Hi! I’m Michael Price, and I’m one of the writers of The Simpsons. I’ve been a TV writer for 15 years, and I’ve written about 35 scripts for live action and animated TV shows. So do you want to know what it’s like to write a TV script? I’ll tell you!

Being a television writer is a lot of fun… and also a lot of long hours and hard work. Not the kind of hard work that involves physical labor — we mostly sit around all day either at our computers or in a room with other writers — but hard thinking work.

Most TV shows have a writing staff of between seven to 12 writers. Most of these writers are listed as Producer, Supervising Producer or Co-Executive Producer in the credits at the beginning of each show.

Those titles usually mean that the person is a writer who has been working a while and has a very good agent. An agent is someone who helps writers and actors find jobs.

Each member of the writing staff will write one or two scripts a season for the show he or she works on. The rest of the time, he or she will work on improving the scripts that the other members of the staff write.

Being a TV writer means you spend some time alone working on your very own script, but most of the time it means collaborating with the rest of the staff working on everyone else’s scripts. Let’s look at how a script gets on TV!

Every TV script begins with a story idea. The writer comes up with several ideas for what can happen to the characters in the show he or she is writing for.

Then the writer will “pitch” the story idea out loud to the other writers on the staff. The other writers will respond to the idea by pitching their thoughts and constructive comments.

Hopefully, the story idea will be approved by the head writer, who is usually called the “executive producer” or “show runner.” Once the story has been approved, the writer writes the script and it goes on TV… not yet!

The writer and a few others will then take a day or two to “break” the story. This means they go through the plot points of the story very carefully to make sure it all makes sense. They want to make the script the best and funniest it can be (unless it’s a drama show, which you most definitely don’t want to be funny!).

Then the writer writes the script and it goes on TV… not yet!

The writer now goes off to write an “outline.” This is kind of like an outline you might do for a report in school. It is fairly short (about 10 pages) and contains all of the scenes and suggestions for what the characters will say in those scenes.

This gives the show runner a chance to see if the story is heading in the right direction. The writer then meets with the show runner to get his or her notes on the outline.

Then the writer writes the script and it goes on TV… not yet!

The writer does write the script, but it’s not yet ready for TV. Writers usually get two weeks to go home or to a coffee shop or anywhere they like (I know one writer who likes to write his scripts on a yellow legal pad while waiting in line for roller coasters!) to write what’s called the “writer’s draft” of the script.

The writer’s draft is usually around 40 pages for a 30-minute show. Once the writer turns in the script, it then goes to “rewrite.” That’s right — now everyone else on the staff gets to take a crack at it and make it tighter and funnier (unless, you know, it’s a drama — then I guess they make it sadder).

This takes place in the “Writers’ Room,” where the rest of the staff, guided by the show runner, goes through the script one line at a time, “punching up” any dialogue or story points that need improvement. This process takes another week or two.

Finally, after several “passes” at the script, including a “final polish,” the script is read by all of the actors at a “table read.” Then that script is filmed and put on TV… not yet!

Based on how well the table read went (did the story make sense, were the lines all funny — or, if it’s a drama, sad), the writers go back to the Writers’ Room to rewrite some more. They stay at work until the script is finished for the next day’s rehearsal — no matter how late into the night that might be!

This goes on for another day or two of rehearsal, until, finally, the script is “locked”… and THEN it is filmed and put on TV.

Then the writing staff starts all over again on the next week’s show. This goes on (for most shows) for 22 episodes. At that point, the show goes on “hiatus” until the next season, and the writers go home and get to know their families again.

And that’s how a TV script is written!

 

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  1. I have written a video script for my club penguin videos! I had some people in them but we never got a chance to do it! My friend on that site we made a couple videos! My videos have gotten a lot better since I started!

    • We think it’s so AWESOME that you write your own video scripts, toys104! It takes a lot of creativity and determination. Thanks for visiting Wonderopolis and commenting today! :-)

  2. The writers process takes a lot longer than I thought it would. Most of the time when I watch a show I don’t even think about all that hard work that went into it! Is the next wonder about mice? Does it tell anything about how people came to think that mice LOVE cheese?

    • It takes a lot of brainpower and teamwork to put a TV show together, doesn’t it, Grace M/C? Everyone here in Wonderopolis sure has a better appreciation for the creativity of talented people like Mr. Price!

      Thanks so much for stopping by and letting us know what you thought about today’s Wonder! :-)

    • Hello, Darlene! Thanks for your comment! We agree, Mr. Price did a WONDERful job with today’s Wonder of the Day! :-)

      For our Wonder Friends who don’t know who Darlene is referring to when she mentioned Buddy Sorrell and Sally Rogers…they are characters from a 1960′s comedy television show called The Dick Van Dyke Show. Buddy Sorrell was played by an actor named Morey Amsterdam, and Sally Rogers was played by an actress named Rose Marie. The show was very funny and was the product of many talented writers and actors! :-)

  3. when reading about this passage it is very interesting how they write scripts. i love this wonder of the day what i really liked bout this passage was when they mentioned after thinking of an idea write it out that’s what really impressed me.

