The Helpful Reviewer


Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Writing for TV is an exploration of character over time. Unlike film, where we only have at most two hours to get to know our characters, in TV we have (hopefully) years to connect with them, get to know them inside and out, discover new things about them, and have them surprise us. While TV is iteration of character more than a big arc on every episode (although on a bigger scale, a character can have a big arc over the course of a show), we nonetheless need very rich, three-dimensional, unique characters that make us tune back in week after week. We talked about the Show Bible in our last post, and how a big background for all characters (even things we might not see for years, or never see at all) should be included there to help make the characters come alive and not just be two-dimensional beings on a script. But for characters to be truly interesting, there’s a key area that should go hand in hand with them: plot.

When we’re crafting the one-of-a-kind characters that will breathe life into our TV shows, we need to focus on creating real people that can carry the weight of a series for years to come, and not just focus on the plot. If we develop them properly, they’ll tell us where the story is going, not the other way around. All turning points should relate to big character moments/decisions, and the story should move forward because of the choices made by them. When crafting characters for TV, it’s critical to think about how they’ll interact over time and how they can bond as well as clash. Good drama makes for good TV, and characters are what bring on the drama. So when creating your spec pilot, spend a good amount of time on your characters—don’t rush the process. They’re the backbone of your story, and what will set it apart from all other specs out there!

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.