Knowing Your Audience When Writing for Television

In order to have a successful television show, you need to know what demographic you are writing for. So before you start writing, you have to decide what age group you want to be watching, what types of people do you want to be watching, along with what kinds of messages do you want to send to those who watch.

That means deciding the genre of show you want to create. This could range from children’s, drama, murder-mystery, sitcom, comedy, and more. In addition to that, that means choosing what type of plot you want to have. If you’re writing a children’s show, you cannot be cursing or dealing with heavier topics, such as alcohol, drugs, violence, or sex. Along those same lines, if you’re writing for adults, you don’t want cheesy characters and predictable endings.

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Your show will need to have some kind of consistent theme, like how One Tree Hill had constant drama with character relationships, love triangles, near-death experiences,

unrealistic scenarios that viewers chose to believe could be possible, like many of the main characters achieving their career dreams following their high school experiences.

Another example of this would be how shows like Psych and Scrubs are detective and medical based shows respectively, but they also manage to be comedies as well, which contrast most of the shows within those types of genres. Their theme is making something that is typically serious into something more lighthearted.

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With that in mind, once you know your audience, you can also market to them through social media, ads, commercials, and anything else that works for that demographic. While you’re in the process of creating your show, you could also do surveys within your target demographic to find out what they would be interested in watching.

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Photo credit: Scrubs Wikia

Through knowing your audience, you have to make your show sound appealing to them so that they will be as invested in it as you are. You want an audience who will be dedicated and come back week after week waiting to find out what happens next with their new favorite characters. But you can’t do that without knowing what they want.

Top 10 Rules for Writing for TV

  1. Know your audiencUnknown.jpege

In order to have a successful television show,
you need to know what demographic you are writing for. If you want to write a children’s show, you have to direct your content and themes for children. However, if you’re doing a show for an older audience, you have more leeway with the words and topics you choose to focus on within your show, like drugs, addiction, sex, etc. Once you know your audience, you can also market to them through social media, ads, or whatever works for that demographic.

  1. Have characters want something

A main part of a television show is about what the main characters want from life. An example from this would be in Grey’s Anatomy, the main characters start off as interns, who are trying to succeed as doctors and learning their place in the medical world. On the other hand, in Gilmore Girls, one of the two main characters wants to get accepted to Harvard more than anything, while her mother wants to open her own inn instead of working at one. Every show has a character who wants something because without goals, there would be no source for conflict.

  1. Conflict

Conflict is essential for any show or work in general. For example, the conflict in Supernatural is that there are two brothers who hunt demons and monsters, one who gave it up to live a normal life, but their father goes missing, so he takes up this life again and goes on a search to find him. Conflict helps drive the show and create drama so that the show isn’t entirely forced to focus on plot.

  1. Amount of characters

An important part of a show is knowing how many characters you want to focus on for your show. Some shows choose to establish the lives of many characters, such as Friends, which focuses on six people, while Supernatural focuses solely on two characters for a good part of the series before introducing a few other characters to the main scene. Interest in the show could also depend on how many characters there are.

  1. When to break

Television shows have commercial breaks throughout the program, so an important part of writing an episode is strategizing the perfect spots to leave the viewers in suspense before a commercial break. Many shows like to build up a cliffhanger right before the commercial break, and that’s usually how the viewer knows a commercial is coming because you have this huge buildup, and next thing you know, you’re waiting for the commercials to finish up so you can get back to your show. When writing a show, you want to make sure you don’t leave off at a dull moment or else you may lose viewers during a commercial for a more exciting show.

  1. Don’t base show off dialogue

When you’re watching a show, you don’t want your priority to be witty dialogue, sassy comebacks, or emotional monologues. When it comes to writing a show, you need to plan out the plot for the episode, how you want the characters to act, and then base what you’re going to say off that. If you start with the dialogue first and try to fit something a character said into the episode, it’s not going to sound good, or even have the effect it should have on the audience if not strategically placed.

  1. Outline the series

Even if you’re only writing one or two episodes on spec, create a series outline that contains the bigger picture. Biographies of the characters, their personality traits, physical appearances, etc., episode outlines for the whole series, maybe some background, notes on the setting etc. Keep it snappy and interesting, like a pitch document.

  1. Research script format

Make sure that when you’re writing out an episode of television, you format it properly. Clearly you’re not going to write a novel the same way you’d write out an episode. To ensure you have the proper format, do some research. Maybe download screenwriting software to help guide you in the right direction of what it’s supposed to look like.1.png

  1. Don’t character develop quickly

While you may want to jump right in and have a character with a huge revelation and grow as a person, you can do this as quickly as you would with a novel or a movie. Since those have much less time to do so, the character arc process is much quicker. With a show, especially one that plans on having multiple seasons, you cannot have this development take place at the beginning, because then it won’t have as much of an impact. It needs to be gradual, so the character can truly learn and you can watch them grow over time.

