Writing for Television

So you think you can write, eh? You’ve just finished your degree in communication and you have finally mustered up enough courage to apply for writing jobs. Your greatest interest, however, is in television writing. And while everyone’s telling you that you can really do it and that your skill set is perfect to take on the world of television, there’s still something in your gut that tells you there’s so much for you to learn.

The thing is, you’re actually right. Writing for television is not as simple as counting from one to three and then becoming a success overnight. It takes a lot of hard work, technique, and that ever trusty capacity to establish connections and friendships. But before all that, perhaps you need to begin acquainting yourself with how writing for television works.

How To Develop Your Story Idea

idea
Writing begins with an idea.

Writing begins with an idea – that much is pretty obvious. But the capacity to develop an idea is something else. Let’s say, you want to write a short TV script about an Amsterdam holiday. Or maybe you’d like a thriller that happens when the protagonist goes to shop online. How do you begin?

First, come up with a good ‘what if’. This ‘what if’ will now set the tone for your whole premise. The more interesting your premise is (for instance, it hasn’t been done before), the more likely it is to become a good script. This premise will then lay the groundwork and will serve as the backbone for your show, which is another way of saying that the premise is what will make your show sell (or not).

Second, try to figure out what sort of show you’d like to make. Is it the episodic type, where one episode is a self-contained story in itself? Think of Black Mirror, where every episode is an independent story in itself. Or, you might want to do it serially. If your show comes in a series, then one episode builds on another; think Breaking Bad or Gravity Falls.

Third, you also need to develop their characters. Who is the main character? What’s the surface story? What’s the story behind that surface story? As you deepen characterization, you can also notice how your story is taking shape.