how to write a tv series outline

Your email address will not be published. The First Rule of Writing Funny: Just because you can say funny things doesn't mean you can write … Often, you might not realise what your themes really are until you’re well into the writing process. So glad to hear you enjoyed the post. Is this something you’re mentally, physically and financially prepared for? You cannot force their development through rapid changes; nor can you advance the plot through actions that are unrealistic or blatantly out-of-character. How detailed you want to get is entirely up to you. BONUS TIP: Don’t force the issue of theme too much while planning! This is completely normal; a lot of concepts tend to come up naturally as you write the story. Use key points in their personal journey and development to decide how your series will be structured. Your script outline, often referred to as a “step outline,” is where you extend your high-level beats into individual scenes. If there isn’t, the book doesn’t really qualify as a self-contained narrative. To get yourself thinking about character arcs, briefly note down some answers to the following questions: Once you’ve answered these questions, you’ll begin to see patterns of transformation forming. A last word of advice. The answer to this question really comes down to three things: If writing is your passion and your dream, if the story within you is bursting forth and begging to be told, and if writing a series is a goal you’re willing to work hard to achieve – then it sounds like you’re committed and ready to give it a try. How badly you want to achieve the goal of creating a series. Comment below with your favorite story beats of all time or with some films you want to see us break down. To learn how to outline a screenplay, you must start with a basic plot trajectory. Try to turn these kinds of clichés on their head and subvert reader expectations with original plot, theme and character elements. The overarching theme in Harry Potter, for example, is the conflict between good and evil. This will allow you to head them off early and save yourself the hassle of revising or rewriting later. Years ago, South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone shared a very helpful nugget on how they mastered this technique. Does it raise enough questions? Otherwise, your writing process – and the story itself – is likely to be rather aimless and ineffective. Thank you for this detailed outline of scriptwriting. Take a look at our video, How Authors Can Use Pinterest For Fiction Writing & Novels, to find out more about this handy tool. You've finally made it to the final step in the process – and it's the most enjoyable step … PandaTip: This section of the template is where you’ll provide the greatest amount of detail regarding your tv show pitch. I’ve already scrapped some stuff and added some stuff, but I find myself overwhelmed wanting this to be that “It” series. Make sure your scenes have a direct cause-and-effect relationship with one another. What changes and developments will each character undergo throughout the course of the series? These will go hand-in-hand with your plot to form the foundation on which your series is based. TV Writing and Development. A fantasy series tends to sell much better than a single fantasy novel. There are game show-elimination formats, personality formats, docu-dramas and other game shows. And if your characters want to take you in a different direction after that, let them do so and see where you end up! Developing the Concept Come up with your "what if?" Do they have enough potential for development that can be sustained across multiple books? , Fabulous post. So how can you break put from the pack and get your idea onto the small screen? After all, writing is rewriting. How many books should you divide the series into? If not, why? Your show is on every week, and that means there's no waiting for your … The main reason readers will keep reading a story is because they’ve invested in the characters. Writing one book is hard enough!’. But where to from here? From Harry Potter to Outlander to the Millennium trilogy, every successful series features a protagonist and cast of supporting characters who are compelling, complex, evolving, endearing, or all of the above. Let's say a TV network ordered for your television series 13 episodes for you to write, how would you go about doing it, most especially outlining it? Does my plot follow a single narrative arc, or does it contain many separate threads that can be woven together? Anyways, my questions for a started series that needs some work…how would you recommend developing something already in the making? I know there’s enough plot, enough story that can span several books. Once you start, you’ll have a certain sense of obligation (both to yourself and to your readers) to finish the job. Take a look at these, Is the plot driven by characters’ actions? Once you have all of your scenes together in your script outline, think about how you would explain them to someone. Note down any aspects you want to include, big or small, and keep the list handy throughout your writing and revision processes. Remember that you don’t necessarily have to write in chronological order; you can write scenes as they appear in your mind, and fit them all together in the proper order later. A series is united as much by its themes as it is by the events of the