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How to Write for Reality TV

During my foray into reality TV, I came to understand that the story producers/editors are essentially the writers. Although they are not writing screenplays with dialog and action, they are outlining what needs to happen for each episode of the series to be engaging. Their guidance (a.k.a. story beats and outlines), with the leadership of the show runner, is what generates the camera operators’ and editors’ shot lists.

In reality TV you still need a story structure and emotional or action story beats, whether the action is scripted or not; you still need someone to create the world and events in which the characters live. You still need the basics.

If you have a reality TV idea, start with something like this example:

Title: Competitive Cooking

Genre: Reality TV Show


Episode Title: [Episode Title]

Episode Synopsis:



Introduce the characters/participants and their unique traits.

Showcase a brief glimpse of the emotional journey that awaits in this episode. Who knew cooking could be so emotional?! The final episode will be a grand cook-off between the competing chefs.


Introduce the Host Chef and the competing chefs and their unique traits as they pertain to the cooking challenges.

Meeting the Chef:

The Host Chef meets with competing chef to set the cooking challenge.

Story beats include the competing chef’s reaction to meeting the Host Chef and their reaction to the challenge when it is revealed.

Preparing the Dish:

The competing chef works through the steps of preparing the dish while meeting the problems created to challenge them, such as not having ideal equipment or ingredients for the recipe, or a time limit.

Story beats to capture are moments of anxiety, frustration, problem solving, etc.

Serving the Dish:

The competing chef serves the dish to the Host Chef for evaluation.

Story beats include the big reveal and the Host Chef’s initial reaction.

Judging the Dish:

Host Chef reviews the process and the competing chef’s performance then samples the dish to declare whether it is an Epic Fail or Epicure Sensation.

Story beats include competing chef’s reaction to the review and the Host Chef’s moment of judgement.


Departure interview with competing chef about their experience.

Tease the next episode or provide a sneak peek of upcoming stories.


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