Write A 1 Hour TV Drama That Sells

With the rollout of an increasing number of television stations, scripted television is making a comeback on our screens.

The purpose of a spec script is to demonstrate your ability to capture the formula, franchise, character dynamics and tone of the show. It’s not your job to reinvent or deviate from this format. You must be able to “color inside the lines”. Your individuality is highlighted when you write guest characters and create storylines.

Make your storylines fresh and compelling. This is different to outlandish and desperate. Avoid common themes such as serial killer stories, unless you have a unique twist on it; such as the killer being blind, an 85 year old woman or a 13 year old choir boy. What haven’t audiences seen before? Is there a reason for this? Do you have a fresh take on a concept or has your idea been tested before unsuccessfully. Look at shows that have succeeded over many seasons and compare them to those that were cancelled after one.

When looking for storylines, look no further than the daily news. If art imitates life, it’s a great place to start. Truth can sometimes be stranger than fiction.

Consider the structure of your TV show. Is your TV drama 5 or 6 acts? Some only have 4. Is there a teaser and tag at the beginning and end, respectively? Is there a runner (minor plot line running through the series such as a love interest)? What is the page count? For 1 hour drama/ dramedy it’s usually around 60 pages. Where are the act breaks? How many scenes are there per act? Does each act end on a cliffhanger?

If your script is a pilot episode of an original series, what kind is it; GENESIS (how the story begins), PRESENTATION (typical episode) or HYBRID (preferred combination of both)?

Consider your A and B stories and where they intersect. The A story is about the main character. Raise the stakes by making the story personal to them. It elicits a greater emotional response for both the character and the audience.

Drive the conflict to a place where the main character faces a moral dilemma. Will they make the right choice for the wrong reasons or the wrong choice for the right reason?

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Lai Fox says:

    Great post! I’ve been thinking about getting into screenwriting myself, and this is great advice for getting started!

    1. thanks so much for your support. Spread the word.

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