I was lucky enough to have a great chat with the brilliant Roger Wolfson recently and whilst we mainly focused on his career and how he achieved all that he has, the conversation was mainly centered on writing for television. Roger actually started his career in law but then moved on to entertainment when he was approached to help out the hit show Saving Grace. Following success there Roger went on to work on shows such as Fairly Legal and the award winning Law and Order.
This places Roger as a great person to share tips on how to write for television, and these were the tips which he passed on.
Roger has turned his pen to many series and he even has his own series about the Roman empire at the moment, but it is law where he has specialized and he recommends that you have one too. It is only when you truly understand a topic, way of life or an industry, that you can really give an accurate adaptation of what is going on, which is why it makes sense to have another passion beyond writing.
Writing a script for one show is not the same as writing a script for another and in order to properly grasp the situation you have to completely understand the character. Think about how we are as humans, we all have traits, foibles, nuances and ways of being which are ours, and if we veer from that people soon notice. This is why you have to really get to know the characters, what makes them tick, ,how they speak and then you can write scripts based on that. If you are creating a character for television then you have to get deep into what their motivations and what their personality is like.
Unless you are writing your very own TV show it is essential that you are able to work well with others when you are writing. This means putting any ego which you have to one side and learning how to appreciate the ideas of others. Roger says that he always saw this as a positive thing, the ability to share ideas within a space and allow inspiration to find you. The key to writing as a team however is knowing when to listen and when to chip in.
Unlike writing a news article or a story, there is a lot more silence involved in script writing and Roger believes that you should learn to respect and enjoy those moments, as they are often far more powerful than a word could ever be. Knowing when to pause, knowing when to get the actors to look a certain way, that is a gift which you have to work hard on, and it is the difference between a writer and a great script writer.
If TV writing is what you want to do, Roger’s tips are a great place to get started.