    • We’re glad you liked this Wonder, jasmine! It’s always fun to write out what you’re thinking! Thanks for hanging out in Wonderopolis today! :-)

  4. I am in the 8th grade and attend Woodward Park Ms, I have a lot of respect for writers it is not as easy as it looks we had to write a six strip comic and it took a lot of thinking

    • Hi, IGOHAM50! Writing a comic strip sounds like fun…you get to think, write and draw! Thanks for your comment! :-)

  5. I am a 8th grade student attending WoodWard Park Middle School. I always wanted to be a writing producer and now you have inspired me to pursue my dream . Thanks Micheal!

    • It’s so NEAT that you’ve always wanted to be a writer and producer and today’s Wonder is a behind-the-scenes look at doing just that, midwest_iCOOK! Mr. Price and all the other writers, producers, animators, actors and crew on the show inspire a lot of people with their creativity…we’re glad you’re one of them! Now…go out there and live your dream! :-)

  6. I’ve written a play script, but not a movie script.

    My sister says “I’ve been wondering what a movie script is. Thank you for telling me.”

    • What was your play script about, Alayna? That sounds like FUN, too! Tell your sister we said, “HI!” Thanks to both of you for being great Wonder Friends! :-)

  7. I love writing scripts! The bad thing is I would look back at them and see they are really bad.
    :(
    The good thing is I have confidence and write more.
    :D

    • Hi, Torey/MC! We bet the scripts you think are really bad are actually WONDEROUS! We believe in you and are glad to see you have the confidence to keep striving to do your best! :-)

  8. hi wonderoplis i loved this wonder i think it was the best of all!!!!!! keep doing what you’re doing it’s awesome:) :) :) hollywood is awesome try getting like that more often!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • We’re so happy you liked this Wonder, nat19! Thanks so much for your enthusiastic comment! Have a GREAT day! :-)

  9. Hm… I’ve never learned anything quite so interesting. Just like book writers, his desk in the video appeared to be extremely messy. I agreee with Michael, if you are a tv show writer, you’d better stay away from that cabinet. TV writing sounds fun, but I would rather be an author who writes books.

    I think that tomorrow’s wonder is going to be about mice. (the animal). At school, we have two mice that are class pets named Munch and Crunch, so we might have some background knowledge on tomorrow’s wonder!

    • Wow! A book author! We know you can be anything you put your mind to, Meredith! You’ll have to check back tomorrow to see if you’re right about the mice. Say hello to Munch and Crunch for us! :-)

  10. Oh, and I also thought about what I do before I make a movie. Like when I do my webshow with my friend, we like to write a script first, just like Michael did. We also use brackets when we are doing actions. I always have enjoyable experiences while making movies :D

    • That’s super, Meredith/MC! Thanks SO MUCH for your comments today…you are a true friend of Wonderopolis! :-)

  11. I don’t want to write a script for a movie, I want to BE in one!! :) haha, I have ALWAYS loved acting and singing ever since i was REALLY little!! :) This is a really cool article!

    • Even actors can benefit from knowing all that goes into writing a script, wouldn’t you agree, Sydney? Will you remember all your Wonder Friends when you become a famous movie star? :-)

    • We think that’s an AWESOME dream to have, Jourdan! We know you can do whatever you put your mind to…we believe in YOU! Thanks for sharing your comment with all of your Wonder Friends and inspiring others to follow their dreams, too! :-)

  12. Has there ever been a kid that made a movie and is there people that really look at these comments or is it a computer? Just wondering.

    • Hi, Madison! We’re real people here in Wonderopolis and we REALLY do read and try to respond to every comment to each Wonder of the Day®! Thank you for leaving us YOUR comment today! We WONDER if there are any kids who have made movies, too! Let’s both do some extra WONDERing about that! :-)

  13. I love writing scripts, but I don’t want to be a TV writer because it takes too much work and because it seems complicated. One question I do have is how did you become a TV writer? How did you become a TV writer for the show “The Simpsons?” My last question is since you are a TV writer for “The Simpsons”, did you make the movie “The Simpsons?”

