Writing Television Sitcoms

( 3 )

Overview

As digital technology reshapes the television industry, this new and expanded edition explains how writers can get ahead of the curve. It's the ultimate, all-in-one guide to writing a script that delivers, pitching a new show, and launching a successful career.

Features include:

A complete description of premise-driven comedy, a proven method for "writing funny from the ...

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Writing Television Sitcoms (revised)

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Overview

As digital technology reshapes the television industry, this new and expanded edition explains how writers can get ahead of the curve. It's the ultimate, all-in-one guide to writing a script that delivers, pitching a new show, and launching a successful career.

Features include:

A complete description of premise-driven comedy, a proven method for "writing funny from the ground up"

Numerous script and story examples from your favorite current and classic series

Advice from top writer-producers of shows that range from The Simpsons and Everybody Loves Raymond to Late Night With David Letterman and All in the Family

A thorough look at how sitcom story models are changing

Complete script layout guidelines for all three formats: film, tape, and animation

Tips on how utilizing new-media developments can help you break into the business

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780399535376
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 12/1/2009
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 296,945
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Evan S. Smith is an associate professor at Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, and has written sitcoms for studios including Paramount, MTM, and Twentieth- Century Fox.

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Table of Contents

Introduction xv

Part 1 Writing Premise-Driven Comedy

1 The Game Plan 3

Career Paths 4

Getting Started 7

2 First, Some Theory 9

The Mechanics of Laughter 9

Characteristics of Comedy 11

The importance of Tension 16

3 Putting Theory into Practice 18

Seamless Humor 18

Consistency 19

Comedy Output 19

The Traditional Approach to Sitcom Writing 20

4 Level One: Premise-Driven Comedy 22

A Different Approach: Comedy in the Story Premise 23

Predicaments 25

Character Mix 31

Style of Comedy 36

Casting 40

5 Level Two: Comedy in Sequences and Scenes 42

Compound Story Predicaments 43

Stir Up the Character Mix 44

Mix and Match 44

Three Things to Remember 45

6 Level Three: Comedy in Dialogue and Actions 47

Building Jokes 48

Setups 48

Punchlines 57

Funny Actions 65

Miscellaneous Comedy Tips 69

About All of These Labels 71

Finding Your Comedic Voice 72

Part 2 Writing a Professional Script

7 Doing Your Homework 77

Which Series to Pick 79

Researching the Series 81

Studying the Premise 82

8 Developing an Episode Premise 87

Advice from Our Producers 87

Dreaming Up Stories 88

Picking Your Best Ideas 90

Turning Ideas into Springboards 92

High-Concept Stories 94

9 Developing the Story 96

Creating a Beat Sheet 97

Story Structure: Linear vs. Thread 99

Story Threads vs. Subplots vs. Ensemble Stories 101

Stories Without Endings 102

Serialized Stories (Story Arcs) 103

Dramatic Structure vs. Broadcast Format 104

Story Tips 106

Comedy's Impact on Story 109

How the Production Process Affects Your Script 110

Nail the Story, the Rest is Easy 113

10 Creating Funny Characters 115

Remember the Mix117

Character Arcs 117

Character Types 118

Visiting Characters 122

11 Writing An Outline 125

Writing to Sell, Not Educate 126

Building an Outline 127

How it Should Look on Paper 130

Stylistic Tips 135

Rewriting an Outline 138

Advice from Our Producers 139

12 Writing the First Draft 142

Just Do It 142

Writing Scenes 143

Harvesting Comedy Built into the Premise and Scene Levels 147

Professional Script Format 147

Writing Scene Descriptions 148

Writing Dialogue 151

Miscellaneous Tips l55

Planting Exposition 157

Advice from Our Producers 159

When That First Draft is Finished 162

13 Rewriting the Script 164

When Rewriting by Yourself 169

Advice from Our Producers 171

Once the Script is Finished 172

Part 3 A Battle Plan for Launching Your Career

14 Step One: Developing a Strategy 177

The Job Market 177

How the Writer Fits In 180

A Writer's Workweek 182

Writing is a Business 185

Ageism 186

Putting Food on the Table 186

Must You Live in Los Angeles? 189

15 Step Two: Landing an Agent and/Or Manager 191

Developing a Hit List 194

Before Picking Up the Phone 201

Prepare a Phone Spiel 203

Making the Call 205

Submitting Your Material 208

Testing the Waters if You Don't Live in LA. 209

Following Up on Submissions 211

If you Fail to Land Representation 212

You Get an Offer! 214

Signing the Contract 215

Once You've Signed with Someone 217

16 Step Three: Getting Your Work Out There 218

Scouting the Market 218

Hiring Windows 220

Working with Your Rep 222

Which Scripts to Send 223

Being Picky about Jobs 223

Cold-Calling Producers 224

Other Strategies for Reaching Producers 225

Keep Writing 228

Writing in Teams 229

Rejection 230

Dealing with Writer's Block 230

Protecting Your Work 231

Who Keeps the Copyright? 234

The Writers Guild of America 235

17 Step Four: Pitching for Assignments 239

The Call Comes In! 240

Preparing for the Pitch 240

The Pitch 243

Advice from Our Producers 245

What Might Happen 248

The Contract 250

The Money 252

18 Step Five: Landing a Staff Job 254

Becoming a Staff Writer 254

Office Politics 256

Roundtable Writing 257

Advice from Our Producers 258

Staff Job Contracts and Compensation 262

19 Step Six: Climbing the Ladder 264

The Care and Feeding of Reps 265

Taking a Development Deal 268

20 Creating A New Series 271

Creating a Series Format 272

Writing a Pilot Script 275

Selling a Pilot 279

Going in to Pitch 280

Producing a Homegrown Pilot 282

The Money 284

Time to Wrap Up! 287

Appendix A Script Format Guidelines 289

Appendix B Additional Resources 311

Endnotes 321

Index 325

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 27, 2010

    best book out there on comedy writing

    Evan Smith knows what he is talking about. Not only has he written the definitive book on writing sitcoms, he knows how to write a sitcom himself. Most writing teachers failed at the writing game and are now teaching you and me. Not Smith. He had a for-real career as a writer before he began teaching, and it shows on every page of his superb book. He goes into amazing and staggeringly useful detail about the nature of comedy, how to write a script, and that horrid conundrum -- launching a career in Hollywood. Smith has been in the trenches and comprehends the horror. He knows what you must know to write a great script AND get your foot in the door. Writing Television Sitcoms is an invaluable resource and should be on every writer's shelf -- not just those wanting to write a sitcom script.

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    Posted October 13, 2010

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