As online platforms start to take off, there are becoming more and more opportunities for content creators to make something. This medium is a totally different experience than the normal television screen or movie theatre – so the approach to writing for it is a different one.
Having just recently gone through development for my web series Passage, I learned throughout the process by writing with mentors like Christin Baker, CEO of telloFilms who I developed the series with as part of their pitch to production contest, and getting inspiration from Emily Andras, show runner of Wynonna Earp, because she is the reason why I started writing again in the first place.
We are in a unique position where new mediums have become sources for more diverse content when others are lacking on such. No matter where you are in your writing career, if you are at that moment where you want to write and create, here are five tips that I’ve recently learned.
1. Just Write!
I’m not sure how many different ways people can say this. Maybe it’s because most writers who write tips wait until the last tip to say this – but it should be first and foremost. If you have been wanting to write, or thinking of writing, or saying eventually one day I’ll do it – just write it.
It can be a character, a line, a scene, a story arc, a full episode, a full series… write whatever you have in your head down. Don’t try to map out in your head all these things that form together to create a web series. Otherwise, you will spend time thinking about every little detail without having even one word on a page.
Think of it this way – until you write whatever you are wanting to write, it’s like you are constantly going to be in line waiting to ride the roller coaster, or waiting in line to get your favorite food, or waiting in line for something that you specifically love to do other than writing.
2. Character 101
Build complex and memorable characters. Good characters are a key driving force that will not only help your series stand out but help create a story arc that will keep your audiences hooked. When crafting a story, think about the lead.
Build out the foundational information of who they are, and then add layers to that. Are there codes that this character lives by? These codes can blur the lines of moral areas. For instance, when a good person does a bad thing does that make them bad? It gives them depth while making them interesting and also making them empathetic.
Add diversity. Whether it is race, sexual orientation, religion, culture – do the research and avoid stereotypes. We are a melting pot so make sure your story reflects that. These stories are also the ones most needed right now, and as a writer, we have the unique position to help advocate for inclusive stories with more diverse characters.
Whether this is story specific or character specific, arcs are vital to telling the story. These narrative arcs are used to help shape the events in the series and determines where the highs and lows are for setting the tone.
Stories have three acts. The first, setting the scene. Introduce the characters, the world, and plant some seeds of conflict. The second, growing with change. Characters will change in response to the conflicts and situation they are in and will try to solve it. The third, resolving their ending. This is when the conflict and situation are resolved and the ending of that story has been laid out.
All stories fit into this three-part arc in some way. It could be episodic, season related, or specific to a character’s journey of the course of a multi-season story. So as you begin writing – think about the arcs on every level and how can that influence the series as a whole. Sometimes small changes to the arcs can make a big impact that helps you set the series apart from others.
4. Keep Production In Mind
Make sure that you write within your means so the chances of actually getting it into production are much higher. Yes, we all would love to write for an A-list actor with a huge budget in a gorgeous location or perfectly built set, but the truth of the matter is this project will be a labor of love and you will have to be creative if you want to see this thing through.
That doesn’t mean you can’t write it and then come back and tweak things once things are actually in development and pre-production. Don’t think of it as limiting yourself but rather being aware of how things fit into the story.
For example, my web series Passage which is currently in pre-production, I had created a very tense scene in an office that needed to have a lot of set dressing and visual effects to fill the world I was building. However, we tweaked it so that conversation happened in a hallway in the location of another scene to save on time and money. The scene will still have the power and conflict needed – but without all the extra scene stuff I originally wrote.
5. Writing and Rewriting
Let me be clear, your first draft will not be amazing. Your second one might not be any better. The third one might knock the socks off whoever is reading it. Writing and rewriting is crucial to the development and how you get the best script possible, so don’t feel discouraged when things aren’t coming together as much as you’d like.
Don’t feel you have to write and rewrite chronically – this is the best part about writing because you don’t have rules. Guidelines, yes, but you can shape the story however you want it to be. If you want to write a story map first, great. If you want to write a scene first, also great. If you have a bunch of one-liners, again great.
There is no one stopping you from writing – except you.
What do you think first time writers need to know? What questions are you looking to be answered but can never seem to find the answer to? Let us know in the comments below!