India is a land of talents, and there are many young guys and girls in different parts of the country who want to become a television writer. But they don’t know what television writing is and how to enter into this world of glamor. If you are the one who wants to make your career in television writing, then this article will give you some unusual insights. So, let’s get started!
What television writing really is?
Television writing is way too different from film writing. In television, writers should know how to write in perfect order. They need to understand the target audience of the channel as well as the time slot. It is creative writing but involves a lot of technicalities. It is not just one writer who writes everything from the screenplay to dialogues. It’s a team of writers, headed by script head or content head.
Every draft of the writer gets feedback from creative directors, producers & channel executives. There are strict deadlines that are to be followed. Moreover, you, as a writer, have to either incorporate all the feedback that is suggested or convince the team members if you want to let it go. Let’s first understand why is television writing different from film writing.
Difference between film & television scriptwriting
Technically, they are the same; both have locations, characters, plots, subplots, and conclusions. But the format of both writings is hugely different.
Television series run daily. But their run time is 30 minutes or 60 minutes. The runtime also includes commercial breaks. So, the actual content you need for 30 minutes episodes is 22-24 minutes, and for 60 minutes episode is approximately 43-45 minutes. This duration depends on the channel policy, as well as the popularity of the show.
The popular TV series at the prime time might get more adverts than lesser popular shows. So, for the film, you write one 90 minutes script, but for television, you write 24 minutes script every day. You might think that episodic writing is shorter than film writing, but in the long run, it’s much elongated and time taking.
The narrative structure of television serials is also different. Television scripts are part of larger narratives. The movie has a perfect start, middle & end, while each episode of a TV show has a distinct beginning, middle & end. Every break and end of the episode needs a hook point for the audience to come back. While it is not the case with movies.
Pace & End
Television writers get to play with cliff-hangers; they can allow the plots to develop slowly or with speed. Television episodes do not require a neat end; they need an exciting conclusion. Every event can have its purpose in television series, and it is connected to the main story & characters of the show. Whereas the movie has to end in 90 minutes, and it will have a proper conclusion to it.
Cinema & visuals
Tv series is dialogue-driven, they focus a lot more on dialogues than visuals because it is a medium of close-up. Although, in the last few years, this has changed. Channels and producers are trying to give visual relief and exciting locations to the audience, but movies are still more cinematic than tv series.
In typical television serials, emotions of characters are far-fetched than movies. The characters react loudly, whether they are sad, angry, or happy. Although television has been experiencing changes and trying to play on subtle emotions, the success of loud television shows like ‘Tarak Mehta Ka Ulta Chashma’ make it difficult for the producers to bring much change.
Different genres of a television script
It is a dialogue & performance-based style. Characters of drama-based series are loud. Tragedy, melodrama, or musical theatre are its different forms. Drama is the all-time favorite genre of television channels in India.
‘Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi,’ ‘Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki,’ ‘Kumkum Bhagya,’ ‘Kasauti Zindagi Ki,’ ‘Madhubala’ were hugely successful. While Balika Vadhu, ‘Agle Janam Mohe Bitiya Hi Kijo’ & ‘Udan’ were a different type of drama series based on social issues and taboos.
The love story is part of all the drama shows. It’s either the main plot or the subplot. ‘Shakti – Astitva Ke Ahsaas Ki’ is one of the most unusual love stories running successfully on colors channel. It is a love story of a Kinnar (Eunuch & a man). Well, we all love these unusual love stories. The more unique your story is, the more are the chances for it to get accepted by the audience.
Crime & mystery
Police stories, murder mysteries, detective stories are different forms of crime series. Indian audience loves this genre. The longest-running show in the history of television is ‘CID’ on Sony. It was also listed in the Limca book of records & Guinness book of the world record in the year 2004 for its history breaking single-shot episode of 111 minutes.
The writer, director of the event, was Mr. BP Singh. He was also the producer of CID. The characters of this show became legendary. Dangal, a free to air channel, has again launched CID by New name – CIF recently this year. ‘Savdhan India,’ ‘Crime Petrol,’ & ‘Adalat’ are some more successful examples of Crime shows.
