Writing Better Web Series


Advice from Stephanie Folsom from an article in Script Magazine. Much of this efficient story telling advice came from the commercials world were a story needed to be told in anywhere from 15 to 30 seconds.

1) KEEP IT SHORT

Your video should not be more than four minutes long. There are all kinds of analytics on viewer retention, and all of them show that most viewers will lose interest in your video around the four-minute mark.

2) MAKE YOUR TITLE DO THE HEAVY LIFTING

You don’t have a lot of time to explain things. So make sure your title is clever and clearly communicates your premise and characters.

3) ESTABLISH CHARACTERS AND SETUP QUICKLY

You don’t have the page space to create a character arc, so you have to use existing “mental real estate.”  Use props and settings to establish your character’s job and dramatic function. If the character is a mom, show her with kids. If it’s a doctor, put him/her in scrubs.

4) LESS FOCUS ON PLOT AND GO FOR THE JOKES

There is no time for an act structure in this type of writing. Your job is to set your scene and characters at the top of the page, and then establish the joke and premise immediately. It’s your job to keep escalating the joke for the next three pages until you reach your final punch line. The first page is your initial step where you create character, setting and the joke. The second step (i.e. page) is where you build and expand what you established on page one. The third step is where you reach crazy heights with your jokes and level off with a final twist, punch line, or visual gag at the end.

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. I wonder what point four would be for a dramatic web-series?

    But then, it’s really the comic ones that work the best. Do you think a dramatic web series could work? I certainly liked BSG: Blood and Chrome… but then that was a continuation from a TV series, so does it really count?

    1. Going by what web producers have largely told me, comedy is the best genre for the web. lots of sight gags etc. If you want to do a drama, then probably focus on one scene per episode to maximize dramatic impact.

      JGS

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