5 Steps to Write a Short-form TV Script

Kaila Mathis

CLLCTVE hosted CLLCTVE University: The Ultimate Creator Accelerator for 10 Weeks of Spring 2021. Each week came with its own upskilling workshop hosted by a CLLCTVE Creator.

Danielle Sanchez, Junior Film, Cinema & Video Studies and English Major at Lafayette College, hosted her workshop on Writing for TV: Finding Your Style.

“Anyone interested in writing for television or any kind of script would gain a lot from this workshop and (hopefully) have a fantastic time!” said Danielle. “All the information is beneficial for any screenwriter or creative writer looking to learn the formalities of writing scripts and the different genres’ ins and outs. Creatives with experience will also benefit from brushing up on their skills and learning new information based on other college creatives’ knowledge and creative visions.”

Pulling from her TV scriptwriting experience, Danielle put together 5 Key Steps to Write a Short-form TV Script for participants to review before the session.

5 Steps to Write a Short-form TV Script

1. Write a Logline

“Before you even start writing your script, you need to have a basic understanding of the story you are trying to tell. A logline is a one to two sentence summary of what your show is going to be about. It is essential to introduce your protagonist, their goal, and the risks they will face achieving said goal in your logline. This is the best way to get a producer hooked on your story and want to read what happens. It is essential to add a layer of mystery or suspense in your logline; you don’t want to give away the ending before the script is written.

Example: “When a young boy disappears, his mother, a police chief, and his three friends must confront terrifying forces to get him back.” — Stranger Things

2. Create a Pilot Outline

“Before you can start writing your pilot episode, you have to know where you’re going and how you’re going to get there. Creating an outline is the best and most efficient way to get this done. A television script tends to have seven to twelve scenes of varying length that set up the main plot and conflict, establish side-plots, and prepare the audience for the journey ahead. Each scene in your outline should contain a brief paragraph setting it up and giving a quick overview of what happens. This is also where you can include character descriptions; they are usually a paragraph providing basic physical descriptions, motivations, and personality traits. This will help you plan out your episode, give readers a taste of the characters, and make sure you know exactly where it is headed.

3. Create a Series Bible (Or “Micro-Bible”)

“Knowing what happens in your pilot episode is excellent, but if you don’t know what will happen next, then writing the pilot will not get you far. A series bible, or the shorter micro-bible, sets up the rest of the season and the show’s following seasons. Producers and recruiters want to see that you know where your story is going, how you’re going to get there, and how long it will take. The remaining episodes and future seasons can be explained briefly, describing primary and secondary plots’ progression. This is also where you can include one-shot or “filler” episode ideas, which further demonstrates your creative vision.

4. Start Writing!

“Finally! The step I know you have probably been waiting for. After you cultivate your idea and develop it to the point where you know it backward and forwards, it is time to start writing. It’s best to start out with a free script-writing program like Celtx, which will help you learn to navigate the traditional structuring of scripts and make it easy to share with others. Each page of a script is equivalent to one minute of screentime. There are so many tips and tricks to screenwriting, and my workshop will make sure you have all of them under your belt when you start bringing your story to life.

5. Get Feedback

“In my opinion, getting feedback is the most crucial part of writing anything, whether it be a script, a novel, or a magazine article. This will be one of the main focuses of my workshop! You know your story inside and out, so what might be clear to you might be lost on someone who knows next to nothing about your passion project. Also, as we all know, writing is hard, and sharing it can be equally as challenging and even terrifying; having someone you trust to read your work is an incredible asset. As you work on your draft or complete it, share it with a professor, friend, fellow student, or in a writer’s group online. They will help you work out any plot holes or confusions within your script and give you a baseline for how your story might be received by wider audiences.”

Kaila Mathis
Kaila graduated from Villanova University in 2021 with a B.A. in PR & Advertising and Journalism, with a minor in Spanish. She is now the Growth Manager at CLLCTVE and a Freelance Writer for Adweek.
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