Alan Ball Explains the Process of Writing True Blood

June 17, 2010 by  

True Blood fans all over the world would love to know how Alan Ball and his writers come up with the storyline for this amazing hit series.  How does he take Charlaine Harris’ amazing Sookie Stackhouse book series and turn it into True Blood?  Well wait no more! Alan Ball recently sat down with Fancast to explain the 5 steps of his writing process.

STEP 1: Step one begins with the books! As most fans who have read the book series know, Alan has pretty much been focusing on one book per season. Season 3 focuses on the third book in the series, “Club Dead”.  Alan explains that the biggest challenge they face is opening up a world outside of Sookie since the books are all told from her perspective. The writers have to come up with ways to give the other major characters their own storylines that will somehow intertwine into the main story, the Sookie/Bill story.  As most of the book fans know, Alan does deviate from the books a bit. Here Alan Ball tells us how he decides when to deviate from the books:

“It’s a totally organic process.  A lot of times there are a lot of people pitching ideas.  A lot of times we’ll find if we totally stick to the books here, how is that going to affect later on because we’re breaking the story three of four episodes down the line.  It’s like well what if he wasn’t this but he was this instead? There’s not a formula. It’s pretty much gut instinct.”

STEP 2: Next is taking the books and the writing and breaking it into twelve episodes.  For this Alan and his writing team use a set of dry erase boards.  They use the dry erase board to track characters and storylines. These boards act as a sort of outline for how the season will play out.  From this point they start working and breaking down individual character stories.

STEP 3: The next step in this process is making sure to keep HBO involved.  Here Alan Ball explains this step a little more in depth:

“We do not get micromanaged.  I don’t have to pitch outlines.  At the beginning of the season we have a big meeting where all the L.A. people are at the table and at the end of the table is a big TV screen with all the New York people and what I do is talk through the whole season. But that’s less about pitching the season and more about getting everybody excited about what’s going to happen in the season.  I’ve never gotten any notes from those meetings.   When I worked at some other networks I would have to get approval for just the story ideas and then we’d have to write an outline and get their input on that. HBO basically gets the script right before it gets into prep.  They of course get dailies and then they get a cut a producer’s cut of the episode and then they weigh in on that’ but it’s a total joy to work for HBO because they don’t micromanage.  It’s not like there’s 20 people who have to give notes just to justify why they exist at the company.  And the notes that we get are smart.  They make sense.  There’s also a sort of unspoken thing of like, ‘Here’s our notes.  You don’t have to take them,’ which is pretty rare for TV.  Anything that makes the show better, I’m happy.”

STEP 4: This step is how Alan and his team creates the minisodes that we experienced just a few short weeks ago to help get fans hyped up for season 3.  Alan explains that this was actually HBO’s idea.  Alan agreed to write the episodes and then went on to shoot them as well.  The only difference between making the minisodes compared to actual episodes is that the minisodes were not edited by Alan’s team – HBO’s editing team did that.

STEP 5: Step 5 can be summed up into – Love what you do!  Alan explains that he truly enjoys writing. He does not see it as a painful process like a lot of others might view it as.  He does admit that True Blood is the best work he has ever written.  He admits that he can beat himself up at time but that is just his own ego trying to beat itself up or inflate itself as well.  Alan simply tries to ignore it.

Whatever the process Alan has provided fans with an exceptional series that never fails to keep us entertained and holding us to the edge of our seats!

SOURCE: Fancast

(Photo Credit: HBO Inc.)

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  • lizzie

    Thanks Janet. I liked reading this interview – they sound like they have lots of fun coming up with the story line, intermingling the books with their own ideas.

    I liked that he still acknowledged that the main storyline is Bill and Sookie and entwining the other major characters into their storyline.

    Glad the “suits” don’t interfer. I have known science fiction shows that have only lasted about 13 eps because of creative differences between the suits and the creators. Glad TB is safe from this influence.