I have a cold, which caused me this morning to remember a script I wrote a couple years ago that included a throwaway joke, the punchline of which was meth causing a person to be stuffed up. I had assumed that pretty much anything you snorted would make you stuffed up, but at some point had the thought that I should probably actually look that up.
We live in an amazing age. We can Google anything. Although if you’re ever at a party with writers and looking for a conversation starter, ask the person closest to you what the Feds would find if they looked at their search history. We all keep a running tab of “Why I Might End Up at Gitmo This Week.”
Anyway, it turns out that meth, having pseudophedrine (Sudafed) as a major ingredient, actually clears you right up. So I altered the joke, keeping everything else but tacking on a new punchline, “You’re thinking of cocaine.” (BTW- if you’re sick, just take the Sudafed. Much more effective and, as a bonus, legal. I feel great!)
Then there was the time I was a production assistant on a network show, which was not a medical show but sometimes dipped into medical situations. I’d devour scripts as we received them, so it was an early draft when I got to the part where a doctor yells something along the lines of “Her pulse is 88! Her blood pressure is 120/80! We’re losing her!” I thought of my relatives who are nurses and would disown me if I let something like that get onto the air, and I went to the writers. It turns out that the writers got their biology information from sportscasters, and thought that the numbers quoted for professional football players were normal. At my urging, they went to the set medic for better information.
It’s easy to assume something is common knowledge or accurate, or that no one reading will know the difference anyway. But if someone does, it will take them out of the story instantly. Research isn’t hard, and joking aside, I know no writers who have been disappeared based on their Google searches. (Bing, on the other hand…) So research. Research everything. Of course, no trip to the world wide web is complete without a stop at Facebook. And remember – it’s easier than writing!