The familiar thrill of a new undertaking

tucker__dale_vs_evil_large
One of several contributors to my horror-comedy education

Been splitting my time the past few days between doing notes for scripts for notes and working on the outline for the horror-comedy. This post will focus on the latter.

I’ve never really been a big horror fan. Especially the ones that push plot aside and put an emphasis on gore as the writer goes through a laundry list of devising ways of killing people. Just not something I want to read or see.

So why would I even consider writing one? Well, I came up with the idea and thought it would be fun to write. Works for me. And I want to make sure that when somebody reads this script, they can tell without a doubt that I wrote it.

Mine incorporates variations on elements of this particular sub-genre, or maybe “certain/expected aspects” is a stronger way to put it, so as I work out the core story-centric details, I find myself continuously dipping into previously untapped creative reservoirs of a somewhat…darker tone to emphasize the horror parts.

And my gosh, is it fun. Pretty much in a “mad scientist rubbing his hands together” kind of way. I’m not looking to reinvent the wheel, but, as always, striving to offer up something new and original. This time it just happens to involve adding corn syrup, red food coloring, and raw chicken parts to the prospective special effects budget.

But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.

All the fun stuff aside, the first and foremost objective is to make sure the story works, or at least as much as it can for this kind of story. Without that, the rest of it will all be for naught. Once that’s more or less in place, I can really go to town as I seek out opportunities of where a joke would work – especially one that works within the context of the scene. I love those.

Then a little more fine-tuning, and probably a rewrite or two, and voila! A finished script.

That’s the plan, anyway.

Each day I try to get a little bit more done, and the rewriting and tweaking has already begun; to the point that it’s noticeably different than when I started on it a few weeks ago. But the core concept remains the same, which is good. It’s all coming together.

I never really pictured myself writing in this genre, but as has usually been the case for me, once I came up with the idea, I felt compelled to follow through on it and make it an actual thing.

With the added benefit of being able to use movies of a very similar nature as research, references, and guidelines, I suspect getting the outline and subsequent first draft done might not take as long as I think.

At least 11 choice “re-” words

teacher
No, class. “Relapse” is not one of them.

Progress on the latest draft of the comedy spec is coming along. Slowly, but still coming along.

Among the highlights:

repairing the script. Previous drafts had some notable and sizable problems on several fronts, so this is all about fixing them, or at least figuring stuff out to make it better overall. This is the main priority.

revising the story. Some of the scenes still work. The ones that don’t are out, with variations and totally new ones being developed and considered. A work in progress is a beautiful thing.

reviving older ideas. I keep all the notes and items jotted down over the course of working out the story, so there’s always a few items worthy of dusting off. This time around is no exception.

reorganizing the tone. Notes on a previous draft stated how uneven the story felt; like it was a few opposing ideas competing for attention. Currently working on streamlining things to make it all mesh better.

refurbishing characters and/or their traits. From the protagonist and antagonist to supporting characters to those appearing in one scene, everybody gets some kind of modification. Some big, some not-so-big.

reinvigorating the jokes. With comedy already being a subjective topic, I’m trying to come up with stuff I think is funny. Influences abound, and I want my sense of humor to be what runs that particular engine.

remaining calm. Finishing this draft won’t happen overnight, and trying to force creativeness or rush progress is the absolute wrong approach. Preferred method – taking it one step at a time.

resuscitating self-confidence. Writing a comedy’s tough enough to begin with. I’ve done it before, and despite a few missteps along the way, feel pretty solid about my chances this time around.

relinquishing the self-imposed pressure. Naturally, I want to have a good, solid script when I’m done (hopefully it won’t take many more drafts). Stressing about getting to that point won’t do me any good, which leads to the final point…

relaxing and recharging the writer. A good portion of my available time is spent writing or at least thinking about it. Working on it too much runs the risk of burnout, which would be completely counterproductive. Therefore, I allow myself time to simply step away and do something totally non-writing-oriented.

And when the time is right, I return to the rewrite.

Whew! Took me a while to refine this, but I don’t recall being so resplendently relieved to be done. Even better, none of it had to be redacted.

In with the good air…

deep breath
Step 1. Inhale through the nose.

You’d think working on a comedy would be a fun-filled, joke-laden romp.

Nope.