    • Hello, Angela! The man in the video, Michael Price, was a GREAT Wonder Friend for sharing this Wonder with us, wasn’t he? We think he would tell you to follow your creative dreams and that scriptwriting can be LOTS of FUN once you learn how to do it! We know Mr. Price and his script writing colleagues work super hard to make each show’s script the best it can be, and many people all over the world enjoy the results of their creativity and collaboration! :-)

    • Hi, John! There are lots of ways to learn about becoming a TV writer! We suggest a little extra WONDERing and researching about the industry. You might also want to check out schools and camps in your area for some fun writing classes this summer! :-)

  14. I don’t know if I would want to become a TV writer because what if some people found certain things the character said or did offensive. Although the food deal sounds pretty good. Some tv shows and cartoons are yucky, but I do like the Simpsons.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts about becoming a TV script writer, City Chick! We appreciate your comment! :-)

  15. Whoa!! That is a long process! This was very interesting because I thought that there was only one stage of writing and editing, I didn’t know they went through so much work just to write one TV script! Imagine how long a movie script takes! I wonder how long it takes for the actors to film the scenes? I love making short little plays with my friends in my basement or I also like pretending we are filming movies! I don’t know if I would like to be a professional writer though! I would rather be an actress in the show! Making a play up with your family is a great idea!

    • What a great comment, Gracie! So much time and energy is put into writing shows and movies that we enjoy that it’s WONDERful to appreciate that hard work! We are SUPER excited to hear that you enjoy writing your own short plays– you must have a WONDERful imagination! We hope you have a GREAT time writing, performing and pretending with your family and friends! Way to go! :)

  16. I am currently writing a TV series script. The idea is beautiful as I have continually been told. It is tedious and I have been looking for writers to join me so we can bring out the best, but I haven’t found anybody yet. Is it so hard to find someone interested in criminology? I intend pitching this in the international market and I really want to get an agent who will give me/us a chance. My country’s film industry is not encouraging and have poor delivery. All they care about is the money not the story; I don’t want that for me. I could do the writing alone but with what you have said, TV series scripts involve team work. What is you advice for me?

    • Hey there, Wonder Friend Stefani! We think it’s awesome that you’re writing a TV series script! We don’t know too much about how to go from TV script to actually producing a show, but we think things are always better with teamwork! Perhaps you can find some people who are interested in brainstorming and writing as well… and you can team up to create an awesome script! We believe in you, Stefani! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • What is a TV writer’s day like?
  • How do you write a TV script?
  • How does a story idea become a finished script?

Wonder Gallery

Try It Out

Now it’s your turn to start writing scripts! Don’t let all of the steps above intimidate you — you can make this a family affair!

Write a short script about your family — that way, you’re already familiar with your characters. To help you get started, try writing a script about one of the following scenes:

  • A family activity from Spring Break, such as a trip to the zoo or a museum
  • Your perfect day of Summer Vacation
  • Choosing a new family pet
  • Cooking Thanksgiving dinner together

Sit down as a family and discuss what should happen in your script. Does something funny happen, or does something go wrong? You can write about something that has already happened or something that you want to happen.

After you have an idea of what should happen in your script, start writing! Write the scenes together as a family. If you’re feeling competitive, you could divide into two teams to see who can write a funnier script.

A script needs three parts:

  • Setting: When and where does it take place? Describe what it looks like and sounds like — even what it smells like!
  • Dialogue: This is a fancy way to describe what the characters say. This is all of the speaking parts of your script.
  • Stage Directions: This is the part of the script that isn’t said aloud. It tells characters how to move and what facial expressions to use.

Here’s a short example of the beginning of a script:

Setting: Dinner time, the Jones household. Dad and Jane have just walked in the door from work and soccer practice. Andrew and Mom are cooking dinner.

Dad: Something smells good!

Jane: Oh no! Are we having lima beans again? I thought tonight was pizza night!

[Dad puts away his things. Jane hangs up her coat. Andrew continues to stir the pot on the stove.]

Andrew: [smiling to himself] Don’t worry, Jane! We made extra lima beans just for you! They would be really good on a pizza!

See how easy it is? Get writing!

After you’ve written a draft of your script, it’s time for a table read! To mix things up, have everyone play a different role. For example, maybe you can play your dad, while your dad plays your mom.

As you go through the table read, everyone can suggest changes. And don’t forget to time it — that will give you a sense of how long your script will take to perform.

After the table read, don’t forget to incorporate everyone’s suggestions. Remember: Scripts usually have many, many drafts!

And if you’re feeling really creative, why not act out your finished script while a friend or another family member films it? It may not end up on everyone’s television, but you can make sure it ends up on your television!

When you’re finished, email or send a copy of your script to Wonderopolis HQ. We’d love to read your script!

Wonderopolis HQ
325 West Main Street, Suite 300
Louisville, KY 40202-4237

 

Still Wondering

Can’t get enough of script writing? Head on over to ReadWriteThink’s Writing a Movie: Summarizing and Rereading a Film Script lesson to explore the skills of viewing, descriptive writing and fluency that are key to becoming a great script writer!

Script writing is a great way for children to learn to love writing in a brand-new way. How else can you show children that writing is fun? Chime in with your thoughts in this Thinkfinity Community discussion!

 

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