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Sitcom Writing

Making people laugh can often be a difficult but rewarding writing challenge. Using a collaborative approach, we will conceive, develop, and outline an original sitcom pilot script for television. Early classes will focus on developing overall concepts, story elements, and characters as writers work up to drafting an outline. We will also analyze pilots of existing network shows by reading scripts in order to gain a better understanding of world-building, character development, and story beats. Table reads during class will help determine what is working as well as any potential opportunities for improvement.

After completing this course, participants will be able to:

  • Identify the story beats in a sitcom
  • Describe the creative process entailed in conceiving and plotting
  • Develop characters and concepts for a TV show

Course Content


Lesson 1: Building Character and Concept

  • Comic Characters - Identifying Flaws and Quirks
  • Comic Characters - Identifying a “Want” and Conflict
  • Understanding the Core Needs to build a Sitcom (Concept, Characters, Style, Tone)
  • Read examples of treatments
  • Examining your comedic voice

Lesson 2: Crafting a Treatment and Developing your Protagonist
  • Sitcom (spec vs. true pilot; sitcom vs. feature)
  • Exercise: Crafting a solid logline
  • Identifying a Tone and Style
  • Expanding on the Synopsis
  • Character Building: the Protagonist

Lesson 3: World-Building and Finding Story
  • Character: Developing the “family dynamic” of your concept
  • Identifying Wants and Conflict
  • Locations and Backdrop

Lesson 4: The Hero Wheel/Story Structure
  • Concept of Descent and Return/8 points of a Hero Wheel
  • Personalizing the Hero Wheel
  • Analyzing the 8 points of the Story Wheel using the Goldberg’s Pilot
  • Simplifying the Story Wheel

Lesson 5: Expanding
  • Introduce the Step Outline and a Beat Sheet and story beats within the Hero Wheel
  • Breakdown Goldbergs on a Beat Sheet
  • Pitch Concepts to reset of Class

Lesson 6: Tale of Two Pilots
  • Analyzing the Community Pilot and the Hero Wheel
  • Analyzing The New Girl Pilot and the Hero Wheel