then they could cancel those shows. The networks soon cancel any show that I enjoy.
I see Castle is back. Castle inspired me to write the following short description on how to write a detective
TV show. The title is The 27 Steps to Writing a Screenplay for a TV Detective Show. It is a little long so hang in there.
I hope you enjoy it. For more of my short stories purchase my e-book, Monte’s Shorts, at
It seems as though the same person writes all the crimes shows, or the writers use standard formula. By watching a few crime shows, I have reversed engineered he formula for each show. By grouping the necessary steps common to most shows, I have developed a checklist that can be used for many, if not all, TV detective shows. Writers that are eager to break into TV screenwriting can use is checklist to write screenplays and submit them to producers. This formula will work for Castle, The Mentalist, CSI, Criminal Minds, Major Crimes, Glades, and many other TV detective shows.
Opening scene: Episode opens with the female lead and male lead in bed at (select one):
a. her apartment. b. his apartment c. in a hotel
1. A cell phone rings (mandatory). One of the two must answer while the other says, “Don’t answer that!” To which the other must say, “We have to. We’re on call.”
2. Whoever answers the phone must listen and then say, “We’ll be right there.” (Must act as if not going is an option. Must show disappointment)
3. Optional additional statement-female lead says, “I will make it up to you.” Follow this with a coy smile. Male detective must smile back with stupid look on face.
4. Both arrive at murder scene together. (He/she) finds a piece of evidence overlooked by 12 other CSI people and 5 other detectives.
5. (He/she) says, “Canvas the neighborhood and see if anyone saw anything. Also, check all the security tapes within a 100-mile radius and see what comes up. Check the ATMs while you’re at it and get me a cup of coffee.” (Everyone must slap their forehead as if they had never thought of that.)
6. The medical examiner must be a loveable character who is (pick one). a. old. b. crippled
c. a geek. d. a good looking female. e. a genius
7. The detectives take the evidence from the crime scene to the lab. The results come back in 30 seconds.
8. The following is easy to obtain: a. financial records including top secret off shore accounts.
b. telephone calls (provided by NSA). c. all e-mails for the last seven years (provided by NSA). d. all credit card transactions (provided by NSA). e. all tweets (provided by Twitter).
f. nude pictures from the internet (provided by Facebook). g. photographs from all ATMs, traffic lights, and security cameras.
9. The following are difficult to obtain: a. tax records (IRS won’t cooperate)
b. home telephone number (telephone company wants a two year contract). c. name of TV service provider (keeps changing). d. password to home computer (suspects keep forgetting)
10. (Select all that apply below):_________ lead(s) to (pick a number) __suspects. . They haul
them in to interview them individually. a. the evidence. b. the witnesses. c. the video tapes. d. the confidential informant. e. intuition f. gut feeling. g. good luck
11. The interview room has a one-way mirror (mandatory). The suspects have no idea that there is
a one way mirror.
12. One witness must look the most innocent (mandatory) because (he/she) is a (select all that
apply): a. nun/priest. b. virgin. c. Democrat. d. has an iron clad alibi. e. passed a polygraph test. f. passed the drug test. g. is cute
13. Another suspect must look very guilty because (she/he) (select all that apply):
a. is a Republican. b. failed the polygraph test. c. has no alibi. d. voted for Nixon.
e. looks guilty (shifty eyes, sweaty, bad hair do). f. driver’s license expired.
14. The detectives must show the guilty looking suspect all the evidence they have collected (mandatory) and tell the suspect all their theories on how the crime was committed. The suspect must still deny everything.
15. All the suspects must lie (mandatory).
16. The detectives paste pictures (mandatory) of all the suspects and list other clues on a white board.
17. The detectives discover that for the guilty looking suspect (select all that apply):
a. the alibi checked out. b. the polygraph malfunctioned. c. the suspect had a prescription for the drugs. d. the suspect lied about voting for Nixon. e. the suspect looks cute after cleaning up. f. the (DNA/prints) do not match the crime scene evidence. g. their contract with the studio expires soon.
18. One of the detectives uncovers (mandatory) some obscure piece of evidence that implicates the innocent looking suspect.
19. The detectives also must discover that the innocent looking suspect is (select all that apply):
a. not a nun/ priest. b. a not virgin (don’t ask how). c. really a closet Republican
20. And that (his/her) (select all that apply): a. alibi does not check out. b. DNA/prints match the murder scene. c. library card expired. d. Driver’s license has a false date of birth and weight. e. Breasts are fake. f. Uses Botox.
21. The detectives go to arrest the suspect and (select all that apply) a. forget to cover the rear door. b. do not have a warrant. c. find the door unlocked. d. discover that the suspect does not have a house security alarm
22. (Optional) If at night, the detective must drive up to the house/apartment with headlights
and siren on.
23. The detectives enter house/apartment and immediately turn on penlights (mandatory) even though the lights work or it is daylight.
24. The suspect escapes (mandatory) by (pick one): a. climbing out the unguarded window.
b. driving through the garage door which is unguarded. c. running up stairs to the roof which is unguarded. d. running into the underground garage which is unguarded. e. taking the
elevator which is unguarded and which closes just before the detectives can stop it.
25. As the suspect escapes (he/she) (select one): a. nearly runs over the lead characters.
b. shoots and misses. c. yells, “You’ll never take me alive, copper!”
26. The detectives arrest the suspect and interrogate him/her. They ask if he/she wants
27. The suspect cracks under such a hard question and confesses (mandatory) to everything plus (select all that apply): a. cheating on taxes. b. cheating on wife. c. cheating in college.
d. cheating at cards. e. poor acting.
I hope that aspiring screenplay writers find this checklist useful. We can always use more unimaginative screenplays that follow a standard format. That way, if the fans miss an episode, they do not miss anything important. Good luck! The End