Real Life V. Reel Life

Over the weekend, I was chatting with one of my readers and she asked, “How many of your scripts are inspired by your real life?”

All of them.

You don’t have to be a doctor to write a medical show, but more often than not, the starting point for a story begins with a writer’s personal or emotion experience.

For instance, here’s the logline for a Friday Night Lights spec I wrote several years ago:

As Coach Taylor and the Panthers prepare for the Rivalry Week game against Westerby, Saracen and Landry start a rivalry of their own. Tyra and Lyla face-off about their parents’ romantic relationship, Tami’s pride threatens her new job offer, and Riggins becomes the third wheel in Street’s new relationship.

In the script, Tami discovers Eric pulled strings to get her a promotion and she rails against it. Her job was the one aspect of her life where she wasn’t defined as “The Coach’s Wife.” That story was a reflection of my own life at the time; I had just married a much older man who was a writer and showrunner, and many people assumed he had pulled strings to get me a job in the industry. I was railing against the trophy wife stigma, and writing Tami’s story was my catharsis.

In a recent edition of THR, Modern Family Executive Producer Danny Zuker stated, “Rarely is there a situation written into a Modern episode that didn’t happen to someone involved in the show or to others that they know. In fact, the writers say they are encouraged to attend parents’ nights and plays at their children’s schools to find fodder. “We bring in our fights, our petty jealousies and our anecdotes. Our story-breaking rooms are little therapy sessions,” says Zuker. “My [three] kids will do something that annoys me, and they’ll see me smile, and then I’ll hear, ‘Dad, do not put that on the show.'”

Tell me, how many of your scripts were inspired by your real life? All? None?

2 thoughts on “Real Life V. Reel Life”

  1. Surprisingly, all but one. My Shameless spec isn’t based on any experiences but I am so in love with the show that my ABC plots just practically created themselves. All other original material is based off of an initial experience or belief.


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