How To Write A Simpsons Script

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How To Write A Simpsons Script

Post by TheLeader » Sun May 01, 2005 7:36 am

This is not a review of a specific script, but rather some ways to help your reviews and credibility improve.

1. Write in Simpsons format. Every TV show has its own format, and the Simpsons is a TV show. Unfortunately, it's nearly impossible for me to describe it in a simple way in this format, but I suggest you obtain a script somewhere. Failing official Simpsons format, please at least go with standard screenplay format.

2. Story is more important than jokes. If the story is weak, no one will stay around for the jokes.

3. These are TV episodes, not plays. Don't just have the characters standing around, zinging one-liners back and forth. They usually come out of nowhere and aren't that funny. Keep them moving and doing things.

4. Simpsons episodes exist in three acts, with powerful act breaks designed to bring you back after the commercial. Scripts are usually 40-50 pages in length, in official Simpsons format.

5. Keep your characters in character. Nothing makes a script look worse than when Homer sounds more like some comedy nerd than he sounds like Homer. If you're REALLY familiar with the show, you should be able to do this successfully.

6. The difference between a Fan Script and a Spec Script: Fan Scripts are what you guys write, Spec Scripts are good, and are what agents use to sell writers to shows.

7. If you outline your show before you start writing (both A and B stories) your script will make more sense, your story will be stronger, and it will be better.

8. Writing is re-writing. First drafts always suck (unless you're a professional - and even then, they rewrite). Constantly punch up jokes, work on the logic of the story. Make sure it's REALLY good before releasing it to the public.

9. If you want to get into the business, don't post your scripts online. People will steal your ideas, and also be able to find your bad early scripts.

10. I don't have a tenth point right now, but the even number makes my list look better.

I hope this helps.
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Re: How To Write A Simpsons Script

Post by Archonix » Sun May 01, 2005 8:59 am

[edit] ALright, I've decided to open this thread again. God knows why...[/edit]

Your point #6 is where your argument falls down. This place is designed for fan scripts. That's what we do. We aren't an agency,l nor are we a guild of writers. The advice of this site has always been that, if a person wants to break in to professional writing, they should work through the existing system. We've had one member do that already - he's working on a film now.

Since we are a fanfiction site, we are generally less strict about form and more interested in content. The story is important to us. The way its laid out comes later, if at all. I appreciate that you may well have a lot to say on this sibject but, frankly, your methods leave a little to desired. Bursting in with a long "I'm a genius, you must listen to me" post without any real introduction or any chance for debate isn't exactly going to endear you to our membership. We encourage debate on these issues. We encourage people to learn their own style of writing first and foremost, in order to make them more comfortable whist learning to write.

I'm closing this post. I'm also moving it somewhere more appropriate.
Last edited by Anonymous on Sun May 01, 2005 8:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: How To Write A Simpsons Script

Post by TheLeader » Mon May 02, 2005 5:00 am

Good thing you reopened it. You came off as kind of a hypocrite closing the thread after saying you encouraged debate.

I'm just trying to help serious writers take the next step, should they decide to do so.
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Re: How To Write A Simpsons Script

Post by Archonix » Mon May 02, 2005 8:35 am

Debate is one thing...
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Re: How To Write A Simpsons Script

Post by c_nordlander » Mon May 02, 2005 10:19 am

You want debate? I'll give you debate, as per addressing all points.

1. This is a very good point. However, it would be improved by actually showing the format, rather than basically saying "you're doing it wrong, but I won't explain how to do it right".

(Note: we know that the Simpsons is a TV show.)

2. I agree with this, but I'm certain it depends on your point of view. Certainly, one element should not be cultivated to the exclusion of another.

3. So your definition of "play" is "two characters telling one-liners at each other". That doesn't describe most plays I've seen.

4. Agree with you on the length. Don't see the need of putting a commercial break in a fanscript.

5. How is *this* news? I personally find characterisation one of the hardest things in fanwriting, but if a writer fails on that point, that's what the reviewers are there to point out.

6. So the reason none of the scripts on this site has been made into an episode is that they're bad. I seee. (Also, is "spec script" a real expression? I've certainly never heard it before.)

7. Once again: how is this news? This is the kind of advice most people get 15 minutes after they decide to become writers.

8. See above. I'm sure you've noticed the "Opinions" and "Reviews" boards. Well, the whole point is that a piece of writing should be posted at Opinions first, constructively criticised, and put up on Reviews only when judged to be as good as possible.

9. In other words, we shouldn't post fanfiction at this FANFICTION BOARD. The logic of this escapes me. I guess we could all post the title of our scripts and some concept art for them, but that wouldn't be very entertaining.

(In fact, I'll say this for the Internet: it may be full of pornography and idiots, but during my time in fandom, I've seen very few cases of fanfiction being ripped off, far fewer than you would expect, and none at all [to my recollection] on this board.)

