Over my many years as a show runner (yes, that's the actual title of the executive
producer in charge of running a television show) and, now, as a writing consultant
and instructor, I am inevitably asked the same question by my writing staffs and
students: what is the secret of truly good writing? Why are some novels, movies
and television shows so intensely engrossing, so blissfully entertaining, so deliciously
readable and others such dismal disappointments? The secret, which is really no
secret at all, is that all great film screenplays, novels, plays, short stories—all
of the wonderful literature that has survived the ages—all share one common
element which can be stated in five short words: a good story, well told.
"I like a good story well told.
That is the reason I am sometimes
forced to tell them myself."
A good story, well told. How simple is that? You would think every writer would
embrace that concept and write accordingly. If it was only that simple. But that’s
what I strive for every time I sit down at my keyboard and start a new project.
Of the hundreds of hours of prime time television I have been responsible for, I’ve
actually come close a few times—a couple EMMY® nominations, a few Writers
Guild of America nominations and, most treasured by me, two Humanitas nominations.
My entire professional career as well as my consultancy and teaching philosophy
is based on those five simple words: a good story, well told. One might argue that
writing is subjective, that what may appeal to me may not appeal to you. True, but
I ask that you do not confuse genre or taste with the quality of a written work
so well told that it resonates viscerally within the heart and soul and psyche of
Now—what makes a good story and how is it best told? The answer is found in