story. As excited as you may be to jump right in and start writing, unfortunately, that’s not the best way to go about things. Keep a digital or physical folder full of all your notes and ideas about the series. In addition to the above, start your scenes late and get out early. But again, it’s about what your character’s arc requires -- there are no rules. Consider George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, for example. This is because in fantasy and science fiction novels, writers are creating whole worlds from the ground up. Before you set out to write a series, you need to take a good, long look at your plot. To cut a long story (or series) short: if you’re writing in a genre other than those listed above, you must have some very compelling characters or another very good reason for deciding to write an entire series. There’s no point setting out to write a series just for the sake of it; it needs to be the right vessel to deliver your particular tale. Some writers like getting very specific with their script outline. The climax of the entire series will obviously come close to the end of the last book. There is a lot of information I have about it, and I’ve even started bits and pieces of the actual writing. If you’re going to write a successful series, there’s a bit of preparation that needs to be done first. Know as much as you can about your protagonist … You can include acts, scene numbers, and scene headings to organize your script outline. They are usually broken up in those above acts.Learn the best way to structure your screenplay with this free guide. All of these things must be determined in order for you to grapple with your act structure -- the foundation of your story. In fantasy, for example, the ‘chosen one’ character arc is a little overdone; likewise, the tough, virtually invincible action hero is a tired trope of the crime/thriller genre. Will their desires change? Before you launch into a series – whether it be a duology, a trilogy or a sprawling ten-part epic – you need to seriously consider your commitment to the task. Does the plot have potential for creating tension? While it’s wise to concentrate on getting readers invested in the main characters you introduce from the outset, you can’t expect them to stay engaged through multiple books that only involve the same band of characters. Pinterest can be a great source of inspiration and a wonderful way to visualise settings and characters while you plan your series. Use the template’s text field to write 3-7 paragraphs about your tv show’s story, foundation, goals, and overall theme. If you look hard enough, you should find self-contained narratives within the larger plot. This is the premise of every single TV … The more formulaic the genre (e.g. More and more people are flocking to the small screen to find daily entertainment. They must want to return to the world you’ve created, whether it be completely imagined (as in fantasy or science fiction) or realistic (as in a crime or mystery series). “And then” does not. Revisions will help with that. End them on a dramatic highpoint and make sure the conflict is well developed. Your beat sheet is high-level. We have some proven tips that will help you get your career on track. Import scripts. No – it’s because they’re invested in the people behind those politics. Writing a series of novels takes things to a whole new level. Perhaps consider holding off on introducing one or two key players until later in the series, rather than all at once at the beginning. Does the timeline of my plot span a short or lengthy period? More and more people are flocking to the small screen to find daily entertainment. Your characters must undergo significant changes throughout the story. Alongside solid plot development, a series must focus on constant character development in order for it to hold any hope of sustaining itself. Part of discovering the perfect outline, however, is trying different approaches and using what works best for you as well as for the script you are writing at the time. That’s where a script outline comes into play. Organization is important. If you’re writing in another genre, such as literary or commercial fiction, a standalone novel is probably your best bet. Setting a deadline … To plan the setting of your crime or mystery series, think about the sort of atmosphere you want to create. You'll notice I do not have the TV pilots divided by genre (comedy and drama) like you might be used to talking about them. World-building in fantasy and science fiction, eight effective ways to write page-turning tension, How Authors Can Use Pinterest For Fiction Writing & Novels. Its very simple formula breaks your plot into eight distinct “beats.”  