Read the info below then chick to read the full article on Scripted's web site.
|Writers' Room 101: Beats, Breaking, and Blending|
|Jeanne Veillette Bowerman|
TV writer Eric Haywood takes you into the writers' room to share advice on "beats, breaking and blending."
If you're trying to break into television writing, don't miss William Rabkin's webinar on Thursday, September 25th onModern TV Drama: Tone, Style, and Pace, now ON SALE until September 19, 2014.
by Eric Haywood
In the previous blog post, I talked in detail about some specific tips for navigating the pitching process. This time, we're going to delve into the next few steps you'll be taking in the writers' room, all of which are meant to bring you closer to being ready to write an actual script. Essentially, what you'll be focusing on after pitching can be boiled down to three things: beats, breaking, and blending. These are the basic building blocks of crafting a story.
(And yes, in case you're wondering: today's post is brought to you by the letter "B.")
So your writing staff has successfully pitched some ideas for a given episode and gotten them approved by the showrunner. Great. Now what?
Now the writing staff must turn those pitches from vague ideas into actual, concrete storylines. This process is called "breaking stories," and it's another group effort in which you'll be expected to participate.
In order to minimize confusion among your episode's various stories, one of the first things you'll want to do is name them. In most cases, the stories will simply be assigned a letter, with the "A" story being the most important (and longest) in the episode, the "B" story the next most important, and so on. You'll most likely have a "C" and maybe even a "D" story (sometimes called a runner), and while it's fairly rare to have more stories than that, it's not unheard of. The number of stories will vary from show to show, but you can generally expect to follow the same basic A-B-C-D pattern.
Simply put, breaking a story means coming up with each individual scene for that story and arranging those scenes in their proper order as they'll appear in the script. A scene is often referred to as a "beat," and the terms are used pretty interchangeably. So you're basically taking the story idea (the pitch) and expanding it until you've literally broken it down into pieces, beat by beat.
Breaking a story is really just an extension of the pitching process, because the writing team will toss out different ideas for beats, and generally speaking, it's another best-idea-wins process. The beats get written down - usually on a whiteboard, allowing everyone to watch the story begin to take shape - and before you know it, you've got a complete beginning, middle, and end, with some cool twists and turns thrown in along the way. Then the writing staff repeats these steps for the "B" story, the "C" story, and - well, you get the idea. In each case, the goal is to simply figure out the right beats necessary to tell a satisfying, compelling story.
If the showrunner has been away from the room while all this is being done, she'll return once the stories are broken, and the writers will pitch each story to her, one beat at a time. You'll then receive feedback ranging from minor tweaks to major overhauls, and in some cases, you'll re-pitch the adjusted stories and hopefully get that highly-sought-after thumbs-up from the showrunner.
And now you're ready for the blend...
Read more tips on writing for TV...