Sitcom Writing: Handy Hints

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Sitcom Writing: Handy Hints

Post by cameron » Sat Feb 19, 2005 4:04 pm

• Who is your main character? Generally speaking your main character needs to be larger than life and the centre of attention. They also, obviously, need to be funny. Remember that vices are far more interesting than virtues. (Basil’s second name wasn’t Fawlty for nothing.) In American sitcoms likeability is also a crucial factor; this is less important in the UK.

• Who are the supporting characters? How do they relate to your central character? Most sitcoms have at least three supporting characters.

• Most sitcoms are filmed on 4-5 sets in the studio. You must therefore ensure that all of the action takes place in these sets. Remember that in UK sitcoms only about four minutes of external footage is used. In American sitcoms there is often no external footage at all.

• Much humour derives from conflict. However, people who argue a lot tend to go their separate ways. What is it that holds your characters together? Are they related to each other? Are they married to each other? Do they have to work together?

• Although they are called "situation comedies" - the situation/location is really not all that important. Flat shares and work place locations may seem old hat - but they will work if the characters are good enough. Just because your sitcom is set in an internet cafe on the moon won't necessarily make it either funny or original.

• Don't introduce guests who upstage your main characters. Guests should act as a catalyst for your regular characters to feed off.

• If a scene does not move the story forward, then take it out.

• Does your idea for a sitcom suggest lots of storylines? Good storylines are much harder to come up with than funny dialogue.

• Try to be original. Try not to copy shows that you have seen on the television. Ideally you should write the show that only you can write.

• Write about something that you know. This is likely to make your show more convincing. However, try to avoid making it too autobiographical.

• Try to keep your punch lines short.

• Is the humour in your show mainly physical (Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em) or verbal (Yes Minister)?

• Always remember to show rather then tell.

Good luck

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