  1. Research current trends

One way to ensure that your show will be picked up by a television station/program is to learn what is currently being chosen by them to air. If you notice that a lot of channels are picking up shows about vampires or high school drama, maybe that’s what you’ll have to write about if you want to have your work seen by others.tv-2020-the-future-of-television-7-728.jpg

Is Christian Grey capable of changing?

This past weekend, I watched 50 Shades of Grey and saw 50 Shades Darker in theaters. One of the main conflicts within this series seems to be whether Christian Grey is able to change in a way that Anastasia Steele can handle being in a relationship with him. Christian is controlling, manipulative, and has a specific demand of needs to be satisfied. Anastasia, while shy and reserved, she has no desire to submit to his dominant ways.

By the end of the first movie, Christian and Anastasia had parted ways because they both wanted dUnknown.jpegifferent things when it came to their relationship. Ana realized his sadistic acts were not something she could allow him to do anymore, so she told him he had to change or she was gone, so she left. In the second movie, he contacts her again and insists he’s willing to change and he wants to if it means he can be with her.

The two agree to meet and negotiate on new terms for what their relationship would entail. Anastasia asks them to strike parts of the contract she didn’t agree with, like certain toys used, and by the end of their conversation, they agreed on “no rules, no punishments, no secrets” and they would begin a romantic relationship, contrasting their prior relationship that was strictly sexual.

In 50 Shades Darker, we also learn more about Christian’s backstory and why he is the way he is. The author tries to have the viewers/readers empathize with him and even humanize him by giving him a drug addicted mother who died when he was 4, along with abusive parents that started his sexual desire for sadism.

From the information provided in the two films thus far, I do not believe Christian Grey has truly changed. In the second film, he was still trying to manipulate and control Ana after she explicitly expressed that was not what she wanted.

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Photo credit: San Antonio News-Express

Examples of this would be when Ana’s boss, Jack, asked her to accompany him on a business trip to New York City because as her assistant, it was part of her responsibility. Christian forbid it and didn’t want to have a conversation about it. In addition to that, Christian purchased the company she worked for and fired her boss after he came onto her late one night (he had good intentions with that one though). One of Christian’s former submissives tracked down Ana and tried to shoot her in her apartment and Christian used his position as dominant to control the woman and soothe her long enough to get Ana out of there. Lastly, when this freaked out Ana and she wanted to break things off, he guilted and manipulated her into staying by getting on his knees and holding his wrists out, saying he was submitting to her and that she was in control and in charge.

With this in mind, I think Christian wants to change for Ana, but he’s incapable of fully getting rid of that person because it’ll always be a part of who he is. It’s difficult for him to have a romantic relationship because he is extremely jealous and possessive anytime a man other than him talks to Ana, he is not willing to open up to Ana, making him emotionally unavailable, and he does not like being touched on most of his body, due to the abuse he faced. I think it would be incredibly difficult for Christian to move past these parts of his personality without some serious help. He cannot just say he’s going to change and then have it magically happen. He needs some serious counseling before he can consider marrying Anastasia, who he already proposed to.

Importance of Developing Characters

When it comes to entertainment such as movies and television shows, the development of characters is an essential aspect of the work as a whole. Without character development, there is no growth and nothing is learned.

From these characters and their experiences, we can observe at a distance and learn something about them and hopefully ourselves.

In many cases, character development is used as a positive device to round out a once flat character. It’s not an effective story if a character remains stagnant with no dimension whatsoever. Not only that, but this development can be used to relate to your audience. The main reason I love character development in film and television is because oftentimes, it helps me to further understand a character or see a bit of myself within them.

For example, I tend to relate to the characters who feel out of place and Moritz Stiefel from Spring Awakening by Frank Wedekind is a perfect exampl

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e of just that. Juxtaposed with his best friend, Melchior Gabor, he is introverted, anxious, awkward, and a perfectionist who’s doomed to fail from the start. Everyone in their town wonders why the two are friends, given their drastic differences. Due to the pressures he faces in school and unbearable weight he carries of knowing he’ll never please his parents, he ultimately ends up committing suicide.

Moritz has development in the sense that he becomes increasingly neurotic and scared for his future, such as the consequences of failing out of school. In the musical adaptation, the actor who played Moritz would have his hair be done jetting upwards, like Syndrome in The Incredibles, to represent how he was going mad from his inner conflicts.

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I find him to be a relatable character because he is tragic, doesn’t fit in, and his suicide is a direct result of how his community treated him. He felt like he had nowhere to turn, nowhere to go, so he escaped the only way he could think of. It’s easy for someone who feels like they don’t belong to see themselves in him because they often know what it’s like to be standing next to someone who seems so perfect when they’re average at best.

Through my blog, my goal is to try to find a variety of characters and discuss their development and show how it’s not only important within the work, but for the audience who’s watching.