Each beat has suggested page counts for when they need to happen. The first thing you want to do is solidify the ideas you have for your series’ plot. Know that most TV pitching sessions are less than 30 minutes. That would disrupt the flow of cause-and-effect crucial to any plot. Thank you so much for your article! And I know I love my main character enough that I won’t get bored with his story. For genres like fantasy and sci-fi, it’s important to know how many books you’re planning to write for the series before you start. Setting is more important than ever. Master the art of visual storytelling with our FREE video series on directing and filmmaking techniques. Whether or not they get what they want, decide how your protagonist changes throughout their journey. This might mean you choose not to undertake every aspect of the planning process we’re about to outline. If Indiana Jones, say, got lonely and struck up a conversation with one of those snakes then… yeah, I can hear you yawning. With an hour long television series episode, you write a Teaser scene, followed by Act One, Act Two, Act Three, Act Four, and sometimes Act Five, depending upon the show. Bookmarked and will return. Once you have a rough idea of how you’ll break up the overarching narrative, it’s time to focus on that all-important concept: the climax. Immersing yourself in the world of your story will help give your series a consistent, authentic feel. At this point you may need to rework the structure or plot so that a climax or turning point can be included. It could save you some valuable time and effort at the end of the process. Ferrante and Fielding’s series tell the continuing story of their central characters, which is conventional enough, but series like The Border Trilogy are different. J.K. Rowling, for example, … (Tension is one of the most important driving forces in fiction, and without it, your series is likely to fall rather flat. Write a one sentence synopses of your TV show. Find your ‘Central Idea’ Every great series grew from the kernel of an idea. Write down a brief outline of all the key events you have in mind so far, forming a rough chronology. Your characters are just as important (if not more important) than your plot. Each Holmes story deals with an individual mystery, and while there are threads that connect all the volumes, the structure isn’t as rigid as that of a speculative fiction series. First things first: before you do anything else, you need to decide if a series is the right choice for the story you want to tell. At some point you just need to get started. Understanding your central character’s desire, and capturing the scenarios they attract for themselves, should guide that process. That way, when I sit down to write, I’m only worried about writing the scene in a compelling way. . Oscar-winner Tony Gilroy said 30-to-80 page outlines are necessary for his own process. Whichever kind of series you’re writing, you should start this part of the planning process by writing down everything you already know about your setting. But you don’t have to be strict about it. There are two main types of series, each with a differentpurpose. In this genre, however, the primary function of the setting is to help create the mood of the series as a whole. Start writing! The inciting incident, which will kick off the events of your series. Take a look at your entire story and break it down into sections. In fact, plot structure is as old as Aristotle. Tolkien’s LOTR trilogy, on the other hand, is a prime example of the rising and falling action structure: in Fellowship, the journey begins; in Two Towers, it meets complications and continues; and in Return of the King it reaches a climax and slowly winds down to the ending. But these tried-and-true guidelines will help you crack the structure for your character’s journey. While your characters must undergo a transformation, there must also be some measure of consistency in their depiction. BONUS TIP: Consider creating a Pinterest account dedicated solely to the planning of your series. Tag elements like props, wardrobe, and cast. Is there any information you can withhold about a character, in order to reveal it with impact later in the story? He used this to evaluate how well the script was balancing the time spent in the different worlds within his story. Wishing you the best of luck writing your series. So you’ve answered all the above questions and come to a decision: writing a series is the right choice for you. The next thing you need to do is answer the following questions about your plot: These questions will help you identify any major issues with your plot outline so far. generally like to see in a coherent series . I had… To break things down a little, let’s take a look at how setting is used in two of the most common series-based genres: speculative fiction and crime/mystery. They must advance the plot and develop the character. Write a pilot before writing the full pitch. In December 2014, I was given a one-line pitch and asked to develop it into a fully-fledged audio sitcom. Best of luck writing your series. From Arthur Conan Doyle, Enid Blyton and Agatha Christie to J. K. Rowling, Terry Pratchett and Patricia Cornwell, writers of all genres and styles have made the series work for them. If, however, you’re thinking of writing a series on a whim, just to see how it goes or to try to make a quick buck… Well, it’s probably safe to say that you won’t be able to demonstrate the proper level of commitment to such a mammoth task. While you might believe that your story needs to be told over multiple books, in reality, your plot might not be able to stretch that far. Allow your story’s themes to emerge and develop as a natural subtext through your plot and characters. Write down everything you already know about them, from their appearance to their key personality traits to their family history. But it’s fair game to include detailed descriptions, characterizations, and even dialogue if you so choose. This is an art, as you want to tell the reader what happens, without spoiling any major plot points for them. Most of all, show