SCRIPTEASE The Vampire Diaries Season Three

12 easy steps to writing a third season episode of the hit show

General tone:

It’s a bit like Buffy without the latex monsters meets Twilight without the sexual guilt. Or guilt of any sort, for that matter: the main vampires in this show often do bad, bad things, but they can be forgiven because they’ve got really good hair.

There are also witches, werewolves, ghosts and characters who will eventually become a vampire, or a werewolf, a or ghost or a witch (possibly a combination) if they aren’t killed first. Or called Matt.

Lots of teen soap performed by people in their mid to late ’20s goes on in the fringes of the storytelling.

The format:

In the beginning, high schoolgirl Bella, sorry, ELENA fell in love with good vampire STEFAN who has an evil vampire brother DAMON. But that’s all changed now. (See CHARACTERS.) All three of them have a complicated history that binds them to the seemingly sleepy town of Mystic Falls. ELENA’s family history is, in fact, so complicated, that the show should really begin each episode with a family tree rather than a Story So Far Montage (especially as the Story So Far montage is pretty redundant – see point 2 below).

Main Characters:

ELENA: Human schoolgirl. Loves STEFAN, and perhaps DAMON too. Now that Stefan has gone evil, and Damon has always been morally dubious, she may as well solve her dilemma by suggesting a threesome.

STEFAN: Good vampire brother, who’s gone all Angelus (see Buffy The Vampire Slayer ) because KLAUS forced him off the blood wagon. Is now much more interesting, but threatebning to get dull again.

DAMON: Bad vampire brother with fruit machine eyes. But when we say bad, he’s not really bad – just a bit naughty. And often shirtless. And in bed with women he’s glamoured. Not that many of his vast army of fans would need much glamouring.

CAROLINE: Human schoolgirl, and daughter of the local sheriff, who was turned into a vampire but can walk in daylight thank to a special ring (handily there are enough of these rings to go round all the main vampire characters).

JEREMY: Elena’s brother. Part Holden Caulfield, part Rebel Without A Cause , part Zammo McGuire, he can see dead people. Haunted by ex-girlfriends (both the living and dead ones). Looks constantly constipated. Gets written out a lot.

TYLER: Posh knob end who became a werewolf, then a vampire/werewolf hybrid. Now has divided loyalties between KLAUS, who sired him and CAROLINE, who loves him.

MATT: Human teenager who sort of hangs around the show not doing much. Only use him in your episode if you really need someone to serve beer at the Mystic Grill.

ALARIC: Schoolteacher who knows all about vampires and the history of Mystic Falls. Use in your episode only if you need someone to infodump some vampire lore or local history. Or die. He dos that a lot, but has a habit surviving.

KATHERINE: Elena’s doppelganger, a vampire who shagged both DAMON and STEFAN back in the 1800s. Was bad, but seems less bad now as other baddies get badder. Will now perform good deeds if it looks like STEFAN or DAMON may shag her again.

BONNIE: A teenage witch, but has no stuffed cat as yet. Elena’s best friend.

KLAUS: Big bad of the moment. One of the First Vampires. Wants to create an army of vampire/werewolf hybrids and kill every one of the above characters. Except possibly Matt, because, like everybody else, he really doesn’t care about Matt.

12 Things You Must Include In Your Epsiode:

1 A Social Event

Mystic Falls has a very busy social calendar for such a small town, and nary a week goes by without an excuse for a knees-up: Founders’ Day, History Day, Graduation Day, It’s A Bit Drizzly Today Day. So make sure you come up with a new one: The High School Sack Race Jamboree Day, The Annual Baby Throwing Competition or The Mystic Falls Trout Decorating Rally Day. That’s the real reason this show’s called The Vampire Diaries – you need one to make sure you’re dressed for the right party.

2 Infodumping

The Vampire Diaries is a very complicated show: it can have up to five shock revelations and/or surprises per episode, so the viewers need to be kept up to speed. So within the first few minutes of any episode, have a good, meaty infodump, with copious use of phrases such as, “You remember…”, “That was why I…” and “Alaric, what do you know about…?” If you’re really trying to stretch the format, why not have the infodump done over a phone; this adds interest because you have one of the characters doing something like shopping, or shagging.

