa’s dairy-farmer cousin to check on something.

When the whole debacle was over I texted Racheline, our wonderful show runner, who had both co-written episode 8 and looked at all the drafts of this episode, “OMG the cow names.”

She texted back, “Our episode had a thing with a chicken.”

Ultimately I take two lessons from this. The first is, a good copy editor is worth her weight in diamonds.

The second is, be very careful when you write stories that contain barnyard animals.

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