Updating Your SpecComplications Ensue
Complications Ensue:
The Crafty Screenwriting, TV and Game Writing Blog


April 2004

May 2004

June 2004

July 2004

August 2004

September 2004

October 2004

November 2004

December 2004

January 2005

February 2005

March 2005

April 2005

May 2005

June 2005

July 2005

August 2005

September 2005

October 2005

November 2005

December 2005

January 2006

February 2006

March 2006

April 2006

May 2006

June 2006

July 2006

August 2006

September 2006

October 2006

November 2006

December 2006

January 2007

February 2007

March 2007

April 2007

May 2007

June 2007

July 2007

August 2007

September 2007

October 2007

November 2007

December 2007

January 2008

February 2008

March 2008

April 2008

May 2008

June 2008

July 2008

August 2008

September 2008

October 2008

November 2008

December 2008

January 2009

February 2009

March 2009

April 2009

May 2009

June 2009

July 2009

August 2009

September 2009

October 2009

November 2009

December 2009

January 2010

February 2010

March 2010

April 2010

May 2010

June 2010

July 2010

August 2010

September 2010

October 2010

November 2010

December 2010

January 2011

February 2011

March 2011

April 2011

May 2011

June 2011

July 2011

August 2011

September 2011

October 2011

November 2011

December 2011

January 2012

February 2012

March 2012

April 2012

May 2012

June 2012

July 2012

August 2012

September 2012

October 2012

November 2012

December 2012

January 2013

February 2013

March 2013

April 2013

May 2013

June 2013

July 2013

August 2013

September 2013

October 2013

November 2013

December 2013

January 2014

February 2014

March 2014

April 2014

May 2014

June 2014

July 2014

August 2014

September 2014

October 2014

November 2014

December 2014

January 2015

February 2015

March 2015

April 2015

May 2015

June 2015

August 2015

September 2015

October 2015

November 2015

December 2015

January 2016

February 2016

March 2016

April 2016

May 2016

June 2016

July 2016

August 2016

September 2016

October 2016

November 2016

December 2016

January 2017

February 2017

March 2017

May 2017

June 2017

July 2017

August 2017

September 2017

October 2017

November 2017

December 2017

January 2018

March 2018

April 2018

June 2018

July 2018

October 2018

November 2018

December 2018

January 2019

February 2019

November 2019

February 2020

March 2020

April 2020

May 2020

August 2020

September 2020

October 2020

December 2020

January 2021

February 2021

March 2021

May 2021

June 2021

November 2021

December 2021

January 2022

February 2022

August 2022

September 2022


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

You've talked about how most readers aren't necessarily going to be fanatics of the show you're speccing, so you don't necessarily have to be completely up to date on where the characters' stories are in the show. But what about act structure? Like HOUSE. It used to be teaser and four acts, this season is teaser and six. Is this a change i need to re-write to?
I think you do. There has been a big movement towards 5 and 6 act structure. A four act drama is going to feel old hat to a lot of readers. And HOUSE in particular is a show that everyone specs, so your readers, even if they don't watch every HOUSE, will for sure know that the show has gone to 6 acts.

Coming up with new act outs is going to be a pain, but it's something writers have to do often enough, so consider it a worthwhile exercise, too.

Labels: ,


Interesting advice. I tend to go for a three act structure.

ACT 1 - establish everything, set up mission for ep etc

ACT 2 - longest act. Most of the investigating and development takes place. End with point of no return or 'we're off to save the day'.

ACT 3 - Come through in the end and wrap up all loose ends.

This is how Joss Whedon seems to do things, so I figured it would be a pretty good idea. BUt then you mention about how times are changing. Maybe I should re-evaluate how I write my specs...

By Blogger Neil, at 11:59 AM  

Um, no. Joss used a four act structure for BUFFY. And the DOLLHOUSE spec has four acts.

Check out my chapter on act structure in CRAFTY TV WRITING.

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 1:07 PM  

Sorry, I meant DOLLHOUSE pilot script, not spec.

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 1:08 PM  

Huh. Apologies indeed, must be mistaken. I was so sure it was a three act structure. I'll definately be checking out the chapter in your book.

I see where I'm going wrong I think - need to break more down at the end. Finale in one act, then resolution in another. Come to think of it, in Whedon's work, that's exactly how it works. Silly me eh?

Would explain why the pilot I'm writing (the first I've ever written) looks like it'll come up a little short.

A great thing you mentioned acts again here, thaks a lot! Oh well, got some reworking to do.

But I'm interested - do you think the 3 act structure (that I'm sure I couldn't have invented) would work at all? If I included the resolution or catharsis in the 3rd act?

By Blogger Neil, at 1:13 PM  

Neil, the act structure is there FOR THE COMMERCIALS.

Act structure is NOT OPTIONAL in TV. The network tells you how many acts you have. You fill them.

These days, it's usually 5 or 6 acts, depending on the net.

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 1:29 PM  

What about a spec pilot? If you are not targeting a specific net do you take a middle ground? If you are targeting pay cable (gee, let's really limit our already tough chances) does act structure become a little more flexible?

By Blogger OutOfContext, at 1:36 PM  

Of course. Don't know what's wrong with me today. Would be good if writers had power over where to put act-outs etc, but like you say - adverts.

Thanks for answering though, appreciate it.

By Blogger Neil, at 1:37 PM  

There's no middle ground. You can write for 5 or for 6. You have to make a choice.

If it's pay cable then you don't have act outs, but you're better off planning for 5 acts, say, and then hiding the act outs. That way you can revamp it for network if pay cable doesn't work out.

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 2:02 PM  

I'd go right back to the outline if I were in his shoes. Attempting to condense all the scenes in your spec and then imposing 2 more cliffhangers is something I'd never think about trying.

Regarding Dollhouse, is that the only show left in the 08/09 season on a big 4 network that still has 4 acts and a teaser? If House has succumbed, I can't imagine the DH structure will last.

By Blogger Unknown, at 3:42 PM  

Post a Comment

Back to Complications Ensue main blog page.

This page is powered by Blogger.