3 A Gratuitous Shirtless Scene

Usually Damon, but it doesn’t have to be. Though having a shirtless Matt scene might be a waste.

4 An Old Character Makes An Unexpected Reappearance

This is one of the show’s staple sources of “shock revelation”. It’s even better if the character was previously dead. And it doesn’t matter if they were really, really minor, and the audience has trouble remembering them; the music will well up dramatically to make the point. But try to avoid having the returning characters simply knocking at Elena’s front door at the end of an episode – we rather overdid that one in season two. Appearing from nowhere and decking Damon is preferable.

5 The Current Baddie Is Replaced By A Badder Baddie

Whoever the current primary vampire villain is – and however unkillable and “the worst ever” they are – they must constantly be replaced by an even older, badder, more unkillable vampire villain. If this new villain is not actually to be introduced in your episode, then they must at least be referred to. For example: “You mean the only thing that can kill X is Y? But Y’s all died years ago.” (Any character may say this). “Not necessarily…” (Only Alaric or Katherine may say this).

6 Katherine Must Be Mistaken For Elena

Make it look like Elena has died, done something evil or snogged Damon… then reveal that it was, in fact, Katherine. The audience falls for it every time.

7 Everyone Must Be Hunting For An Artifact

The plot must revolve around some mystical artifact or other. Whether a ring, an amulet, a weapon or a toilet brush, this artifact will usually provide a new way of killing vampire, or offer some mystical protection, or maybe enable you to remove a foil yoghurt pot top in one go without ripping it.

8 Bonnie And Elena Must Remind Each Other They’re Best Friends

They’re forever falling out but, their friendship is stronger than any relationship with a bloodsucker. Preferably set this scene on a bed with a soppy college rock track wailing in the background. Bonnie may perform some magic to symolise their friendship (making dead flowers bloom, reassembling a ripped photo, making a severed limb grow back) if the budget allows. Otherwise a simple heart-to-heart will suffice.

9 Bonnie Must Perform Some Magic That Has Consequences

Because if there weren’t consequences, she’d be using her magic all the time, and that would really blow the budget. And it makes things too easy for the writers if she could just make Klaus vanish.

10 Damon And Elena Must Nearly Kiss…

…But just before they do, evil Stefan must do something (stroke a fluffy bunny, cry at the end of ET, notice Matt) that makes Elena think he’s still redeemable. She then goes on a guilt trip, and Damon’s eyes will roll like billiard balls in an earthquake.

11 Damon Must Do Something Randomly Immoral

Although Damon isn’t as evil as he once was, we still need him to be naughty and randomly violent because the audience loves him like that. Killing off evil characters isn’t enough. Thankfully, we now have Alaric’s resurrection ring, so Damon can vent his spleen on one of our hero characters by breaking his neck without any lasting consequences. Another favourite is having Damon glamour women into sleeping with him, which is, in fact, a form of rape, but we don’t use that word, because it might alert the audience to how icky the situation really is. But most of all…

12 …Damon Must Be Funny

It’s one of the best things about the show, so make sure Damon’s acid wit is well to the fore. Here’s some inspiration from past episodes:

“There’s been enough doom, gloom, and personal growth for one night.”

“Girls just can't resist my good looks, my style and my charm, my unflinching ability to listen to Taylor Swift."

"I do believe in killing the messenger. Know why? It sends a message "
“I happen to like the edge, Stefan. Your problem is your inability to resist falling over it.”

“You’re right. I didn’t have to kill you. I do a lot of things I don’t have to do.”

This feature originally appeared in the SFX Vampires Special Edition.

Dave Golder
Freelance Writer

Dave is a TV and film journalist who specializes in the science fiction and fantasy genres. He's written books about film posters and post-apocalypses, alongside writing for SFX Magazine for many years.