Instructor:  Dr. Richard F. Taflinger

Office:  Murrow 241 BC

Phone:  335‑1530

Hours:  MWF 12 - 2; OBA

email: (office); (home)

Web Page:





WRITING FOR TELEVISION is not merely a course in how to write scripts, although that will be a major part.  Any writing requires creativity (writing without creativity is merely words in a row), but creativity without structure, direction and purpose is self‑indulgent, confusing and, let's face it, boring.  The objective of this course is to foster the critical analysis knowledge and skills, as well as the practical writing skills, necessary to achieve that structure, direction and purpose, using a hands‑on, do‑it‑and‑critique‑it approach.

Among the areas that we'll examine and discuss are plotting, characterization, dramatic structure, script and line analysis, and dramatic and comedic styles and approaches. The styles of writing we'll examine and write include comedy, drama, and serial drama.  To accomplish these goals we'll look at theories, then write, read and critique our own scripts, applying those theories.  Assignments will include writing and critiquing 4-page, 6-page, and 10-page scripts (all of them complete stories), and a final full‑length (24 minute) original TV show (either dramatic or comedic), the pilot for your TV series.


Course Learning Goals


  • Understand and be able to apply the elements of neoaristotelian storytelling
  • Learn and be able to use properly the rules of formatting for storytelling in a visual medium such as television and movies
  • Demonstrate storytelling and formatting through writing scripts for fictional television programs




(Those in bold-face and italic are required; the others are optional)


1) Watch an episode of a show.  Stop after each act.  Describe in one sentence the narrative arc of each act.  Also describe, in a line or two, what happens in the final scene of each act. 


2) Pick a show, identify its franchise, and write four sample story lines for that show in a paragraph or less each.


3) Write a four page script that tells a complete story (exposition, problem, crises and complications, climax).  The purpose of the script is to introduce the characters to your audience and have your main character solve the problem.


4) Write a six page script that tells a complete story.  Have a major twist occur halfway through.


5) Practice telling friends about the movie you saw last weekend or the show you watched last night.  Pay attention to their reaction.  How long did they stay interested?  When did they get bored?  At what point do they either fall asleep or run screaming out of the room?  By doing this, you can hone the way you tell the story.  Keep asking yourself how you can make your story more interesting.  Are there details you should leave out?  Plot points that don’t matter?  How about the way you tell the story?  Are you talking too quickly?  Too slowly?  Are you energetic, or low key?  Which approach works best for you?  Now try pitching those four story lines from assignment 2.


6) Write a 10-page script that tells a complete story.


7) DVR an episode of your favorite show.  Now break it down into beats, scene by scene, act by act.  You have now created a beat sheet.


8) Your final will be the pilot of your own half-hour TV series.  These are the steps you’ll need to follow:


A) The pitch: Create the pitch for your show and turn it in on the due date.  You will then come see me and pitch your series and episode to me.


B) The leave-behind: this is the beat-sheet or outline for your show.  Write it based on our discussion of your pitch and turn it in on the due date.  You will then come see me and discuss your story, and how you will turn it into a script.


C) The first draft: write the first draft of your script and turn it in on the due date.  We will meet for notes.


D) Rewrite: rewrite your first draft on the basis of our discussion, turn it in on the last day of class, and you’re done!



NOTE:  ALL SCRIPT ASSIGNMENTS WILL HAVE TWO COMPONENTS: A HARD COPY TYPED IN PROPER FORMAT, ACCOMPANIED BY THE SCRIPT FILE IN FINAL DRAFT BY EMAIL AS AN ATTACHMENT sent to both my office and home email addresses (;  THEY WILL BE DUE AT THE BEGINNING OF CLASS THE DAY THEY ARE DUE.  There will be no excuses for late work:  late is defined as not turned in during the class period in which it is due.  When a producer says rhe wants something at 10:00 Wednesday, rhe wants it at 10:00 Wednesday, not 2:00 or 5:00 or sometime Friday – get used to the concept of submitting assignments when they are due.  Turned in late is the equivalent of not turned in at all.  Thus, it will be turned in on time by you or your proxy or your undertaker, or it will be an F.  I won’t read assignments turned in late. 



Introduction. Final Draft.  Script Format.



Dramatic Structure - action.



Dramatic Structure - action; beats. Characters.  Assignment 1: 4 page script (due Friday of week 4).



Characters.   Dialogue.  Thought/Music/Spectacle.  (4-page script due Friday). 



Critique of 4-page script.  Plots.  Assignment 2: 6 page script (due Friday of week 6).



The pitch and doing the Final.  Creation and Tricks of the Trade - card system. 6-page script due Friday.   Assignment 3: 10-page script (due Wednesday of Week 8); pitch.  Begin preparing the pitch for the final project (due Thursday of Week 8). 



The Franchise.  Critique 6-page script.  Assignment 4:  begin writing final projects, to be worked on and discussed during weeks 9 ‑15.  Individual pitch conferences beginning Friday of Week 8.



Doing comedy. The business of being a TV writer.   10-page script and pitch due Wednesday.  Schedule pitch appointments for following week.





Critique of 10-page script.  Pitch appointments (Mon - Wed).


WEEKS 10 - 15

Working on the Final.  Write leave behind and drafts, and make appointments for conferences, according to the following schedule: 

Leave behind due Wednesday, Mar 21; appointments Mar 28 – 30. 

First draft of script due Wednesday Apr 13; appointments Apr 18 - 20.

Final Script due no later than 2:00 pm Friday April 29.




