Is there any chance of a posting about how to avoid an 'episodic' script?
There is no reason to actively avoid an episodic narrative. It’s a valid and useful storytelling technique. Like passive protagonists, the use of an episodic narrative from a new or inexperienced writer might be left alone until a more confident grasp of style and craft has been achieved.
An episodic script is often frowned upon because it doesn’t develop the characters or story to the same satisfying level as a typical, traditional mainstream film. But that doesn’t mean that stories cannot be driven with an episodic narrative. It just means that the episodic nature has to be valid and entertaining to the style and structure of the story you’re trying to tell.
In general, an episodic narrative is a story that relates a single episode or event which in turn relates a series of events that may not be closely connected. Episodic narrative could also tell a story of someone’s search for an important goal but it goes unresolved.
Examining and understanding the style and craft of episodic narrative is dandy but perhaps the question is to do with avoiding an episodic feel to a script when you’re trying to establish a more coherent story arc. This is where assessing and implementing a rigid story process can help rid a script of its episodic blues.
If a script has an episodic narrative when you’re trying to avoid it, it’s probably best to assess the specific structure (and nature) of the story to see how the plot can flow with a more causal and natural ease. Having an episodic plot could mean that you have basic ideas and intentions with regards to characters and scenes but the story is not gelling them in a consistent fashion to make for an engaging narrative.
Assessing the specific structure of the episodic narrative means breaking it down to its key components through index cards, outline, whatever. The story’s skeleton will probably tell you that it’s chopping and changing from one idea/scene to the next but you’ve lost sight of the character’s desire, and/or significant subplots, along the way. By focusing on what’s important to the character and the story, you should be able to build a better framework for a more coherent emotional arc.
The most important matter is this. Don’t panic. Perhaps an episodic narrative is ideal for the story that’s trying to emerge. There are many successful episodic films. Pulp Fiction. Mulholland Drive (debatable, hell, the whole thing’s debatable). Memento. Twisty psychodramas/thrillers use the technique quite a lot to maintain their mystery. And a lot of romcoms have started using ‘titles’ or ‘segments’ to break down the various stages of the relationship/story. (Any more examples?)
Style and structure. That’s what it’s all about. If it’s got an episodic narrative, so be it. But be consistent and true to the form rather than incoherent and insecure with the technique.