Sitcoms are light-hearted shows with funny punch lines & gags. In 90’s shows like ‘Dekh Bhai Dekh,’ ‘Shriman Shrimati,’ ‘Hum Panch,’ ‘Saara Bhai v/s Sara Bhai’ made a buzz. Today, ‘Bhabhi Ji Ghar Par Hain and Tarak Mehta Ka Ulta Chashma are breaking all the records of success.
Horror is altogether different from the genres mentioned above. It’s not easy to create fear and built a shock at every moment. You have to keep your audiences engaged throughout. Dar Sab Ko Lagta Hai, Shhhh Koi Hai & Fear Files were some successful horror shows on television.
Since the launch of Nagin, this new genre is grabbing all the TRP. It has elements of horror as well as fantasy characters like shape-shifting snakes. This genre is more dependent on graphics & graphical characters.
Ramayan & Mahabarata are prime examples of Mytho shows. There have been many remakes of Ramayan and Mahabarata. Then there are many shows made on Ganesha, hanuman, and shiva. ‘Devon Ke Dev Mahadev,’ ‘Vighnaharta Ganesh,’ ‘Siya Ke Raam’ are also examples of successful mythology shows.
Social mythology is a new genre, ‘Jay Santoshi Maa’ on &TV was one of the most successful tv serials in this genre. It is called as social-mythos because there are two worlds here. One world is of the gods, and the other is of humans. The underlying theme of most of the social-mythos is good V/S evil.
Reality and game shows
They are not part of fiction writing. ‘Kaun Banega karodpati,’ & ‘Big boss & ‘Khatron Ke Khiladi’ are some successful reality game shows on Indian television.
Children shows/child fantasy
This genre is not much successful, maybe because kids are either busy on mobile or studies. Although ‘baalvir’ was a successful children fantasy and it is coming up with season two. If you want to know which star cast is roped up in the ‘baalvir’ season 2, leave your comments, and we will tell you what’s in there for you.
Division of television script
Broad story is the bible of the series. It contains everything, characters, their history, relationship, detailed account of the story, as well as how the story will expand in the future. It is a broader arch of the series.
The arch can be 3,6, or 12 months long. It is divided into main plots & subplots. Your primary storyline revolves around the main characters. Then there are sub-characters and their stories. They are linked to the main plot and characters in some or the other way.
The broader arch is later divided into each month. This document gives you a clear idea of how your month will begin and where it will end.
The monthly story is now divided into weeks. Friday is the most important day of the week. It must end on the turning point that pulls back your audiences on Monday. Most of the promos are run on weekends on a higher range because of this reason only.
Once you have finalized, what will run the entire week, you have to create epidodic stories. Every episode should have a proper start, middle, and end, which is not essential in case of the monthly and weekly story.
Finally, it’s time to craft your screenplay. It contains every detail that includes scenes, emotions, cast, technical details like camera angles, locations, props, and reference dialogues. It is given to all the departments for pre-production.
The screenplay is converted into a final dialogue draft. It contains self-conversational dialogues known as voice-overs and open conversations between characters.
How to format a television script
It is not that simple! There are a plethora of rules and regulations you should understand before you start writing a script.
Typically, the television script can have 5 acts.
Act 1: Introduction of the characters & their problems.
Act 2: Escalation of the problem of characters
Act 3: Creating a worst-case scenario for the characters.
Act 4: Race against time.
Act 5: Let the characters reach the moment where they get the victory. Well, that’s the secret that they will never get the final victory till the last day of the show.
Are you pursuing your career in television writing, and you don’t know where to start? Do you want to know how to write different genres of television? What are the best universities to take a writing course? Do you want to pitch your story, but you don’t know where to begin?
I will tell you everything in the next guide. Do share and follow our blog if you enjoyed reading the article. Leave your comments if you have any queries and we would love to reply to you.