Top Tips on Writing for CBBC

Friday 27 June 2014, 14:26

 CBBC CBBC Drama Development Team

We’re really excited about reading your scripts this summer and hope to find some fresh voices and new stories.  We are looking for that wonderful combination of a script that meets our expectations of good characters, great dialogue and a compelling story combined with something that has a fresh perspective or twist that we haven’t seen before; a real sense of voice which makes it impossible to put down and a really good read.  Don’t ask for much, do we?  Here are some top tips to consider:

Wolfblood Wolfblood  

DO immerse yourself in our content. 

DO think about the lives, imaginations and interests of children. Get in touch with your inner child.   

DO make sure your idea not only reflects what is most important to 6-12 year olds, but entertains them too. 

DO choose the story you’re most passionate about, if you have several ideas. 

DO make sure your idea suits CBBC. Certain ideas might suit another channel, a younger or teen audience or a different genre altogether. 

DO think about what hooks the audience in.  Does your idea have an exciting and infectious ‘what if’ factor to it that allows the audience to imagine themselves experiencing the story? i.e. What if all the adults disappeared? (The Sparticle Mystery.) 

DO think about how your idea would sustain a series.  How would the characters develop?  Where is the story heading?  What will keep the audience watching? 

DO consider the underlying themes.  Once you’ve decided what your story is about, think about what it’s really about: what metaphors or themes does it explore?  Why are these important to children? 

DO make sure your idea is character driven – our audience are changing fast and their understanding of themselves and the world around them is expanding daily – this is why our content has such complex characters full of contradictions, internal conflicts, emotions etc 

DO explore the possibilities and boundaries of your setting.  In a real world setting the most surprising things can happen (eg the raps in The 4 O’Clock Club) while a fantasy setting needs rules and consistency to be believable. 

DO play fair. Kids will willingly follow you into an alternative universe but not if you don’t stick to the rules of the world. An intriguing set up needs a great pay off and characters’ behaviour must ring true. 

DO try to balance good dialogue with active characters and visual storytelling. 

DO delve as deep as you can into the idea so that it works on lots of different levels and appeals to all of our audience.  (A great example of this is Wolfblood.) 

DO excite and entertain.  Whatever the subject matter and tone of your idea, does it have some joy, excitement or mystery in it? Does it have some humour? 

DO make sure your script is the best example of your voice.

Strange Hill HIgh Strange Hill High

DON’T be afraid to submit something a little bit different, we are actively looking for bold and original ideas that we haven’t seen before. 

DON’T let production issues limit your ideas too much, but bear in mind that it is difficult for us to achieve ideas driven by complicated special effects or with a period setting.  On the flip side, shows with a precinct or multi protagonists can work well. 

DON’T preach.  We can cover difficult social issues within a show as long as it’s done in an appropriate way for our audience, but our shows should never feel preachy. Telling a cracking character-led story is the most important thing. 

DON’T submit educational ideas (we’re not an extension of school) unless your idea can educate in an inventive and funny way. 

DON’T generalise or patronise the audience – children respond very differently and what appeals to some children might not appeal to others. 

DON’T be afraid of being sophisticated – kids understand a lot! 

DON’T worry if your script doesn’t feel of screen standard yet.  Script development is a difficult and collaborative process for both new and experienced writers. We want to see your original voice, imagination and passion for writing for children. 

DON’T be disheartened if your script isn’t selected. The needs of the channel (and the audience) are constantly changing – just the act of finishing and submitting something is part of your journey as a writer. 

DON’T give up.

The Scriptroom for CBBC and CBeebies closes at midnight on 7th July.  

Find out more details and send in your script now

Comments

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    Comment number 1.

    Very excited about sending in my new script. With the new e-submissions do you have to include information about further episodes etc?

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    Comment number 2.

    Hi MrMidnight. I'm not part of WR, but I can answer this query. :) When you fill out the e-submissions form, there is an option to upload a PDF series outline as a separate document, i.e. 1-3 pages of synopsis, episode guide, etc. However, this is optional.

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    Comment number 3.

    Hi Mikey You gave such fab advice last time that I just thought I would give you an update. My questions was should I submit if my script has more than the required pages. Well, I looked at the checklist for submissions and it does require that the length and duration guidelines be adhered to. So I don't want to have my script sifted on that basis. I am going to wait for another submission opportunity. I do think BBC offers fantastic opportunities so maybe I will be lucky and be able to participate in the next one.

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    Comment number 4.

    Oh yes, I am a bit sad about this, but I suppose it is better to be sad than to lose an opportunity.

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    Comment number 5.

    Hi Sharon. Well, the next children's TV window probably won't be for another year now. However, the TV drama window will pop up before that in about March-ish next year. Question is... would your script fit into that category?

    Or... maybe you could scribe another version of your script as a radio play, as the radio/theatre window comes next in September-ish this year.

    Mind you, you need to remember, there are other script opportunities (not just the BBC) out there. For example, there are a small handful of TV production companies who still accept scripts. A few good searches on Google will uncover them. Or how about sending your script to an agent?

    To get a foot in the door, a writer needs to be proactive.

    I wish you luck with your script wherever you send it. :)

 

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