Storytelling Secrets from the Breaking Bad Writers’ Room

A roundtable interview offered several craft insights.

Jason Schwartzman
6 min readMar 23, 2022

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Photo by Gabriel Meinert on Unsplash

“Just because you shot Jesse James, don’t make you Jesse James…” I recently rewatched “Breaking Bad,” the TV show that famously bucked the culture of “enforced stasis” and plotted an epic character change over five seasons, in this case turning “Mr. Chips into Scarface” in the formulation of the creator, Vince Gilligan. When the show’s finale originally aired, I was just out of college, and my reaction was mainly: “Wow.” Now, as a professional writer, my reaction was still “wow,” but I had a deeper drive to see how the intricately-plotted, well-written, hyper-detailed sausage was made.

Writers and storytellers have a lot to gain by not merely consuming the art they love but understanding how it’s doing what it’s doing. That can be handled with time and analysis, but there’s another layer, too, and one that’s even easier — hearing from the writers themselves. I started by finding interviews with Gilligan, and eventually stumbled on one with the whole writers’ room, which was especially illuminating. Not to mention filled with delightful or fascinating nuggets, like the fact that the writers internally referred to a certain climactic —and explosive—plot point involving a bell as “ding boom,” and the fact that they originally planned to…

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Jason Schwartzman

Debut book NO ONE YOU KNOW out now from Outpost19 | Founding Editor, True.Ink | Twitter: @jdschwartzman | outpost19.com/NoOneYouKnow/