Friday 2 September 2022

How to Make Your Sitcom Go Horribly Wrong

I was plotting and planning a sitcom this morning, and stumbled across a neat little device to help escalate stores that so simple, I’m almost ashamed to point it out. Almost. But I found it useful so here it is.

If you’ve got a list of very basic ideas, or something that your character could do in an episode, like this:

  • Trip to the Swimming Baths.
  • Nature Walk. 
  • Bakes biscuits.

Now try adding the phrase ‘goes horribly wrong.’

I know. That’s it. But you might be surprised at the results. See the difference:

Trip to the swimming baths 

So, erm, what could happen there?

  • Character runs into someone embarrassing?
  • Forgets swimming costume?
  • Loses towel?

Okay, fine. But meh.

But it’s interesting that we’re thinking of steps 1 and 2 of the story rather than escalations and we've still got a lot of escalating to do.

Let’s add ‘…goes horribly wrong’.

Trip to swimming baths… goes horribly wrong

  • Pool has to be evacuated?
  • Water completely drains away?
  • Water ends up looking like blood, and children need counselling?

Wow. That escalated fast. Suddenly, we’ve got much bigger outcomes.

While just typing this list as an example, I rather enjoyed ‘Water ends up looking like blood’. I know I’m a Bible guy so I’m thinking about Moses turning the Nile to blood, but it’s quite an image isn’t it? Is there anyway that could happen in your sitcom?

Now, these are just events. They’re not character-based. But they invite the question, ‘How would my character make that happen?’ Or ‘How could my character get into that situation?’

And maybe this proves to be a dead end. But it was more fun thinking about what happens when it turns out your character doesn’t have a pound coin for the locker. Booooring.

Make it go horribly wrong.

Maybe you've already sorted that. And you've got a script that escalates horribly quite nicely, thanks.

Would you like me to read it? We can make that happen.

In fact, I'm offering a thing called Supercharged Script Reading. Look over here for details.

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