Thursday 21 March 2019

5 Mistakes In The First Ten Pages Of Your Sitcom Script: Mistake 5

There's a cooking term I've always enjoyed the sound of. It's the phrase 'A rolling boiling'. You'd probably have something on a rolling boil if you're making some kind of sauce, or reducing a stock.

Pic by Devon Rockola via Pexel
Quite often I read scripts that feel like a rolling boil. But this isn't usually a good thing. Maybe lots of things are about the script are good. It might feel like an original situation with good characters that have comic perspectives and they say jokes. And each scene contains events.

But you get to page 10 and you don't get a sense that anything is actually building.

By the time you get to page 20, you're still enjoying the script and jokes, but it doesn't look like it's going to boil over into calamity or chaos any time soon.

Then you hit page thirty and it all wraps up. Or at least, someone turns off the heat. Or, worse, the heat was turned off on Page 20 and the whole thing is starting to cool down.

I think I've pushed that rolling boil metaphor as far as it can go. Sorry about that.

A sitcom needs to be a series of dramatic and emotional peaks and troughs. But even that's not enough. They need to lead from one scene to the next. From one beat to the next beat. We don't want scenes ending with equilibrium being restored. You want to do that over the course of your script, but each scene needs to fit into that overall structure.

Imagine our opening scene in which our hero is trying to fix her car. If, by the end of that first scene, the car is fixed, and she drives off, there's no real drama or story there. It might be a lovely well-written scene with jokes and character, but it's the beginning of a story. It's not a vignette. Or shouldn't be. If she is able to fix the car for now, so that it runs, and but knows she needs it looked at - ideally by her dad, but she can't bear to ask him because he'll want something in return - now we have a story.

Mistake 5: You’re writing a series of vignettes, not a sitcom.

So, have you written a sitcom script? Or is it a series of sketches, or scenes? It needs to be more than the sum total of the parts. Each scene should end with a clear action point for the characters, an altered quest or a new hurdle to overcome. The rolling boil won't give you enough heat. There needs to be slightly too much heat, so the whole pot will boil over, and then we'll really see what our characters are made of, and it should be very funny.


Have you written a sitcom script? Would you like me to have a look and give you some notes? That can be arranged.

Or you might want to think about getting my book, Writing That Sitcom, which is available for the Kindle/Kindle App via Amazon here.

Alternatively, it's available as a bog-standard PDF here.

People seem to like the book, found it useful and have been kind enough to say so:

"A MUST Read for Aspiring Comedy Writers. This book gave me the feedback I needed and the tools to change and greatly improve my script." Dr. Rw Fallon

And listen to the Sitcom Geeks podcast here.

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