Sunday, April 10, 2005

Deconstructing other TV shows/films

If you want to learn to write good structure, one of the best ways is to write a narrative beat sheet for a TV show or film to understand that structure. Basically, you sum up a scene or "events" in a series of statements. For example:

  • Jack sends Kate to get Sawyer's alcohol
  • Kate finds Sawyer and takes what alcohol he has before dashing back through the jungle.
  • In the jungle, Kate finds Claire having contractions and calls for help.
  • Jin finds Kate and Claire; Kate asks him to go get Jack and bring him back.
It isn't about recording the dialogue (unless it is an event unto itself) or how people feel. It is about recording the events and how one event leads to another. By deconstructing TV episodes or films you start to get a feel for the rhythms of structure. If you pay closer attention, you can start to find the inciting incident, the mid-point, the end of each Act, etc as you pick apart the story into a series of "beats" or events.

I just finished my homework assignment for this week, which was to do exactly this for the show I plan to spec. It was on my mind, so I thought why not share?


Rogers said...

You can do it the other way around, too, for your spec, when you progress to scripting it. Play back the episode with the image off, just listening to the dialogue. Stripping the visual cues away force you to focus on the rhythms of the lines in the actors mouths. In a spec, what the show runner is looking for is not only a good story, but proof you can write the characters as they appear on the show. This is one of the most valuable assets a writer can hamve, as when you're first staffing, you've got to learn to work within a show created by other writer's voices.

Shawna said...

That's a great tip! I will use that idea. Thanks!! :)