Thoughts On A Series


Thoughts On A Series

What Would A Story Look Like?

Have I written my prologue and finished off my WIP?

Great question…and no good answer.

Instead, I’m drawn to something I’ve longed to write — a series using an approach similar to those bingish short shows Netflix and others keep trotting out. An overall arc unfolds, often in six or twelve episodes, each less than sixty minutes. By binge watching, we get through them in two or three nights.

So, let’s focus on writing episodes. We can discuss series-arcs another time…when I have an answer. Ha

Consider episode lengths on American TV. One-hour shows typically use less than forty-five minutes of air time. And, if we use an old film measure of one page per minute, that’s forty-five pages. If each page has 250 words, that’s 11,250 words…which rounds to 12,000.  Since commercials come on the hour, half-hour, and both quarter-hours, episodes break into four parts. That means 3,000 words for each part.

Blake Snyder, in his Save The Cat, proposed Story Beats for each part. I let this guide me with my novel, and pacing worked well.  If we tried it in an episode, it might look like this:

Part One (3,000 words)

  • Introduce the First Scene Situation, and introduce characters struggling before solving it
  • Raise the real story problem, and let our characters debate.
  • Drop a bomb-shell to force our MC to decide to solve the story problem.

Part Two (3,000 words)

  • MC flees for her life, chased by people she doesn’t know, with unknown motivations.
  • Along the way, we catch glimpses of the opposition’s nature.
  • MC and friends, flaws and all, gets lucky and chase away the bad-guys.

Part Three (3,000 words)

  • Flush with victory, cracks appear in our happy little group and things go wrong
  • The bad-guys demonstrate their power
  • Our MC, flaws fully exposed now, leads the disgruntled little band against the bad-guys, only to crash and burn.
  • Blamed by everyone, our MC goes off, licking her wounds, blames herself for everything wrong, realizes how her flaw helped her lose, and how she must change if she wants to win.
  • Returns to persuade her friends to help…but trust issues arise.

Part Four (3,000 words)

  • Battered and bruised, she goes after the bad-guys alone, but inspires the group to grudgingly trust her and take a step to victory.
  • In the final show-down, our MC faces her worst fears…

…and wins all she wanted…

…and gets what she needed.

…but doesn’t fill her needs.

…but we can’t tell whether she filled her needs.

…but loses all she wanted…

…and gets what she needed.

…but doesn’t fill her needs.

…but we can’t tell whether she filled her needs.

…but we can’t tell whether she filled her needs…

…and gets what she needed.

…but doesn’t fill her needs.

…but we can’t tell whether she filled her needs.

Now…what would a total series arc look like?
Stay tuned.


How might a series of Novelettes be structured?

9 thoughts on “Thoughts On A Series

  1. I think the key with a series is essentailly the overall arch of the series matchs the arch an episode would have, with each episode moving it along. I think the overall idea behind this is solid, I think it could work really well.

    • I hope I have enough skill to pull it off. In an individual episode, 12000 words isn’t much to get a lot done. And I’ve always been so good when I’m word constrained. Ha.

      • True…I should read more short fiction. But I haven’t been a big fan of short stories, maybe because I’ve had trouble finding good ones. Certainly, reading fan shorts isn’t healthy learning.

        I’m still pondering my approach to this, and will post something when I’m sure enough to give it a try. 🙂

      • I find shorts to be very hit and miss, even when they are all by the same author. However I’ve learned as much from the ones I didn’t care for as the ones I did. And unlike a novel I can read them pretty quick.

        The biggest thing I think that changes when I delve into a short story is I’m much much more willing to go along with an author being odd.

      • I think I’m finally going to take up a challenge Ruv gave me a long time ago. When I first started down the path to my WIP, I was studying story structure. And I wrote a 3,000 word story hitting on all of Blake Snyder’s Story Beats. And I made it fit. But I had almost no characterization. Ruv kindly pointed that out, and thought the challenge of weaving a character arc into a plot line in 3,000 might be too much. My try turned into 168,000 words. Ha.

        But, now, I think I’m ready to take on that challenge. But I’m going to try it in 12,000 or 15,000 words. I’m curious to see if I’ve improved enough to make it all work.

        One of these days I will post the first one on Scrib…and we will see. (Fingers crossed).

      • I look forward to seeing what your efforts result in. I admire your dedication to figure out structure and I’m sure that with that dedication and stubbornness you’ll get something you’re happy with eventually.

  2. Pingback: Life After Editing | Simply Silent

  3. Pingback: Structuring A Series | Simply Silent

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