Discriminatory Conduct Statement

Discrimination, including discriminatory harassment, sexual harassment, and sexual misconduct (including stalking, intimate partner violence, and sexual violence) is prohibited at WSU (See WSU Policy Prohibiting Discrimination, Sexual Harassment, and Sexual Misconduct (Executive Policy 15) and WSU Standards of Conduct for Students).

If you feel you have experienced or have witnessed discriminatory conduct, you can contact the WSU Office for Equal Opportunity (OEO) and/or the WSU Title IX Coordinator at 509-335-8288 to discuss resources, including confidential resources, and reporting options. (Visit for more information).

Most WSU employees, including faculty, who have information regarding sexual harassment or sexual misconduct are required to report the information to OEO or a designated Title IX Coordinator or Liaison.  (Visit for more info).

Students with disabilities


Reasonable accommodations are available for students with a documented disability.  If you have a disability and may need accommodation to fully participate in the class, please either visit or call the Access Center (Washington Building 217; 509-335-3417) to schedule an appointment with an Access Advisor.  All accommodations must be approved through the DRC (Washington Building, Room 217). 




Personal conversations between students disrupt the class and interfere with other students’ ability to hear.  And TURN OFF YOUR CELL PHONE WHEN YOU WALK IN – a ringing phone is just as disruptive as talking.  Students who disrupt the class by talking will be asked to leave.  If a student is dismissed from class, he or she will not be permitted to return until after she or he has met with the University’s conduct board, that meeting has been noted in the student’s file, and a note is brought to class saying the student has met with the board.




This is a college class.  The purpose of a college class is to explore ideas and think about them.  So lectures and discussions may, and should, illuminate differing ideas and opinions.  Regardless of differing opinions or perspectives, students are required to treat all classmates with courtesy and respect.  You may not agree with someone – fine.  That does not give you license to go after that person with ad hominem attacks, belittling, or yelling.  Students who do not treat others, including the professor, with respect will be dismissed.




Academic Integrity and Student Conduct are central to our participation in an academic setting. Washington State University defines specific actions which constitute academic dishonesty. These include “cheating, falsification, fabrication, multiple submissions, plagiarism, abuse of academic materials, complicity, or misconduct in research.[1] Students in Com 460 are expected to uphold WSU standards of conduct (see WAC 504-26-010(3).  Violations of academic integrity on any assignment will involve (i) an academic penalty ranging from a minimum of both a zero on that assignment and the reduction of a full letter grade on your final grade to failure of the entire course, (ii) filing of case with the Office of Student Conduct, and per university regulations, (iii) inability to withdraw from the course.  It is strongly recommended that you read and understand these definitions:


It is your responsibility to 1) not cheat, 2) not help anyone else cheat, and 3) not to give the appearance that you are cheating.  University policy allows that students caught cheating may 1) receive an F on the assignment, 2) receive an F for the course, and 3) may be expelled from the University for a second offense or for a particularly egregious offense.  The policy of this course is to seek the most severe punishment from the University as a first response and to put the burden of appeal on the student.


Campus and Classroom Safety Statement

Classroom and campus safety are of paramount importance at Washington State University, and are the shared responsibility of the entire campus population.  WSU urges students to follow the "Alert, Assess, Act" protocol for all types of emergencies and the "Run, Hide, Fight" response for an active shooter incident.  Remain ALERT (through direct observation of emergency notification), ASSESS your specific situation, and ACT in the most appropriate way to assure your own safety (and the safety of others if you are able).


Please sign up for emergency alerts on your account at MyWSU.  For more information on this subject, campus safety, and related topics, please view the FBI's Run, Hide, Fight video and visit the WSU safety portal.


Communication with Students must occur via designated university channels. We will use the Angel and the platforms. If you write from an external address, I will not reply. [2]


First Week Class Attendance (Rule 72)

Students who do not attend class within the first week of the semester will likely be dropped from the course. Students with extenuating circumstances should notify the Office of Student


Affairs personnel who will notify the instructor.[3]  Valid reasons for missing class do not reliueve the student of their responsibility for that missed work.


Academic Regulations, Rule 34a

Students may only repeat a course grade C- or below one time at WSU during fall or spring semesters.  Additional repeats are allowed from another institution or at WSU during summer terms or by special permission of the academic unit offering the course.


Academic Complaint Procedures include the following prescribed steps:

1) Contact the course supervisor (Richard Taflinger) for additional direction. If unresolved, 

2) Contact Dr. Bruce Pinkleton, Associate Dean for Academics, The Edward R. Murrow College of Communication.


Course Withdrawal

If you want to withdraw or need other important dates, please consult the Academic Calendar. [4] 


Course Policies


Class Attendance

Attendance is not mandatory but highly recommended.


University Communication with Students

Absolutely NO communication with be sent to external addresses (e.g., Yahoo, gmail, and so forth).  We will use either the email within Blackboard or "" system.


Instructor-Student Interaction

I will generally respond within 24 hours during the week.  My expectation is the same for students.  You need also to check your email regularly and respond within 24 hours.  I generally do not respond to emails during the weekend, and only sporadically during long vacations (e.g., Spring or Thanksgiving break).  Nor is it expected that you will respond over the weekend.  I generally do not discuss grades or any student records issues via email.  Please schedule a meeting with me to discuss these issues.  If necessary, I may ask you to submit a written petition together with your work in question.  The classroom is typically not an appropriate place for these discussions, especially since I don't carry a gradebook with me.


[1]: Definitions of Student Conduct:


[3]: The Office of Student Affairs can be found at