The Lives of Your TV Characters

WHY CAN’T I HAVE THE LIFE I REALLY WANT?

All great TV characters have a basic life frustration, because life isn’t quite what they wish it was. They also have a fantasy about what it could be. Their stories virtually always revolve around some crisis or opportunity related to that central issue.

For instance, on Everybody Loves Raymond, Ray wishes he could have a simple life of sports watching, sex with his wife, and zero husband/father responsibilities, or family conflicts. But that’s never going to happen. Here are some brief “loglines” for sample stories from produced episodes, courtesy of www.tv.com:

    When Ray’s upper class in-laws come for a visit, he begs his parents to be nice to them and accept their differences even though their lifestyles are worlds apart.

    When Debra comes down with the flu and is bedridden, inexperienced Raymond must take care of her and the three kids, complicating his plans to meet Terry Bradshaw.

    At the urging of his parents and Debra, Raymond reluctantly takes Robert for a night out on the anniversary of Robert’s divorce. The brothers begin a newfound bonding experience until Robert wants to get in touch with Ray’s feelings.

    When Raymond chooses his mother’s spaghetti and meatballs over his wife’s lemon chicken for dinner, Debra blows a gasket. With good intentions, Ray asks Marie to teach Debra how to make her world-famous dish.

On Sex and the City, Carrie (and the other ladies) are looking for the perfect relationship with the perfect man. This also will never happen! (Until the series finale.) For example:

    Carrie thinks her relationship with Big has evolved enough to the place where she can leave stuff at his place. She purposely leaves a few items on his bathroom, only to be surprised by Big the next morning with a bag with all her items in it.

    Carrie’s reignited affair with Mr. Big puts an increasing strain on her relationship with Aidan, and she meets Natasha again in the worst of circumstances: while letting herself out of the Big’s home.

    Carrie finds out that Sean, her new young boyfriend, has had relationships with both men and women, and tries not to let it faze her, but it does eventually.

    Maybe having Aidan move in wasn’t such a good idea, as Carrie feels her apartment overcrowded with stuff that isn’t hers and noise that disturbs her alone time.

On Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy wishes she didn’t have to be the slayer, and that it didn’t interfere with her peace, happiness, and high school social life—but it always will:

    Yearning for a normal life, Buffy agrees to a date with the mysterious and brooding Owen. Giles discovers a prophecy of coming danger which would interfere with her plans, but she chooses Owen over battling the forces of darkness. When Giles goes out on his own and is trapped by a group of vampires, Buffy must figure out a way to balance dating and Slaying.

    It’s “Career Week” at Sunnydale High, and Buffy is faced with the reality that she has no future apart from her destiny as the Slayer.

    Buffy receives an acceptance to Northwestern University, but what should be a happy surprise turns sour when she realizes that she may not be able to go away to school and still fulfill her duties as the Slayer.

    Buffy and Riley’s relationship has reached a new level, and they are spending all their time in bed. Their round-the-clock exploration of each other awakens dark energies in Lowell House, and it is up to the Scoobies to save the day.

On The Sopranos, Tony Soprano is a mob boss who has psychological issues that cause him to seek a therapist—and constant interpersonal issues with great stakes for him, with his family and work colleagues. He wishes he didn’t have to see a therapist, and could just do what he wants to do, without any panic attacks, or getting guff from anyone. This also, can never happen:

    Tony is more depressed than ever over Pussy’s disappearance. He increases his medication, and only leaves the house to visit a beautiful Italian girl living next door.

    Dr. Melfi starts to push Tony in his therapy, and Tony uncovers some disturbing memories from his childhood that may help explain his panic attacks.

    Tony, now separated from Carmela, takes a romantic interest in Dr. Melfi. Carmela is forced to call Tony for help when a wild bear keeps visiting their home.

    Tony must lay down the law with a distraught Gloria when she threatens to expose their affair to his family.


These tips came from the workshop

Writing a Spec Script for a Television Comedy or Drama Series

In this workshop, writers will learn all the key elements to a successful “episodic spec,” and will receive ongoing instructor guidance in building their own—from basic idea through finished outline. It begins with knowing how to choose the right kind of show to spec, then understanding which elements to study, in order to really grasp how a typical episode functions well enough to write one. Students will then learn the elements of great story ideas for a spec, and be given a chance to pitch and re-pitch multiple ideas for their episode, before finally settling on one to write. At that point, they will begin “breaking story” (figuring out the key “beats” of each “act”) over several weeks, getting instructor feedback along the way. Finally, they will be guided in crafting a scene-by-scene outline, from which they could then go on to write the actual script.

Learn more about Writing a Spec Script for a Television Comedy or Drama Series today!