don't tell. Overall, a series’ themes must weave together to create a broad, relatively complex tapestry. What are their desires, goals and motivations? If you’re wondering whether to make the commitment to writing a series, we’ve got you covered here with everything you need to know. Everybody has a different writing process; some people are plotters, some people are ‘pantsers’, and the rest are somewhere in between. You’re very welcome! A series will usually have recurring themes that span the entirety of the story, but it may also have themes that are explored or emphasised individually in each volume. Great content! My husband and I write our own web series, so if you were hoping for your own production of it, I can help you there. However, you must have at least a rough idea of the direction in which the story is heading. I like to get pretty detailed. Don’t worry too much about structure or order just yet; we’ll get to those below. Script outlines can be boring to read. The point is, the words “but,” “therefore,” and “so” denote cause-and-effect. For now, just concentrate on mapping out the main events of the story. You’ve finally made it to the final step in the process – and it’s the most enjoyable step of all! Writing a novel is a big commitment. If you were explaining the plot to someone, you’d follow this scene with something like: “... but soon the Nazis arrive, steal the ark from him, and seal him inside.”. There is no straightforward way to know how to outline a screenplay. For now, ask yourself these questions from the outset to see if your plot is suited to a series. Let that story and that passion bolster you throughout the process, and you’ll be on the right track. McCarthy’s trilogy is classified as a series because of recurring characters and settings, as well as strong thematic links. If you’re just looking to write a pithy list of scenes to get you started, you’d be well-served by the one-page outline accomplished screenwriter John August used for his script Big Fish. Develops the storyline using the scenes essential to the story’s genre supplemented by scenes that present relevant and just plain interesting action and/or drama pertinent to the idea set forth in the Logline and Leavebehind. This is because at all times, when writing for television, you need to be aware of the series elements of your story and each episode, although important in their own right, must also link and connect with the episodes following on after—like the beads in a necklace. We’re big believers in writing outlines of movies as you watch them and then breaking them down in order to master structure, and the same goes for writing a TV series. If not, you must either reconsider the characters and their arcs or consider the possibility of a standalone novel. This is the initial first step in order to get you really stuck into the process of deconstructing your three favorite TV shows: outlining them. Even before you start outlining your story, consider what I wrote in the first part of this series. I strongly suggest starting with the series outline of your TV idea before you hit the script writing stage. <3, Thanks, Caity! Keep in mind that each volume of a series should stand on its own as a valid novel in itself. There are a few exceptions to this rule, of course: literary series such as Cormac McCarthy‘s Border Trilogy or Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels, and successful commercial fiction such as Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones series. Writing Your Pilot Episode Set a deadline for yourself so you have a goal to reach. Consider the following elements of your world and if/how they will come into play throughout the series: Perhaps create a document for each of these elements and use it to collate your notes before you start writing in earnest. Of course an engaging storyline is vital, however readers must also care about what happens to your characters. Why? A word of warning, though: try not to be too heavy-handed when exploring your themes. Rather than wasting your time starting a series only to give up halfway through, you’re better equipped to explore other options, such as standalone novels or short stories. Before you launch into writing your spec-fic series, you need to lay some groundwork for your world-building. Now it’s time to think about the structure of that story, and how it will inform the structure of your series. Namaste. This sprawling series began almost 20 years ago, and readers are still eagerly awaiting its next instalment. With this in mind, you must put some serious effort into considering your characters before you start writing. After signing up to write a script for Croatian television, I learned that virtually all TV comedies, from Seinfeld to South Park, follow a simple formula. A lot of publishers are wary of accepting standalone fantasy novels, for example, as fantasy readers are generally used to the series format. You can then work to develop and bring them out as you see fit. However, this doesn’t mean that structure isn’t an important consideration for genres that don’t follow traditional ‘series’ conventions. Character should inform how to outline a screenplay, Use act structure to organize the parts of your script outline, Extend your beats into scenes with a step script outline, Find a script outline example that suits you, understanding the desires of your protagonist, Up Next: Proven