Writing is often both fun and purposeful, such as writing a pilot or a spec for my portfolio, or blogging to increase my exposure. But sometimes you just want to work on a project because it’s just fun. Fan seasons, known by many other names by their faithfuls, are such a project. To sum up… what would happen in a season of a television show you love if you were in charge?
Whether a show you love has been cancelled and tossed aside by its network, oryour favourite show is just in its seasonal hiatus, sometimes it’s fun to plot out your own version of what a season of the show could look like. Not only is it a fun diversion, but if you’re settling into the process of writing specs, it’s a great practice to get into the right frame of mind.
They’re a standard in the fanfiction and virtual series worlds, though they often go the full way and produce a whole season of story, rather than the skeleton I’m proposing here. This particular variant includes all of the creative planning you typically don’t get to do unless you’re running an actual show: picking the episodes, planning the character arcs, introducing new characters and mythology elements to the series, etc. It’s almost like planning a novel, really, except in the television format.
A few years ago, a friend and I planned a virtual continuation of Wonderfalls after it was cancelled by Fox, all done over AIM. It was a really fun experience, even though we never penned a single scene. We go to figure out what we would have liked to see in the second season, plotted out to thirteen episodes, using plans from the producers and plenty of our own. It was great practice before the more comprehensive task of ever planning our own series.
Here’s what you do:
Pick a show: It can be a cancelled show that’s no longer around, or a show that’s on the air and taking some time off. I wouldn’t recommend doing it while the show’s airing every week unless you’re not watching, because the show will start influencing and interacting with the ideas in your head. It can even be a ‘re-do’ of a season that disappointed you. After Shannen Doherty’s untimely exit from Charmed, followed by the introduction of a new sister, the fan-written Charmed: Reset Reality took the chance to envision a version of the show in which both characters were around.
Watch the show: Ah, but didn’t I say watching the show would mess you up? New episodes would, but the stuff you already know, tangled up in the arcs of seasons past, is safe – and, actually, will help you refine your ideas for your own plans. Take a look at the show: What do you love most about it? What needs fixing? What happened in the typical episode?
Strip it down: You need to look at the very base of the show: what are the minimum requirements for the next season? Presumably your lead and premise, at least, but there should be certain things in the show that it can’t live without. Keep these in mind when you’re planning – as well as the things you consider good but not essential, as that will open you up to replacing them if it aids your story.
Start planning: Here’s where you develop the methods that work for you. My personal preference is to note down the ideas for the core of the season, and look at where different arcs begin and end – plot and character. Knowing the end means that each character’s path during the season would build up to something, rather than meandering and falling flat. You may feel differently. You may want to go off the fly, see where it takes you when you start writing episode summaries down. You might start with a few idea prompts (words, songs, themes) and work from there. You might start by playing out impossible situations (such as, thinking about the aftermath for the death of any one main character) and see if something strikes you. There are as many paths as there are writers.
What should you have for the finished product? I’d consider the basement to be a cast listing, with your series regulars and recurring characters on it, and brief episode summaries of each episode. Beyond that: freedom. You can do anything you like: images, outlines of future seasons, descriptions of any new characters or mythology elements. You can even write the episodes!
I’ll eventually offer up one or two examples of these, depending on what I still have on file. You can look forward to my Lost season 2, and maybe more – especially if you comment that you’d be interested in taking a look! Anyway, gang, thoughts? Ever done something like this before?