Comedy Essential #1: Comedy is Tragedy that Happens to other People

The “tragedy that happens to other people” in comedies is when we witness comic characters being humiliated in a public or social situation.  Why do we laugh at other people’s misfortunes within the context of a comedy film?  It’s not because we are sadistic and uncaring: quite the opposite. It’s because we can relate and ...
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Comedy Essential #2: The set-up is realistic, the consequences are not

Great comedies like “To Be or Not to Be” are based on a serious, sound dramatic structure.  One difference between comedy and drama is that the audience, prepared to watch a comedy, never really believes that the characters will suffer irreparable physical damage.  Do we ever think that the theater troupe in “To Be or ...
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Comedy Essential #3: We laugh when characters are reduced from their high status to their low status.

We laugh when comic characters are knocked off their high horse, i.e., when their high status bubble of self-importance and entitlement is suddenly burst.  Your comic character’s high status is based on an inflated sense of how they would like to be seen by their society; their low status is how they’re trying to avoid ...
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Comedy Essential #4: The Comic Premise is the key to all great comedy writing

The comic premise is an expression of your main character’s dilemma. Dilemma is the choice between two things that have positive values and is dramatically expressed through the conflict between what your main character desires (outer plot goal) and what they need to learn (through relationship). “The Full Monty’s” Gaz must prove he is a ...
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Thriller Essential #1: The Antagonist is the Protagonist

What is the Driving Engine of your thriller? The Driving Engine — what propels your story forward — in most dramas is based on the back-story wounds and desires of your main character.  It’s very different in thrillers. The driving engine in thrillers is generated by the back-story plans and actions of the antagonist.  “The ...
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Thriller Essential #2: The Main Character’s Weakness connects to the Antagonist’s Crime

In most dramatic films, the main character and the antagonist are psychologically linked.  The antagonist is the personification of the main character’s shadow.  In thrillers, the hero and antagonist are clearly defined as separate characters, but they are connected in a unique way: The weakness of the main character is linked to the type of ...
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