Tag: fiction writing


by on Nov.19, 2017, under Featured, Motivation, Personal tips

Jen Grisanti5 Questions for
Writing a TV Pilot that Sells

Guest Post by Jen Grisanti,
Telling and Selling Your TV Pilot

Writing the TV pilot is one of the most challenging scripts to write,
and to write well.
I’ve helped in the development of thousands of scripts over the past 20 years. I was a
Studio Executive at two major studios for 12 years, I am currently a Writing Instructor
at NBC, and I’ve been a Story/Career Consultant for 10 years.

From the 48 pilots sold from the writers I’ve worked with since starting my business 10 years ago,
there are the five questions that I believe every writer should ask themselves when they are writing
their TV pilot:

  1. Does my series trigger push my central character into a powerful enough dilemma to set up season one?
  2. Is there a personal component that sets up the personal dilemma of my central character?
  3. Does my central character actively make a choice in the pilot trigger and dilemma that leads to a pursuit?
  4. Is my pilot goal clear?
  5. How do I setup the series?

Trigger & Dilema

With your series trigger and dilemma, you want to think about something that happens to your central character
that knocks their life out of balance. At this point in the story, your central character is often reactive versus active.
The dilemma should make us feel empathy for your character.

Personal Component

With the personal component, you are setting up the personal dilemma of your central character that leads to the
professional pursuit. This sets up the void. The pursuit is one step towards filling this void. With the personal part,
you want to think about the arc of the wound. The best pilots have a childhood wound that the series trigger and
dilemma splits open. The personal component in your story is the emotional part of your story.

Central Character

With the pilot arc, your central character goes from being reactive to active. With the setup of the series arc, they react to what happens to them. Then, they make an active choice that leads to the setup of the pilot arc. In the pilot arc, we should be clear about what your central character wants and why they want it by the end of Act One.

Pilot Goal

If the pilot goal is not clear, the story doesn’t work. In each act, the central character should take an action, hit an obstacle, and the stakes should be raised to the pilot goal. If the goal is not clear, you cannot link these points. We should feel what your character wants and what is in the way for every scene.

Series Set Up

After the resolution of the pilot arc, you need to set up the series. When I see this done well, it bookends
what happened in the series trigger and dilemma setup and helps to build the next level of the concept. The
point of this is to make your audience so enthralled that they can’t wait to see what happens next.

Mastering a story by utilizing the right tools is what will lead you to a sale.

* * *

International speaker Jen Grisanti is an acclaimed Story/Career Consultant at Jen Grisanti Consultancy Inc.,
writing Instructor for Writers on the Verge at NBC, a former 12-year studio executive, including VP of Current
Programming at CBS/Paramount, blogger for The Huffington Post, and author of the books,
Story Line: Finding Gold In Your Life Story, TV Writing Tool Kit: How To Write a Script That Sells, and
Change Your Story, Change Your Life: A Path To Your Success. Her new video series is
Telling and Selling Your TV Pilot. Learn more.

Read my Q&As with Jen on Story Line and Change Your Story, Change Your Life.

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by on Jan.13, 2012, under Writing

Celebrating the New Year often symbolizes a fresh start and a new beginning for each one of us. We reflect on the year past and give gratitude for our successes, think about what we wanted to do but didn’t or what we tried to do but perhaps didn’t work out. We celebrate our wins and mourn our losses. We reflect on what could have been and learn to embrace what is. We think about what we want our life to look like and why we want it. We also consider the obstacles we face. We gain fuel from all of this introspection and look at the start of a new year as a way to think about our new plans and how to start putting them into action.


Similar to many of you, I thought about how I wanted to bring in this New Year. Where do I want to be? What do I want to be doing and how do I want to feel? Well, I decided that because I am in the midst of writing my next book (Change Your Story, Change Your Life) that I would like to be at a Writing Retreat. I searched online and found a Wellness Immersion Retreat, a retreat geared towards wellness through writing, yoga, painting and healthy eating. When I read the description of this, it sounded like heaven to me. So, I decided to give it a try. I knew that it meant being away from home, friends and family for the celebration of the New Year but it also meant opening up myself to a whole new experience, new friends and new energy.


This particular retreat was in Tulum, Mexico, at a gorgeous resort (the Shambala Petit Hotel) nestled on the beach. I knew I loved this place as soon as I saw the coziness and the community of the grass huts and the plaque as you entered the hotel that read, “We are what we think. All that we are arises out of our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.” Each night at dinner we saw the owner, Roberto Hernandez, who made all of his guests feel as if we were part of his family. It was a very unique and memorable experience.


Stephen Lloyd Webber and his wife, Jade Webber, headed the retreat. Don’t be fooled by their youth and beauty, they are the real deal. The Webbers have had successful retreats like this one all over the world. Stephen teaches the writing part and Jade teaches a daily yoga and meditation practice as well as painting. They both participate in the critiques of the writing every night.  Stephen and Jade started the retreat with asking each one of us about our goals. I eagerly told them my goal and hoped in my heart that it would happen.


Fourteen writers/artists gathered to drink it all in and satiate their thirst for the experience. I made plans to meet a fellow author and good friend there. We are both writing our next book. Upon arrival, my friend and I were taken to our room, which was gorgeous and felt like a giant tree house. It had a phenomenal ocean view. As soon as I saw it, I thought to myself, this is where I am going to write my book. I knew that with this type of inspiration, the words would come. I was right.

Everyone else came by themselves, with the exception of a mother and daughter. So, we started with a group of strangers and quickly, through the experience, became an instant family.


Each day started with yoga and meditation. Jade often started it with a discussion before jumping into the practice. After that, we’d write some personal pages and then, go to breakfast (which we ate in peaceful quiet). So, we sat and ate our meals and took it all in with our heart and soul. Glances at one another were full of peace and gratitude. After breakfast, we’d gather for a discussion with Stephen and for our writing exercise assignments. Then, we’d write for a few hours before meeting for lunch, which was always a delicious new surprise. After lunch, we’d meet for discussion and then go and write again for several hours before dinner. I’d return to our room, sit on my bed with the ocean view and I would let the words flow. Every night we’d meet for dinner, which was always comparable to what you’d get at a five star restaurant. After dinner, we’d go through our critiques of what we wrote that day. I LOVED this part. There was no greater opportunity for me than hearing the voices of the other participants, which included some very talented writers.


I collected so many beautiful memories on this trip: the ocean in every shade of blue imaginable, men raking leaves, dogs sleeping, Mayan ruins, footprints in the sand, hearts opening, sounds of drums and techno, a child’s laughter, stories being revealed, voices emerging, wounds surfacing, and healing beginning.


I set my goal when I got there. I wanted to write 15,000 words of my book. Through the journey of the writing exercises, the experience of the place, the gift of my friend’s companionship, and the energy and stories of the participants, I was able to hit my goal. I wrote 4 chapters. I made new friends. I found peace within. I started the year with putting a plan into action. I highly recommend this experience to anyone that wants to go on a vacation and accomplish a goal. It was a beautiful way to end one year and start another.

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