A key part of writing for television is watching television. And learning from it.
Screenwriting lessons from Six Feet Under
Lesson 1: Life is a prism
Lesson 2: Less is more
Lesson 3: It’s about what is happening, not why
In other (canned) words: “it’s about the journey.”
Lesson 4: Unknown is better than known
What to take from the show (Part One)
Before mythology or adventures, a show needs to be about people true to life. No one is one-dimensional and no two people share the same exact limited point of views. Treat your characters as such.
Lesson 5: Play with expectations
Lesson 6: Have something to say
Lesson 7: It’s okay to think ahead
Despite all the somewhat hackneyed “live in the moment” stuff I said in Part One, a show needs to have some kind of plan, or rather arc(s). And I’m not talking about a smoke monster.
Six Feet Under had under its hood multiple arcs layered and mixed into each other. The show was as much about the characters as what happened to them.
Lesson 8: Stay with the emotions
What to take from the show (Part Two)
Stories need to be both relevant and interesting, but more than that they need to be engaging to the audience. Whether by intensifying its importance or managing expectations, the attention and structure given to a storyline is potentially as important as the plot itself.