22. Whose story is it?
When you pitch for a show, one of the first things you’ll be asked to do is to come to your meeting prepared with lots of story ideas. Each episode should have a strong story ‘hook’ that grabs us and a strong journey with a clear beginning, middle and end. But most important of all, you need to know which character each story belongs to!
Much of the time, your story will belong to the hero of your series. In other words, your main character is the one who experiences the situation and problems of the story – and the one who goes on the journey to fix those problems. But as with many shows, there are often multiple characters who will also need to have their own stories, with each one becoming the main character of a particular episode.
When I first pitched for Rugrats, I was told that the producers were looking for strong ‘Chuckie’ stories. Later when I was able to get my first original show Dead Gorgeous off the ground, part of my job as a showrunner was to make sure there was a balance of stories giving each of the three leads an opportunity to be the main character. My next show was all about a loveable and quirky kid (Hi Opie), and since he was the star of the series, each story had to belong to him.
Each series is different, but whether you’re pitching for a new or existing show, or writing for your own, your job is to really know who your main characters are and, when writing an episode, to make sure you know exactly whose story it is.
And that story must truly follow that character’s journey from beginning to end.