One of the most enduring features of TV drama scripts has to be the ‘Seemingly Unrelated Anecdote’, a trope so important it will henceforth appear in both bold and italics, people. Whenever it shows up in TV or film I give a little cheer. I love it. And once spotted you see it everywhere. They must teach it in script-writing school or sump’m.
Anyway. Here’s my handy ten-part guide to making a correct identification… and perhaps even using it in your own fiction.
Sample script illustrating Seemingly Unrelated Anecdote
The ‘student’: Frank is 32, a recently widowed young father learning leadership in difficult circumstances following the outbreak of a deadly virus.
The ‘sage’: Alberto is 67; Mexican, a wizened Psychology professor from humble beginnings.
Frank: We’re trapped in this compound. The guards mistakenly think we’re criminals. My boy’s out there somewhere and I can’t even begin to search for him. What the hell do we do?
Alberto: (beat) When I was a child, my father was a fruit farmer. One night after school he took me out into the fields. The wind was up, singing in the caged branches of the pines. It was a dark night festooned with glittering stars. He’d been working the fields all day. As he took my hand I remember feeling his calloused skin, seeing the dark circles beneath his eyes. The sleeping field of ripe fragrant watermelon perfumed the air. We walked to the middle, where he stooped to examine the fruit and together we split one open. We ate. (Alberto opens his hands and stares at his palms) The melon was sweet and the flesh was smooth. But the seeds – I’ll never forget the seeds. They were like bullets. So hard; so unforgiving. I knew then I could never work the land the way my father did.
Perhaps you too are no farmer.
Alberto turns and leaves.
Frank: (beat) But wait – what?