Television / Writing

Television Writing

I’ve recently started reading a TV writing book called Television Writing from the Inside Out: Your Channel to Success by Larry Brody. It was recommended to me by one of the most knowledgeable college professors I’ve ever had the fortune of learning from. He’s worked on TV shows as a staff writer, and he’s also a successful playwright. He taught the playwriting courses I took my last two semesters as an undergrad, one-act in the fall and full length in the spring. Anyway, I purchased the book last year and had only skimmed through it, but now I finally cracked it open and started actually reading it.

I decided some time last year that I’d like to pursue a career in TV writing, specifically for sitcoms. Prior to that, I was interested in journalism, and before that I wanted to be an author. I’m also interested in playwriting and screenwriting, and I even took that screenplay workshop a few months ago, as I mentioned in an earlier blog post.

Basically, I just want to write for a living, in any way, shape or form. I’ve known that since I was seven. I have stories to tell and characters to create. I must throw these characters into obstacles and have them overcome fears and reach goals. I have such a passion for writing that I can’t contain it, and while it’ll be a long road of hard work ahead, the important thing, as always, is to put in the effort and always, always be persistent. We all must remind ourselves of our dream, our vision, the thing that fuels us, the thing that keeps us filled with hope and determination, that even if we may fail, we’ll simply get up and try again, or if worse comes to worst, go in another direction. Just as long as we keep moving forward.

But now I’m getting all idealistic again. Allow me to reign this back in to my central topic, which is television writing. I’ve been a lover of TV for as long as I can remember. I grew up primarily watching Nickelodeon, shows like Rugrats, Hey Arnold!, All That, Kenan & Kel,  etc. You know, all of those precious shows from the late ’90s to the early 2000’s.

Then, as a young teen, I started watching more mature animated shows like Family Guy and South Park, you know, shows that a 14-year-old girl really shouldn’t have been watching but did anyway. I still love both of those shows, along with American Dad now as well, although I have and always will favor South Park. The creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, are absolute geniuses and easily two of my biggest idols.

When I was a senior in high school, I started watching The Office and instantly fell in love with everything about it, the characters, the dialogue, the storylines, the format of the show itself, in which the characters talked to the camera. Jim and Pam were my favorite couple. Dwight was hilarious. The show was funny yet heartwarming. I cried so much during the finale. Michael Scott. Ugh. It was perfect.

Haha.

Now, one of my all-time favorite shows is one that I started watching in late 2012, a show that just so happens to currently be the number one comedy, The Big Bang Theory. Initially, it didn’t exactly strike me as anything amazing, and in fact, it took me a few episodes before I really started warming up to it, but what intrigued me the most about it right off the bat was the uniqueness of the characters. And now, I’m pretty much flat out obsessed with the show, and it’s become the real driving force behind my desire to become a sitcom writer.

Which brings me back to the book I’m reading. It has a lot of great information, not just about technical terms of the business, but also the actual planning stages behind writing a script. In order to get started in the industry, the first step is to write a spec script, which is a script based on speculation (hence “spec”) for a current popular television show. You have to develop your idea, write an outline in which you break down the entire script, scene by scene, and finally, write the first draft. Then, get notes, revise and re-write, all until it’s perfect and you’ve got an amazing script. And, evidently, you’ll have to write a script for multiple shows for whichever genre you want to focus on, basically either comedy or drama.

Right now, I’m still in the super early planning stages for my spec script. I’m going to try writing one for The Big Bang Theory first, because after watching it religiously for about a year and a half now, I feel like I’ve got a good grasp on the characters. The hardest part for me, though, is coming up with interesting plots that haven’t been done yet, which is tricky because the show is currently in its seventh season and has over 150 episodes.

So, after I do all the re-writes, and I’m confident that I’ve got a kick-ass awesome script, I’m not exactly sure what the next step will be in terms of sending it out to people or trying to find an agent or whatnot. That part scares the hell out of me, to be honest, but I think that’s a good thing. It means I’m taking a risk, and it’s one that I’m more than willing to take, because I want this more than anything.

Just gotta take it one step at a time.

-Ali

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