Someone sent me their spec script to read (which I do sometimes, for a fee
). To boil everything I wrote him into a handful of of dicta, any story line for a spec script should:
a. be distinctive to the show. If this story line could appear on another show, and be equally satisfying, it probably isn't distinct enough. So, for example, any stories based on universally dramatic situations -- a bad cancer diagnosis, a pregnancy -- are probably not good. Of course there are always exceptions, mostly in science fiction shows: if your android character gets pregnant, it could be a good spec idea.
b. likewise, be distinctive for the lead character in that story. It should arise out of who that character is and what she's up to. If you could give the story to someone else on the show without hurting the story, you haven't made the story distinctive enough.
c. invoke personal stakes for the lead character in the story. Unless the story means something personally to the character whose story it is, it's not strong enough for a spec. Even if 99% of all CSI stories are just cops investigating murders, for your spec, there should be something personal to your investigators, whether it's that they know the victim, or they used to be a stripper too, etc.
d. should wrap up completely within the episode. A good spec story is like a good free lance script, but edgier. A good free lance script should give the story editors breathing space. It slips between two episodes without affecting the main chronology much. It has little overall story arc movement. Don't introduce something in your spec that will still have to be there in the episode after your spec, e.g. a new boss, a new dog, a new baby. Only showrunners and their staff get to introduce big new story elements, and they do it (hopefully) as they arc out the season before writing anything.
Labels: spec scripts