How To Create A TV Show
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How to Create a TV Show

There are a few ways to approach how to create a tv show. This article is about writing and developing the concept.

The Difference between TV and Movies

The first thing to remember is that you are not writing a movie.

A movie is a concise story with a beginning a middle and an end. You create the conflict, bring it to a climax, and tie it up all nicely with a resolution of some sort. It usually tells how your main character learns or changes from the experience in the story, and the resolution of the central conflict

A TV show is an ongoing story. The preferred term is "episodic". It's a series of episodes in the life of the main character(s). The driving force is Conflict. In episodic storytelling, main conflict is explored from a variety of perspectives, particularly from the inner conflicts of the main characters, and is never resolved.

Once the Central Conflict is resolved, the series is over.

"A television series is the continuing adventures of a character, or group of characters, setting out each week to achieve a predetermined goal. The pursuit of that goal, and the manner in which the characters do it, is the framework for telling stories."

That framework can be broken down into the World, the Conflict, and the Characters.

Creating the World

You don't have to create a new planet for your characters to live on. You just have to create the context in which they live and relate to each other.

On Grey's Anatomy or E.R. for example, the world is the hospital. Or, more specifically, the emergency room.

In M*A*S*H, the world was their basecamp in the middle of war.

The world can be the criminal underground of Chicago, or the courtroom, or a school. The important thing is that it create the basis for the characters to relate to each other, and to experience and explore a particular conflict.

Creating the Central Conflict

There are two types of conflicts you'll need to put in your show to make it successful.

The first type of conflict is provided by the show’s basic premise. Each story in the series is going to be based on some variation of this basic conflict.

In the world of the hospital, for example, the conflict might be saving lives and curing diseases. A courtroom has criminal cases to solve. A spaceship will constantly run into aliens to deal with.

The second type of conflict is deeper and personal layer that will give the series depth and meaning.

This second level of conflict is often the conflict within the protagonist and between the other lead characters. The stories and the central conflict should create a situation that forces the main character to struggle with two sides of his or her personality.

This second kind of conflict is what draws people in and keeps them watching because they will be able to relate to the character's humanity.

Creating the Characters

With the world defined, and its conflicts in place, it will be clear what kind of people inhabit it. Now we can populate this world with characters that make sense in it.

A character is defined by his or her goal and the choices made in trying to obtain that goal. We understand and connect to characters by watching the choices they make in the midst of conflict. They become more interesting when they struggle with some conflict — between two sides of their personality — while resolving those choices.

When you create your characters, their desires, goals, and personal conflicts, be sure that they embody opposite sides of the Central Conflict. This will help you to keep and connect those two levels of conflict going, and allow you explore the premise of the TV show through the characters.

Creating the Pilot & Further Study

NOW you are ready to start writing your stories and your pilot episode. The pilot episode has a big job to do: Establish the characters, the world, and the conflicts all in one episode, while at the same time be interesting and draw people in.

After doing all of the above steps, however, it should be easy as all of the important elements are laid out for you. You've done all the hard work already.

There are several good books on writing television that you can purchase online.

In a memo I wrote to the co-creators of a show I am currently working on, I summarized how to make a tv show, and made it available online. Once you have the basic concepts down, you will find that making the show will be a lot easier and fun.

Happy writing.


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