make storytelling choices and decisions as quickly and effectively as possible. If you’re writing for TV, breaking story needs to become so natural that it’s a muscle memory chore, but you also need to be able to articulate the choices and decisions you’ve made when asked. This exercise is perfect for building that skill set.

6 Steps to Better Linear Storytelling

4. Breakdown a TV episode

It’s not enough to just passively watch a million movies and binge entire television shows, you have to take out a pen and notebook, sit down with no distractions, and annotate episode after episode.

Pick one of your favorite shows, something you’re familiar with. Jot down the scene number, location, cast, if the scene related to the A, B, or C story, and the point of each scene as it plays. You’ll have to be quick because some scenes whiz by or dissolve into the next while you’re still trying to get the pen cap off.

Try not to pause the program. The point of the exercise it to make storytelling choices and decisions as quickly and effectively as possible. If you’re writing for TV, breaking story needs to become so natural that it’s a muscle memory chore, but you also need to be able to articulate the choices and decisions you’ve made when asked. This exercise is perfect for building that skill set.

Once you’ve mastered the television episode, try it with a feature length movie.

You should now have a much more solid understanding of plot points, breaking story, and identifying which elements are A/B/C story. (A story is generally the plot, B story is generally the emotional journey. Any subplots must pay off at the climax. TV dramas and sitcoms have their own set structure.)

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