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How To Write a Script For a TV Show

It requires a script to transform ideas into a story. It is the base on which everything depends and it is the seed that fires the imagination to create a TV or cinematic experience. So how to write a script for a TV show or a film that is worth a second look? You will need a lot of hard work. That is for sure. But you will also need a proper direction so that your hard work doesn't come to nothing. Here are a few things that can help you on the way. 

Table of Contents

Start with World-building

Before writing your script you have to set up your world where your story will take place.

Theme or Main Idea

Think of an idea you want your story to revolve around. Take inspiration from everywhere. The environment you are living in, your present condition, your life experiences, the books you have read, almost anything can be an inspiration for an idea.

When ideas come write them down, no matter how weird they might seem to you. Even gibberish can sometimes help to inspire you. Take a small notebook with you all the time and jot down ideas as they come to you. It is often at the weirdest and most haphazard of situations that best ideas often come. Asking yourself questions is another great tool you can use to help you get new ideas.

Genre

Ask yourself what is your idea about? Is it filled with lots of explosions and fights? If yes, then consider it as an action genre. If your idea is something that will scare people, place it under horror. If it is about romance and relationships then you are writing a drama or a romantic comedy. If it is some strange world with older or newer technologies and mysterious people, then you are writing a fantasy or a science fiction script.

After you have defined the genre of your story, check out other movies or TV shows in that genre that you enjoy the most. This can give you a more clear idea of what you are trying to write about.

Setting

 Once you have a theme and genre you can think about the kind of environment in which you want your story to take place. To make it more interesting have at least three to four different kinds of settings. Make your settings blend in with your story. Your settings should make sense. For example, a green meadow with lots of sunlight is not a good setting for a horror scene. A more darker and indoor environment will make a lot more sense in such a case.        

Protagonist
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Create an interesting protagonist for your story. Take inspiration from your favorite heroes in movies and TV shows. Look closely at how they move the story forward and make it an interesting experience. Add the elements and traits that you like in your own protagonist. Generally speaking, your hero should have a set goal that they are trying to achieve. They should be going through some inner or outer change or struggle as they move towards their goal. These and other similar traits will make your protagonist much more interesting.

Antagonist

The main resisting force against your protagonist is your antagonist. A good story is about the conflict of opposite ideas about life coming in conflict through a clash of two personalities and the resulting synthesis or antithesis. Make sure to create an antagonist that seems real. He should have some goals very opposite to the protagonist, and he should have genuine reasons for turning away from the path of our hero.

The genre of your story can often help you in determining the kind of antagonist you will write (or you can try something new). If it's a romantic comedy or a drama, the antagonist will be the character your protagonist is trying to woo. If it's a horror show, it will be some monster, etc. If it's a crime thriller it will be some mafia or crime boss.

Logline

Logline is the summary of your story in one or two short sentences. Your logline should convey the essence of your story in a unique manner. Here are some things that you should consider while writing a logline:

  • Strong adjectives for the protagonist
  • A clear goal
  • Irony
  • High stakes

Here is an example of a logline from Pulp Fiction:

 The lives of two mob hitmen, a boxer, a gangster's wife, and a pair of diner bandits intertwine in four tales of violence and redemption.

Creating an outline

It is better to have a brief outline before you set out to write your first draft. Otherwise, chances are you will get stuck somewhere or you will have to do a lot of rewrites.

Brainstorm
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Building the plot of your story is a complex task. Try to break it down into small steps. You can generally divide the plot into a beginning, conflict, and a final climax or ending. From there, divide it down into more mini parts. You can use cards to write down the main points of your story.

Ideas come randomly to the mind when you are thinking about the plot. So write whatever seems interesting to you under the general category of the beginning, middle, or ending.   

Order the story

Once you have a complete plot of the story, arrange it into order. What happens first and what next? Make a list of all the events in chronological order. Arranging the story will give you a better idea of how it will look finally. 

Importance of scenes

As you will order the events of the story chronologically you will find out the gaps in the story. Fill them up with appropriate scenes. Think about the importance of every event or scene in your story. If a certain event does not add something to the story remove it.   

Script Format

Scripts are written in a special format. Here are a few things that can help you format your script correctly

  • The title of your script should be in all caps. 
  • Use 12 point Courier font throughout your whole script
  • The scene heading should be 1 ½ in (3.8 cm) from the left edge of the page. Type it in all caps.
  • Use action blocks for settings and character actions
  • Center character names and dialog 

There are lots of free and other scriptwriting software in the market. It is better to use them as they will make formatting much easier and on the fly. Here are the links to some of them:

First Draft

Deadline

Set a deadline for yourself when you will complete your first draft. Two to three months is an average deadline. But you can set it as you like. This will build urgency in you to complete your first draft. Otherwise, humans easily procrastinate and leave things incomplete.  

Plan and consistency

It is far better to be slow and consistent like a turtle than to be a lightning-fast rabbit who completes things just in the nick of time (and almost always misses the deadlines). So make a schedule to write one or two pages a day. This all might seem like nothing at first, but doing it for two or three months can lead you to astounding progress.   

Make it more real

When we write things down especially dialog we often botch the way it is done in real life. It often feels flat and boring. To make your story lively and real try to imagine the scenes as you are writing them. Similarly, recite the dialog loud so you can hear for yourself if they sound fake or real. Try to throw yourself into the story so you can see things as if they were happening to you. 

Keep writing until you have 90 to 120 pages. Think of each page as equaling one minute of screen time. This can help you write your script according to different time limits.

Revisions

After you have written your story it is time to re-read and revise it to carve it into better shape.

Take a fresh look after some time

Take a week or fortnight break and do something else. This will help you see things from a fresher perspective. You will be able to easily find out mistakes or holes in your plot which previously escaped your attention. 

Reread and make notes 

Read your entire script like a casual reader. Whenever you find some mistake or something wrong make notes. Try to look for things that do not make sense. Remove any unnecessary parts. Change the story or dialog where ever it is lousy. 

You can read your dialog out loud and imagine the scenes as you read them. This can give you a better idea of where your story flows smoothly and where it has holes. 

Conclusion 

After you are done share your script with someone you trust and who can give you good advice. After they have read the script ask them specific questions about the story. Think about their feedback and make any changes you feel are necessary. Keep rewriting until you are satisfied with your script.

Here are a few resources that can help you on your journey to writing a brilliant script.

Websites for reading film and TV show scripts

IMSDB - Internet Movie Screenplay Database

Go Into the Story

Simply Scripts

Drew's Script-o-Rama

AwesomeFilm

Screenplays For You

The Daily Script

The Screenplay Database

The Script Lab

Movie Scripts and Screenplays

Some Books about writing scripts

Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting - Syd Field 

Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee 

Save the Cat - Blake Snyder

The Writer's Journey - Chris Vogler 

Writing the Romantic Comedy - Billy Mernit

The Complete Writer's Guide to Heroes and Heroines: Sixteen Master Archetypes

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