Mark Twain once wrote, "The only difference between reality and fiction is that fiction needs to be credible." That insightful comment would certainly apply to the recent George Zimmerman trial.
There are a number of television shows that have used the "ripped from today's headlines" concept, but if this trial's story points were to be adapted into a piece of fiction, it would cause certain problems in credibility in the writers' room. A discussion between a head writer and the episodic writer who had the idea for a show based on the Zimmerman case might play out something like this....
[SOMETIME IN THE FUTURE]
INT. WRITERS' ROOM - DAY
HEAD WRITER: I looked over the script. The story is a little too nuts for me. I don't buy it.
WRITER: It's based on a real case. This is what went down back then.
The Head Writer looks over his notes.
HEAD WRITER: A man stalks a young kid. Is warned by a 911 operator not to follow the kid. He goes ahead and follows him anyway. The kid is on a cellphone and says to his friend that he's being followed by some stranger. The friend hears the kid say, "Get off, get off!" A struggle happens, and the kid is killed. And you write this like it's a self defense case??
HEAD WRITER: But the man was pursuing the kid. How could it be a self defense case? You gotta create doubt. An audience watching this is not going to believe it. We're going to lose our viewers before the commercial break!
WRITER: Don't you see? The guy was struggling for his life. The kid pushed him to the ground. He had to pull out a gun and shoot the kid.
HEAD WRITER: But you have the guy attending Mixed Martial Arts classes. Three times a week he goes to his gym. Two hours a session. For an entire year. And the kid gets him on the ground just like that?
WRITER: Our guy was a bad student.
HEAD WRITER: Bad student? How bad can he be?
WRITER: They say he was not very athletic.
HEAD WRITER: Six hours a week of martial arts training for one year and he can't even push a kid away? And the kid weighs almost 50 pounds less than this guy? Impossible. You have to change that. No one will believe it.
WRITER: Okay, I'll cut that out of the script.
HEAD WRITER: And then in a flashback scene, you have the guy, working as a bouncer, getting fired for being too aggressive with the patrons.
WRITER: All right, I'll cut that out too.
HEAD WRITER: And on page 38, after the 911 operator tells the guy to stop following the kid, the guy says to the operator, "Shit, he's running."
HEAD WRITER: I don't understand. He's running? Running from what? He didn't do anything, so the only thing the kid would be running from would be the guy?
WRITER: Hmm. Maybe that's not clear.
The Head Writer thumbs forward a few pages.
HEAD WRITER: Then somehow, out of the blue, the kid has the man on the ground, a struggle ensues, and the man pulls out a gun and shoots him in the heart?
WRITER: The guy had no choice. It's self-defense.
HEAD WRITER: I don't understand. The guy on the ground is yelling, "Help, help." And then the guy on the ground screams? And right after he screams he shoots the kid.
HEAD WRITER: You ever see a scene in a movie where a person screams and then shoots someone? It's normally the other person who screams and then gets shot. This is just too illogical.
WRITER: Okay, I'll finesse that.
HEAD WRITER: Why doesn't the guy just shoot the kid in the arm? Or the leg? Or the stomach?
WRITER: It was a struggle.
HEAD WRITER: Yeah, but when I read the script it's not credible. It's more like a shoot to kill.
WRITER: No, it's a self-defense scene.
HEAD WRITER: I don't buy it. It's much easier just to shoot the kid in the arm or the leg. It would take more effort to raise the gun up. The guy aims for the heart. Therefore he knows he's going to kill him. It's too illogical. Change it.
WRITER: But this is what happened.
HEAD WRITER: It doesn't have the credibility to be a dramatic episode. Unless we want to chase the ghost of Paddy Chayefsky and get into absurdism. You know, like he did with Network. Unless you want to make a satire on how screwed up the legal system is, show me a script that makes sense.
So you can see the dilemma of trying to write a script based on this tragic event. The logic evades us. And the reality haunts us.
This story appears in Issue 58 of our weekly iPad magazine, Huffington, in the iTunes App store, available Friday, July 19.