How Writing a TV Show Works

Fonzie: the perfect example of a secondary character who became a star. 
Silver Screen Collection/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

** This article applies to sitcoms and dramas on American network television. See How Reality TV Works to learn more.

So, you think it would be great to see a TV comedy about a claustrophobic cupcake baker who moonlights as an exotic dancer. And your sister has an idea about a clairvoyant librarian who uses her powers for evil. You don't think your ideas are half bad -- the new TV season has hit full swing, and you're simply not impressed. As you skim the latest issue of TV Guide, you think, "I could do this." After all, your friends are always yelling at you for revealing plot twists. And you've never been wrong about when a show takes a turn for the worse -- but how do you make an idea into reality?

In this article, you'll learn how to write a TV show. First, you need to get it all down on paper.

In the television business, ideas like the one about a claustrophobic cupcake baker are known as a concept -- essentially, a core creative idea. In some cases, only the concept is sold to the network, but this usually happens with folks who are already established in the business or who might already have a development deal. A development deal is an arrangement where a network agrees to pay to develop one or more projects for production. In most cases, if you're new to the business, you'll need to flesh out your concept to include characters and a story line.

In the next section, we'll take a closer look at how to create characters viewers will love -- or love to hate.