How to Create Concepts for Your Own TV Shows

By Alan Donahue ; Updated September 15, 2017
Create a television series concept.

Television history is full of great ideas like “I Love Lucy,” “Friends” and “C.S.I” but with every successful show there are dozens of shows that have failed. Creating a TV show is a challenging process, but it starts with the initial concept and branches off into scripts, meetings and an eventual pilot shooting. Developing your own concept is one of the most important stages and will determine if your idea ever makes it to broadcast.

Write a logline. A logline is two or three sentences that describe the show. This is essentially the hook that will entice potential buyers. Keep the logline short and to the point.

Study past shows. Use IMDB.com to research whether there are similar shows. If the concept is too close to yours, you may need some tweaking before it is ready to present. TV.com is another good resource for searching television show history.

Create a character list for the show. The main cast members can range from two to 10 or more characters. Sitcoms typically feature smaller main cast members because shows are only 30 minutes long, but examples like “Arrested Development” have larger ensemble casts.

Branch out the character list to create a relationship tree. Figure out how each character is related to each other, knows each other, and the characters' feelings for each other. Just doing this will help create intricate plots and potential storylines.

Write out biographies for the main characters. This part is essential, because you want to know where your characters came from and why they make certain decisions. The biographies are used more for your personal benefit, but you can easily reference back to them when writing episodes.

Plan out 10 possible future episodes of the television show. This will help you plan out your concept and prepare future storylines or set-ups that will occur in the pilot episode. Thinking about future episodes will also make you realize if the television show has the potential to last for several episodes.

Write a treatment for the pilot episode. You can write a script if you want, but a treatment is faster and will put your ideas on the page. Pace the show and make sure that there are three complete acts.

Package all of the information together for one presentable concept. Typically, the concept should feature the title of the show, the logline, brief main character descriptions and a short treatment of the pilot episode. When submitting to different producers or agents, they may request all of this information or simply the log line.

About the Author

Alan Donahue started writing professionally in 2003. He has been published in the Norwich Free Academy "Red & White," UNLV's "Rebel Yell" and on various websites. He is an expert on wrestling, movies and television. He placed second in the NFO Screenwriting Contest and received filmmaking awards from Manchester Community College and Norwich Free Academy. He currently attends Academy of Art University.