Writing the 1-Hour TV Drama

What does it take to make a great spec script? Is it a compelling plot or protagonist? Is it engaging dialogue or originality? In this six-week course, you gain insight into the behind-the-scenes workings of a script. Learn exactly what can set a good script that gets set in the waste basket apart from an outstanding one that gets a contract.

The world of the one-hour drama is thriving—and always looking for new talent and fresh ideas. Special effects and shooting budgets are soaring. The small screen and the big screen are getting closer all the time, but you still you have to know the rules of the game.

By the end of this course, you will develop and perfect an act of your spec script that is ready to go right into a producer’s hands!



Required Reading:

How to Write for Television, by Madaline DiMaggio

Workshop Length:

6 weeks

Start Date:

View Course Schedule



  • For writers interested in writing (and selling!) a script for a one-hour drama
  • Offer insight into the tools professional writers use to create their scripts
  • Get tips and feedback about everything you need to prepare your script for submission
In this online writing course you will learn:
  • The functions of each act in a TV show
  • How to structure a one-hour TV drama
  • How to create living, breathing, three-dimensional characters
  • How to professionally format your script
  • How to effectively write dialogue and narrative



Week 1: Prime Time – The World of Writing for Television
  • Types of shows now on television and how to differentiate
  • Writing opportunities in a rapidly changing market
  • For whom is the TV writer writing?
  • How to earn a professional reputation
  • The importance of the 60 minute drama format for all TV writing
Week 2: Scripts – Many Formats, Many Shows
  • Each show type has its own specialized writing format
  • Why proper formats exist and must be used rigorously
  • Headings, narrative, dialogue, parenthetical directions, and transitions
  • How to preserve individuality and innovation in strictly formatted writing
Week 3: Structure – The “Bones” of Your Story
  • Aristotle’s “three part structure”
  • Each part has a length and set of requirements to fulfill
  • A modern addition is the “halfway point” and what it must accomplish
  • How to transpose the three part structure onto a complex television script broken into 4 or 5 acts based on the need for commercial breaks
Week 4: TV Series Characters – How to Invent Real People
  • A TV writer must be able to reproduce existing characters
  • Each episode needs single use, unique characters that fit the show’s needs
  • What are the major character types, including their functions and traits?
  • How to make bland characters come to life
Week 5: Dialogue and Narrative – The Nuts and Bolts of Basic TV Writing
  • Dialogue should be as natural sounding as possible, with each line in opposition to the lines before and after it
  • How to use and not abuse parenthetical directions in dialogue
  • Narrative, describing the biggest image possible with the fewest words
  • How to surf the crests: tell only the important actions in narrative and let the director cast take care of the rest
  • Avoid trite lines and descriptions
Week 6: Putting it Together – Writing the Act
  • Acts have structures similar to the three-part structure, with beginnings, middles and ends
  • The first act has many jobs: hooking the reader (ultimately viewer), introducing the plot and conflict, setting the seeds for the ending, and setting the episode’s tone
  • How to end the first act?
  • The middle acts and what they must accomplish, including the halfway point
  • The final act: how to create a resounding finale