Ways to Launch Your Writing Career →, The Ultimate Guide to Call Sheets (with FREE Call Sheet Template), How to Break Down a Script (with FREE Script Breakdown Sheet), The Only Shot List Template You Need — with Free Download, Managing Your Film Budget Cashflow & PO Log (Free Template), A Better Film Crew List Template Booking Sheet, Best Storyboard Softwares (with free Storyboard Templates), The Best Sam Mendes Movies — American Beauty to 1917, What to Watch Right Now — Netflix, HBO, Prime, Disney, Hulu, Best Podcast Recording Software — Mac, PC, Paid & Free, How to Make Money on YouTube [Complete Video Monetization Guide], The Scorpion and the Frog Story — How Writers Use Fables. And this can only come from understanding the desires of your protagonist. Especially if you’re like me and your outlining process is in-depth and detail-oriented, it may actually be counter-productive to hammer down all the details of your later stories until you’ve written the earlier ones.. An outline, however thorough, is never the final story. Setting is of vital importance in a series, no matter what the genre. And try to connect the dots with as few scenes as possible. Noah Charney December 28, 2014 Is there potential for extensive character development, world-building and subplots within my main plot? Take a look at your rough plan for each book and ensure that there is indeed a climax point in every one. Ever wonder how authors manage to outline a book series? Sometimes, an agent will need to send around the pilot script to networks; networks will then decide who they want to meet with for an in-person pitch based on the strength of the pilot script. If you’re finding yourself stuck at a particular part of your series, try to move on so as not to disrupt the flow of your writing. Series deadlines are for real. Is it meaty enough to sustain itself over more than one book? Make sure there’s an inciting incident in act one, and plenty of conflict in each beat. They should not be the same people at the series’ conclusion as they were at its commencement. That's because with shows like Orange is the New Black and Transparent, the lines have been blurred so that a thirty minute show can be a drama and an hour long can be a comedy. But each novel reads more like a standalone piece, and the three do not necessarily need to be read in order. Instead, make notes of any problems, ideas or missing parts that occur to you and amend them when you’ve finished your draft and are conducting a complete edit. (The exception to this is a character such as James Bond, who undergoes relatively little development throughout Ian Fleming’s series of novels. Personally, even though you’re more of a pantser, I’d recommend taking that step back, compiling all the bits and pieces you have so far, and at least working out the overall arc and main plot points you’d like to hit throughout the series, before getting stuck into the writing properly. But, just like any form of writing, you have to know where you’re going first. , I have to say this was one of the most organized and not so bogged down tips for series creating. As Stuart Evers points out in an article for The Guardian: A sense of place is important in most novels, but in modern crime fiction, I believe, it’s practically an imperative. As discussed above, character development is vital to any series; static characters just don’t cut it over multiple books. I even know I love at least 2 of my other main caste characters too. Create breakdown summaries and DOOD reports in a snap. At the end of the story, most of your characters (especially your protagonist) should not be the same people they were the start. Can you see how they will undergo a compelling journey, both physical and emotional? One very popular resource for dramatic structure is Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat. Not for very long, because I was desperate for work, but I hesitated. Ask yourself these questions to determine whether you should write a series or stick to a standalone book. Transcribe TV shows. The process of writing the outline for that first Season felt like a natural extension of telling a grander story. How will the relationships between various characters change and develop throughout the story? I’ve pretty much broken all the rules, probably why I haven’t successfully published a series yet. Structural considerations in crime/mystery novels and contemporary fiction series are vastly different. The first and most popular type of story is the One Big Story Arc typeand the second is the Self-contained Story Arc. Generally speaking, the genres best suited to a series are: If you’re writing in one of these genres, it might be worth seeing whether your story can be fleshed out into a series. Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes novels, for example, can be read in any order. The exploration of universal human themes helps readers relate to the story you’re telling, which is important if you want them to come back for each volume of your series. What themes unite each volume of the series? And, more importantly, does it answer them all? Remember, plot is character. Writing on his website, August said he then made a longer sequence outline after writing his first draft. You can achieve this through descriptions of things like the weather and the environment in which your characters find themselves.

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