Piece by Piece: Show-Building

With the numerous choices to choose from these days, finding a new show to start can be like attempting to find a needle in the haystack, an impossible quest that will only hurt you in the end. From the beloved hits like “The Office” (U.S.) and “Parks and Recreation” to “Orange is the New Black” and “Breaking Bad”, there never seems to be a shortage of shows to watch, but what makes them rise to fame? What truly dictates a good television show? In a world so perfect, a good TV show writes itself. Though, realistically, wonderful TV shows are concocted using the vital six elements; a layout, good characters, fascinating plot, a recognizable paradigm, discord, and an authentic dialogue.

Though, realistically, wonderful TV shows are concocted using the vital six elements; a layout, good characters, fascinating plot, a recognizable paradigm, discord, and an authentic dialogue.

Writers and producers often come up with some sort of game plan for the series before they start writing the actual plot line of each episode, let alone each season. Almost always, there’s an overarching issue that the cast is facing, despite the smaller struggles they deal with in each single episode. This encompassing plot is what provides continuity and connects the episodes, allowing people to want to watch the next release. Writers also have to work with a time constraint, as episodes can’t run over a certain period of time. So in the the allotted interval, they need to figure out how to pack in the different conflicts, resolutions, and add certain cliffhangers that keeps their viewers interested in the story to come. This is how how they successfully increase their popularity and simultaneously build their fan base. However, it must be remembered that this is a rough sketch of what they plan to come, meaning that none of it is permanent in any sort of way and there’s a shifting nature to the entire scheme of it. It’s a work-in-progress, meaning it is susceptible to future changes in script and plot regards.

From humorous sitcoms to compelling dramas, the heart of any show lies within the characters created. The characters that truly stand are the ones who are able to connect with the target audience because of their words and physical features. Whether or not they learn an crucial lesson concluding an episode, they re-spawn the next time with the similar flaws and carry that to the next episode. As a show progresses, those flaws soon to mature as the character endures development and makes new mistakes along their journey. They carryout out the notion of the plot, as the character likability reflects the show. Good characters mean a good show.

Good characters mean a good show.

The greatest plots unify with tactical writing and creative ideas, with the understanding of human behavior. In many episodes, the characters desire something- whether it may be a car, job, relationship, fame, apology– lay out an expedition to obtain it. Plot, it should be noted, isn’t the same as a story. The plot is the driving force behind every piece of literature. Without it, there is no conflict which compels characters to strive for their goal, and therefore no story. In short, it would be just like life, with all its ups and downs, and people just living their lives. Though it may follow a formula and repeat the identical archetypes over again, the journey, internal or external, is provided through the plot and is the one thing we share with the character.

Like any great story, television shows contain structure. A diverse amount of shows unwrap their stories in four to five acts, which have a beginning, middle and an end. These episodes start debuting the primary conflict. The tension is built in the middle, traditionally just before the commercial breaks, and finish off with the resolution when the characters resume the status quote.  This structure may seem repetitive, but with additional characters or twists sprinkled in, the audience barely notice as they are busy engrossing themselves with what is going on.

One of the biggest attraction factors for any good show is the struggle, the conflict that the plot carries. It can differ on a variety of changing levels, from differences in beliefs, desires, and the requirements that each character needs. Another impressive discord I’ve noticed is the internal battle that happens inside a character, facing the problems within themselves as they attempt to maneuver the outside world as well. The idea of conflict adds a vital part to the plot as it ties the many members together as well as gives the watchers a reason to continue doing so, to see how the writers try to resolve seemingly impossible problems. As characters grapple with the differing opinions of others as well as the personal growth they’re facing – whether that be negative or positive – they learn to evolve as an entire show and bring new meaning to the already interesting story line.

Last but not least, great dialogue is a critical component in the creation of a successful TV show, as it the primary vehicle of how to tell a story. Favorable dialogue is believable. It is tailored to characters and mirror the way people communicate in real life. It also pieces together personality, as what you say depends on what you believe and feel at the given moment. This leaves room for subtext and non verbal communication, which permits the viewers to think for themselves and add in their own versions.

Favorable dialogue is believable.

Television success is an elusive concept, but when broken down into the imperative elements it is not at all hard to see why certain shows flourish and others get left behind in the sands of time- they were missing one of these key ingredients.


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