One Problem Affecting Everyone

One Problem Affecting Everyone

At the heart of a good original TV series idea is one big problematic situation. It somehow affects all the series regulars. And it leads to endless new stories. It’s not unique to particular characters, but is the over-arching reason for the series’...
Series = Ensemble

Series = Ensemble

When coming up with an idea for a television series, and writing a pilot script, writers often make the mistake of approaching it like a feature. Meaning, they focus on a single main character, with a single problem and goal. That’s not how television works. I can...
The 20 Script Must-Haves

The 20 Script Must-Haves

The things that make screenwriting hard to succeed at are not mysterious. They’re just not easy to achieve. Successful scripts differ from unsuccessful ones for some pretty concrete reasons. Below you’ll find my list of the 20 most important attributes of...
What are the stakes?

What are the stakes?

It’s a constant question producers, agents and executives will ask: What are the stakes? And it’s maybe the most common thing that causes a script to “not work.” If the stakes aren’t big enough, the audience won’t tend to care, or...
Perfect Counterparts

Perfect Counterparts

What makes an audience root for two people to be together? The Save the Cat books have a name for the type of story where the primary external conflict is that two people who are “perfect counterparts” have something big in the way of “living happily ever after.” It’s...
Web of Conflict

Web of Conflict

What’s the key thing to focus on when developing a TV series idea? The answer is simple: the characters. Specifically, a web of entertaining-to-watch characters who have conflicted relationships with each other. Ideally, you would also have a big, intriguing,...
8 Characters of Comedy

8 Characters of Comedy

When I work with anyone developing a half-hour pilot, I always recommend Scott Sedita’s book The Eight Characters of Comedy.  Written primarily for actors (Sedita is an acting coach in Los Angeles), it can also greatly help writers.  It presents eight archetypes found...
Two types of TV stories

Two types of TV stories

Somehow an article I wrote for Script Magazine a while back never got added to my own website — and it’s about an important topic that I teach TV writers about all the time: the two different kinds of TV stories, and why it’s important to know which...
Unmet Needs

Unmet Needs

I think the best television characters want something they can never have — and spend every episode pursuing it.  What makes them compelling is that they are under siege, in some way, by the world around them, and unable to secure that version of their life that they...
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