As you may have heard, comedy’s a tough row to hoe. Everybody has a different take on what they consider funny, so it takes a lot of work.

A lot.

One of my current endeavors is overhauling a low-budget comedy spec. It’s been a long, slow process – with a lot of moments of frustration and aggravation.

When I write, sometimes I just overthink things, which makes feeling stuck seem that much bigger and insurmountable. Not uncommon.

It probably also doesn’t help that writing comedy is a totally different world than writing a rollercoaster ride-type adventure. The latter has definitely gotten easier for me, while the former…

Let’s just say I’m still on a bit of a learning curve.

Despite all the obstacles, there’s still one powerful positive about this – I think it’s a fun concept with a new and unique approach and, if executed properly, would be a really good script.

So I do what I can to work my way through.

K could see the toll the stress was taking on me, and suggested I hit the metaphoric pause button and simply take a couple of deep breaths to help clear my head.

And wouldn’t you know? It did help.

After that last exhalation, the problems don’t seem as huge. Sure, they’re still there, but what originally seemed like “How in the world am I going to do that?” has now turned into “There is a solution here, and I shall find it.”

A little calm and rational thinking can do wonders to help you regain and maintain your footing after a little stumbling. I heartily recommend it.

Keepin’ it small

dogs
One might be a little easier to work with

When I first started working on scripts, I had sky-high ambitions to write the next Big Budget Blockbuster. So that’s the kind of stuff I wrote.

They may not have a chance of ever getting made, but I really like the stories they tell, and writing them definitely helped me improve as a writer.

Seeing as how it’s a lot easier to get a small-budget script made than a big one, it was recommended I scale things back a bit and write material within a more acceptable price range. It would be a challenge, but if it meant improving my chances, then that’s what I would do.

Used to working on Big Budget ideas, I downshifted my style to rely less on spectacle. It wasn’t easy. I don’t know if you’d say I stumbled through it, but it was a new approach and I did what I could.

It wasn’t the insurmountable obstacle I expected, and I might even go so far as to say I enjoyed it.

The end result – a script that could actually be made, and, producers take note, for a not-unreasonable amount.

Approaching a script with this kind of mindset has had quite an effect. Ideas for new stories seem to come easier, as does the developing and fleshing-out of said ideas. I’m not saying I can crank out a ready-to-go draft in record time, but the overall operation doesn’t take as long as it used to.

(Added bonus – this spec was a comedy, so hopefully my joke-writing has also benefitted.)

I was originally very hesitant to attempt writing something of a smaller nature, but working on these kinds of stories makes me feel like I’ve entered new territory.

Think I’ll stick around for a while.

 

The dreaded ensuing of wackiness

pie-in-face
Done right, this is comedy gold

As part of my work on the low-budget comedy spec, I’ve made an effort to read other comedies to help get a better understanding of how it could be done and hopefully some guidance I could apply to mine.

It’s always been tough for me to read comedy because my sense of humor doesn’t always align with others. Many’s the time I’ve read a script that garners universal praise for being gut-bustingly hilarious, but doesn’t do anything for me.

There is, however, one detail I’ve noticed that keeps popping up:

Unrealistic situations.

Things that seem to happen only for the sake of a joke, and not much else. These often feel forced and inorganic to the plot. Almost as if the writer thought “Hey, wouldn’t it be crazy if ____?”

In theory, potentially a good idea, but in execution – not really.

Some might argue that since it’s comedy, things don’t have to be realistic as long as they’re funny.

I beg to differ. If I don’t think something could actually happen, I will most likely not find it funny.

**side note – this doesn’t necessarily apply to slapstick or absurdist fare, which are two entirely different discussions**

Sure, there are comedies where the entire premise isn’t all that realistic to begin with, but even the humor in those should stem from the situation, rather than being a crazy assortment of wacky gags.

Going for the easy laugh or cheap joke doesn’t take much skill and shows a lack of sincere effort. If a writer does it once, chances are they’ll do it a lot. It also doesn’t offer anything new. Who wants a joke they’ve probably seen or heard a thousand times before?

Looking at comedies that would be considered strong, there are a lot of instances where the joke is an integral part of the scene, rather than feeling like something tacked on.

You’ll hear that the best comedy is the kind that makes you think. I prefer comedy that shows the writer did a lot of the thinking.