Key Plot Points of TV Procedurals


Jennifer Dornbush, author of “Forensic Speak” has defined common 16 plot points found in TV procedurals.

  1. Establish and present the case. Introduce the theme and critical incident leading to the crime being committed.
  2. The main investigator performs the first examination to gather evidence.
  3. The main investigator draws conclusions or postulates a theory. This is the first major TURNING POINT in the story because it reveals vital information about the main character and the crime.
  4. The conclusions are tested and disproved.
  5. New proof is gathered and challenged and disproved once again.
  6. Investigators meet obstacles to their investigation. Despite the setback, they rise to the challenge with a greater determination to solve the crime. This is the MIDPOINT of the story.
  7. A new hypothesis is formed and  prepare to test it. The investigation gains some ground.
  8. False leads are pursued. They are tied to something personal rather than hard evidence.
  9. The investigator ponders a new way to solve the case.
  10. Finally, a new piece of evidence is introduced which helps the case by some external source. Also, old evidence which was previously thought to be unimportant, comes to light again.
  11. The investigator is threatened when they get too close to solving to the case.
  12. The new evidence is challenged.
  13. External forces tests the investigator to their limits. All hope is lost as the case seems unsolvable.
  14. There is a new breakthrough through a new discovery or action. This is the final major TURNING POINT.
  15. The case is solved following a final battle and dramatic climax.
  16. Justice is received and the old world is restored.
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3 Comments Add yours

  1. rcosgrove says:

    Reblogged this on Camden Script Analysis and commented:
    I’ve only just found Gideon’s Screenwriting Tips, but it’s looking like a useful, informative blog site.
    This post detailing a model for TV procedurals is very helpful for myself, as I’m writing a pilot of a supernatural-thriller-procedural.
    I think it could be valuable to others who want to know how procedurals work.

  2. m@yahoo.com says:

    Thank you so much for this. I’ve been looking for some helpful pointers on procedurals. I found your website at google.com. Very good site – keep up the good work.

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