10. No comment. Well, in fact, one comment: there is no need to be so overbearing. The majority of fanfiction-posting members here (to my knowledge, at least) are in their late teens - early twenties, and have been writing for several years. We know how to outline and edit and that the characters are supposed to be in character. That's not to say that we couldn't use more advice. Everyone should always strive to improve. Still, a certain level of intelligence could probably be taken for granted.
Last edited by Anonymous on Mon May 02, 2005 10:23 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: How To Write A Simpsons Script

Post by jenny » Mon May 02, 2005 11:25 am

You make some good points, Leader, but most of the people here who write fanscripts aren't interested in selling their efforts or having them produced. I know that I lack both the ability and the desire to be a professional writer, and I doubt there are any starving artists here who think fanfiction is their way out of poverty. I think I'm talking for most when I say that althought we want to improve, this is a hobby more than anything.

If I walked into an amateur dramatics society and started having a go at people because they weren't fully immersed in method acting, I'd expect to learn some interesting new words.

Now, if I may, I'd like to offer some honest advice of my own: a truly skillful writer should be able to express his views in such a way that people appreciate them. Diving straight in with what was a pretty condescending attitude can annoy people and runs the risk of having your good points lost or devalued. I've just read your review of my "Hey Moe" script, and it's a fair review that I can't argue with (apart from the pro-Christian thing :p). You do have good things to say, but the way you say them might get peoples' backs up.
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Re: How To Write A Simpsons Script

Post by Dagdamor » Mon May 02, 2005 12:03 pm

TheLeader
I agree with Chris (aka Immaterial). Your rules are so strong, so they are impossible to follow. And, to be brutally honest, I see no reason to follow them at all - how many Simpsons scripts written under your "laws" were implemented as real episodes so far? ;)

I'll explain. The topic title says "how to write a Simpsons Script", and that's okay, but please tell me, is there any real need to write Simpson fanfiction in a script format? IMO, script format is the thing that wasn't designed for reading at all - it was designed only for playing. And since there are almost no chances to see fan-written stories as actual episodes, I'd recommend not using script format at all. Use prose instead - it's much easier to read, easier to understand/accept, it's more powerful, and (not the least reason for me) it's easier to translate to another language. Just my opinion, of course.
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Re: How To Write A Simpsons Script

Post by SirMustapha » Mon May 02, 2005 7:53 pm

There's that old prejudice against script fanfic, and I think it's a little unfair. Of course prose is 'easier' to read, but script gives you the chance to "watch" the story, as if it was real. It works well with comedy, and especially in the case of The Simpsons, that is a TV show after all. And I think many people here are already used to the SNPP episode capsules, all written in script, and the script fanfics give that "capsule" feel that makes us wish we were actually watching that script. Dunno, that's what I feel.

Besides, prose is much more difficult to write than script. An author may have a brilliant idea of a story, all the scenes and all the jokes in his head, but he can't put it in prose. Nothing wrong with writing script, in my opinion. But a skilled writer that can write great prose is free to do so, and comedy fiction in prose can also be brilliant. It's all a question of flavour. Prose works much better than script for drama, of course, and it gives the author much more freedom.
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Re: How To Write A Simpsons Script

Post by TheLeader » Mon May 02, 2005 11:04 pm

Sorry for the harshness of that first post...and some of my other ones. I guess I'm a little jaded.

Yes, "spec script" is a real term. It's generally used to define a script that brings a writer to the attention of producers or agents. It's mentioned several times in the commentaries on the Simpsons DVDs...I think during "Homer's Triple Bypass" and "Marge Gets a Job".

As far as prose is concerned...I'm not exactly sure how/why that came up. Even fanfic should be in some kind of script format. It's easier and faster to read, and you don't step on jokes by overwriting descriptions. It's also easier to guage the running time of a script when it's formatted.

As far as actually showing the format, I really can't because there are limited options for formatting on this message board. I know I sounded a litle pompous talking about correct format without showing it. However, the Final Draft scriptwriting program has a Simpsons format template. And you can buy actual Simpsons scripts at ScriptCity.com.

Again, I apologize for my earlier harshness, but writing shielded from criticism will not improve.
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Re: How To Write A Simpsons Script

Post by Marco » Mon May 02, 2005 11:51 pm

I'm not a writer, but i dont think that people here is "shielded from criticism".


Even fanfic should be in some kind of script format. It's easier and faster to read, and you don't step on jokes by overwriting descriptions. It's also easier to guage the running time of a script when it's formatted.

It seems to me like your'e putting prose fanfic onto the same plane as script fanfic. I think there could be reasons where a prose fanfic could be better readed if in script format and viceversa... but there are some cases where you can't write a story if you dont use prose and a book-like format.

That's because sometimes people here doesn't want to reproduce an episode. They just want to take characters from the Simpsons and build stories about them, sometimes stories that have nothing to do with how an actual episode goes. For these kind of things, your rules can't and should not apply, because they have a different appeal, a different way of reading and not ultimately, a different reading target.

