One of the hottest genres out there right now is true crime. It used to be something just for podcasts, but more and more TV shows and movies are picking up on the trend.

Today, I want to go over some tips for crafting the true crime genre for television.

When you're breaking a TV pilot, there's lots to do, and I want this article to work in tandem with that one, allowing you to build your genre out and to find success.

So, let's dive in.

Why Write True Crime

Why Write True Crime

Tiger King


People are scared of what goes bump in the night. And that gets exponentially scarier when we realize the threats are real.

Unsolved cases possess an inherent intrigue. And so do mysteries we solved with real boogey,en at the end.

This type of true crime storytelling taps into our innate problem-solving instincts, fostering a sense of audience participation that differs from stories with a clear resolution.

These "ripped from the headlines" stories bring audiences who want to know more or who have a morbid curiosity at what happened behind closed doors.

When it comes to TV, you can see these stories spanning decades or being incredibly hot limited series. There are tons of reasons to want to write these kinds of episodes.

So let's go over some tips to make your version great.

Tips for Crafting A Compelling True Crime Series

Tips for Crafting A Compelling True Crime Series

Impeachment: An American Crime Story

FX Networks

Crafting a TV show takes a lot of attention to detail and care. but if you're crafting one based off true events, you also have to take into account how you handle those details.

Here are some tips you can follow.

  1. Respect for Victims: At the heart of any true crime story are real people. While an unsolved case may lack closure, it's vital to prioritize the victims and their families. Avoid sensationalism and always seek informed consent where possible.
  2. Balance Theories with Facts: When resolution is missing, it's easy to slip into speculation. Build your narrative on a foundation of verifiable facts. Showcase the most plausible theories, but clearly distinguish between hard evidence and informed speculation.
  3. Explore Investigative Angles: The heart of an unsolved crime series lies in the investigative process. Highlight the complexities of the case, the challenges faced by authorities, and potential missteps within the investigation. Let the audience follow the trail of clues alongside you.
  4. The Weight of Inconclusiveness: Unlike solved cases, there's no neat ending to tie everything together. Embrace this ambiguity as a creative opportunity. Allow the audience to sit with the unanswered questions. Explore the impact the crime has had on the community and those connected to it.
  5. Empowering the Audience: Offer resources and avenues for viewers to engage with the case further. Provide links to relevant websites, investigative organizations, or social media discussion groups. The lack of resolution onscreen can spark action offscreen.
  6. The Potential for Change: An unsolved case carries the hope that it might, one day, be solved. Highlight how revisiting the story could bring about fresh leads or new perspectives. Emphasize that the act of shedding light on these cases can be an important step towards potential justice.
  7. Avoid Retraumatization: Remain mindful of the impact your series could have on victims' families and those connected to the case.
  8. Transparency with Viewers: Be upfront about the nature of the case and that your series may not provide definitive answers.
  9. Acknowledge Alternative Viewpoints: Even in cases that seem clear-cut, consider showcasing alternative perspectives from those who may doubt the primary theory.
  10. Balance Your Tone: Some crimes can be awful, and some can be awfully funny. Set your tone early to allow the audience to figure out how you want them to react.

Let me know what you think in the comments.