I’ve been working on a few different scripts recently and had some people contact me to ask how I would write a sitcom script. Some of the free self-help items I found online seem overly vague — things like 1. Think of an idea for a sitcom episode. 2. Write your sitcom episode. 3. Edit your sitcom episode so it is a better episode… This kind of stuff made me think writing something up might help a lot of people who want to write a sitcom script.
I’ll organize this in sections from general advice to structural rules when writing a sitcom episode. You can apply the general advice to any tv show, but the structural advice is about sitcoms.
1. The show should be currently on-air.
2. A really long running show is harder to write for. It is more likely the plot you thought of has already been done in some form.
3. Watch every episode of the show you want to write for back to back if possible. This helps you absorb the show’s natural rhythms.
4. Take super anal retentive notes about settings while watching the most current season of the show. Where does everyone usually sit or stand on screen? Do they use one set more often than the others for scenes? How are rooms set up and how do they relate to one another? Does it matter? Where do the writers take liberties / what is likely to stay consistent across episodes?
5. Get hard copies of scripts for the show. Sometimes this is difficult. Get at least one script, recent is better.
6. Learn proper general script formatting and then the specifics for the show you’re interested in. I recommend Syd Field’s Screenplay. It’s very straightforward and well organized.
7. Write your script in Final Draft, or if you want to use something cheaper, make sure it has the correct template for writing a script in there. Approximations of templates are not ok most of the time from what I’ve seen. The format for scripts helps you avoid writing lines that are too long for the characters and it helps you write a script that is an appropriate length.
8. Keep episodes of the show handy when you start to write. If you’re not sure about a room set up, or if a character would say something…