My two cents, just to say for two different sets of writing, different sets of rules should apply.

p.s: I would never read a book written in script format. ;)
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Re: How To Write A Simpsons Script

Post by Dagdamor » Mon May 02, 2005 11:57 pm

Even fanfic should be in some kind of script format.


Argh, "should be" again. I don't understand this, really. Okay, I wrote a fanfic in a prose format and it's not comedy. Should I shoot myself now? ;) I agree that script format can be more appropriate for comedy fiction and prose is better for drama. But anyway, it's always writer's decision. Good comedy story can be implemented as prose, and vice versa.
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Re: How To Write A Simpsons Script

Post by TheLeader » Tue May 03, 2005 1:19 am

Look, if you want to write a fanfic in prose format, fine. I'm just sayin'. It's my personal feeling that the Simpsons sense of humor doesn't lend itself that easily to prose. It's quick, it's dialogue heavy, and it's visual. If you want to write a Simpsons book, fine.

Nobody wants to read a book in script format (unless it's The Graduate, which is quite good). That wasn't my argument.

And if you're going to write a Simpsons fanfic that isn't comedy, why does it even have to be the Simpsons? And then what right do you have to complain when the TV show isn't funny? Isn't drama just as good, then?

I hope at least you see where I'm coming from. You can probably tell I'm new to the whole concept of taking characters out of their natural milieu. I just know I fell in love with the TV show for certain reasons, so it's hard for me to understand why people would want to change it for any reason.
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Re: How To Write A Simpsons Script

Post by Ekko » Tue May 03, 2005 1:31 am

Look how everybody gangs up on the new guy. His metarank is even in the negatives! (I'm still not sure what they're for :-\) Anyways, in my eyes, I hate reading scripts. They just hurt me. The descriptions are almost non-existent and you just can't sink into the story. It has to have a smooth consistency to it, and personally, I hate reading things like this:

Bart: On no, we're going to miss the bus!
Lisa: I told you, you shouldn't have built that unreliable hot-wheel track alarm clock!
(Both Bart and Lisa run after the bus)
Bart: Whew, we made it.
Lisa: Barely
(On the bus)
Bart: On no, a talking cat!
Lisa: Didn't I read this somewhere?
(Cat does impossible jumping acts for some reason)

What is important is novel form. Where you can actually feel you are in the story, that's the sweet stuff!
Last edited by Ekko on Tue May 03, 2005 1:40 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: How To Write A Simpsons Script

Post by TheLeader » Tue May 03, 2005 3:41 am

Thanks, Ekko. In a way, my list was intended to combat the kind of bad writing you example in your post.

For those who are interested, and as a show of good faith, I've posted an early script of mine in the Reviews section. I don't know how well it stacks up against my list above, but I wrote it two years ago, so feel free to savage it as you like.

I look forward to your comments.
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Re: How To Write A Simpsons Script

Post by c_nordlander » Tue May 03, 2005 8:01 am

Oh, good grief... bad writing is bad writing, whether it's supposed to be prose or script. Personally, I take a moderate (and hackneyed) view: a fic that intends to be as close to the show as possible should, in my opinion, be written as a script and follow certain length guidelines. A more dramatic fic could be in prose and have just about any length. Again, just my view.

There is no "should be" about writing Simpsons fanfiction in script, either. Nobody received the Sacred Writs of Fanfic Writing on stone tablets from the top of a mountain. It's simply how it is customarily done. To my knowledge, prose Simpsons fanfic is a comparatively new phenomenon.

To TheLeader:

Again, I apologize for my earlier harshness, but writing shielded from criticism will not improve.


Who said it will? I don't see any criticism in your first post, I see simplistic advice like "have the characters acting like themselves" and "edit your story a lot", which isn't really helping, since we already know to do this.

And if you're going to write a Simpsons fanfic that isn't comedy, why does it even have to be the Simpsons?


Because we like the characters, and would like to explore their more dramatic potentials? At least, that's my reason. (Without wallowing in stupid angst or violence, of course.)

EDIT: Besides, some good episodes have had quite a helping of drama in them. "Lisa's Wedding", "Home Sweet Home-Diddily-Dum Doodily" and "Mother Simpson", to name but a few.

And then what right do you have to complain when the TV show isn't funny? Isn't drama just as good, then?


The answer: the show currently *tries* to be, but isn't. But go ahead, show me a recent episode that's truly dramatic, and I promise to wear a cardinal's hat and organise a beer party.

Well, I think that's all.
Last edited by Anonymous on Tue May 03, 2005 3:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.
The noose draws tighter;
This is the end;
I'm a good fighter
But a bad friend;
I've played the traitor
Over and over;
I'm a good hater
But a bad lover.


Elinor Wylie, "Peregrine"
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