In the world of television, crafting a captivating season-long narrative is both an art and a little bit of a science.

This process is known as "breaking a story," and it is fundamental to the success of any TV series. It involves meticulously planning each episode to ensure that they collectively tell a coherent, engaging story that resonates with audiences and keeps them hooked from the season's beginning to its end.

Breaking a story is not just about stringing together a series of episodes; it's about weaving a tapestry of plots, characters, and emotions that evolve over time, reflecting the show's unique voice and vision.

Today, we'll go over breaking a season-long story for television, highlighting the key steps, challenges, and creative strategies employed by writers to bring compelling narratives to life on the small screen.

Let's get started.

How To Break The Story Of A TV Show - Niceole R.

Understanding Your Genre



The first step in breaking a season-long story is to have a clear understanding of the show's core concept and genre. This understanding sets the tone and direction for the story.

For example, a drama series might focus on character development and intricate plotlines and twists, while a comedy might prioritize humor and situational conflicts, with season changes coming in character rather than plot.

Developing a Seasonal Arc

Detectives and police officers at a crime scene, 'CSI: Vegas''CSI: Vegas'CBS

Once the concept and genre are established, writers need to develop a seasonal arc. This arc is the backbone of the season, outlining the major plot beats and character developments that will occur.

It's essential to ensure this arc is compelling and aligns with the show's overall theme and tone.

Write down where the season starts and then write down where you want it to end.

It's your job to connect the dots.

And not just the main story's dots.

Subplots add depth and complexity to the main storyline. They can be used to explore secondary characters, introduce new themes, or provide comic relief.

Carefully woven subplots can enrich the narrative without detracting from the main plot.

Subplots will help you map your season because they will build out the story of episodes.

Create Detailed Episode Outlines

Big Mouth

'Big Mouth'


Maybe the most important part of this process is outlining. With the seasonal arc in place, the next step is to break it down into individual episodes.

What happens along the way to arc your characters?

This involves creating detailed outlines for each episode, specifying key plot points, character developments, and how each episode contributes to the overall season arc.

This step ensures that each episode is both self-contained and part of a larger narrative.

Balance Standalone and Serialized Play

Game of Thrones

'Game of Thrones'


A crucial aspect of breaking a season-long story is balancing standalone episodes with serialized storytelling.

In layman's terms - you have a plot that happens across the season, and then individual goals that happens within episodes.

And some episodes may just stand by themselves too.

Standalone episodes can attract casual viewers and provide a break from the main storyline, while serialized elements maintain ongoing interest and plot continuity.

The balance depends on the genre and format of the show.

Develop Deep Characters

Why did Amazon trust these first-time show runners with 'The Rings of Power'?'The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power'CREDIT: Prime Video

Character development is central to any TV show. When breaking a season-long story, it's important to plan how each character will evolve over the season.

Where do they start and where are they going?

Map out relationships, conflicts, and show the growth that will occur.

Strong, believable character arcs can greatly enhance the appeal and depth of the story.

Physically write out the moments that will shift each character in their mindset and revelations as they go.

Make Sure Plot Twists Keep The Narrative Progressing

Tony Soprano, played by James Gandolfini, walking with Meadow Soprano, played by Jamie-Lynn Sigler, walking on campus in 'The Sopranos''The Sopranos'Credit: HBO

To keep viewers engaged throughout the season, it's often effective to include cliffhangers and plot twists. These elements create suspense and anticipation, encouraging viewers to return for the next episode.

However, they need to be well-planned and not overused to maintain their impact.

Collaboration Is The Key To Success


'Breaking Bad'


Maintaining consistency and continuity throughout the season is essential. This includes keeping track of character developments, storylines, and timelines. Inconsistencies can break immersion and reduce the show's credibility.

Breaking a season-long story is typically a collaborative process involving a team of writers. This collaboration allows for a diversity of ideas and perspectives, which can enhance the story's richness and appeal. Regular writers' meetings are crucial for brainstorming, resolving plot issues, and ensuring consistency.

Summing Up How to Break a TV Season

Breaking a season-long story for television is an art that requires careful planning, creativity, and collaboration.

The process is dynamic ensuring that the show remains relevant and engaging throughout its run.

Now that you have the tools, it's time to apply them to your own work.

Go get writing.