The Helpful Reviewer

Plotting Ahead

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

When writing serialized TV shows, we understand that different things will be revealed at different times, and that not all information will be given out right away. That’s not just a way of writing for TV, but also a way to engage your audience and build your characters and the world of your show. We all love to get little snippets in different episodes that might not mean much at the time, but that eventually will add up to a major reveal. That’s what makes us come back week after week—we’re connected with the story and the characters, and love finding out more and more about them. But for this to work, you have to really plan ahead as a writer. That’s when the Bible and the overall arc for each season come in handy.

Shows like “This Is Us” and “How I Met Your Mother” have mastered this technique. The creators and writers have plotted their respective shows so well- years in advance- that they both even shot scenes for the final episode of each series during the second season of each show. They are both great examples of careful planning, which in the end provides viewers with a beautifully constructed story that only gives away little secrets at a time, but can even jump in time and show us the future, without the risk of it not working out (as they’ve crafted everything so well), and still managing to surprise viewers when they catch up to said future. So when coming up with a story idea and writing your pilot script, remember not to give away everything at once, and instead create rich backstories that you’ll explore and reveal for seasons to come, which in the end will make your show richer and will connect better with your audience.

Cody Smart

Cody Smart


Cody is an independent writer and script doctor from Santiago, Chile. She attended the prestigious Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, where she double majored in English Literature and Linguistics, with a minor in Dramatic Literature. She moved to L.A. and got her MFA in Screenwriting at the New York Film Academy, Universal Studios location, while at the same time working at Sony Pictures as a reader and story analyst. She also received two Certificates from UCLA, in Development and Producing for Film and TV.

Aside from her years of experience as a studio reader, she’s a judge for multiple script and film competitions, has written some award-winning short films and feature film scripts, she’s been working as a script analyst and doctor for years helping writers take their scripts to the next level, and is currently the head of the coverage department at Story Data.