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.

The name’s Piphany. E. Piphany

If it weren't for that whole possible electrocution thing, I'd write in the tub too.
If it weren’t for that whole possible electrocution thing, I’d write in the tub too.

Progress on the first draft of the low-budget comedy spec has been slow but steady; averaging about 2-3 pages a day. It’s a smart move to accept the fact that the first draft of anything you write is going to suck, because it always does. And this one’s no different. Several cogs within this machine in drastic need of retooling have been identified.

So there I am, working on a scene, having the ongoing internal discussion of “Is this the funniest way to do this bit?” The scene as originally conceived is pretty straightforward, but the comedy part still needs something. A line of dialogue just won’t cut it. While I’m quite adept at witty conversation in person, putting it on the page is an entirely different animal.

Overall, it felt like things were slowing down and becoming tougher to work through.

No matter how hard you look, sometimes you can’t find the answer you seek because you don’t realize it’s just staring you in the face.

There was a scene much earlier in the script where, for no reason in particular, I used a joke of a particular nature just for the hell of it. Some might consider it a dumb joke, but I’m still in first draft mode, so it might not stick around for very long.

But there was something about it that really stuck with me. I thought it was pretty funny, and the more I thought about it, the more it seemed like exactly something I would come up with.

And there it was. The floodgates had opened, and my much-needed solution came gushing forth. These jokes would work perfectly throughout the whole thing.

Added bonus – it’s the kind of comedy I’ve known and loved my entire life. I’d been trying to write this in a way or style that’s not exactly me, whereas this rediscovered approach is practically spot-on. Coming up with these kinds of jokes is almost second nature. Hopefully I can successfully transition them onto the page.

But now I was presented with a new problem: stop here (around pg 48) and start over, or hammer my way forward?

Tempting as it was to start over, I’m opting to keep going forward (and start implementing the new jokes), mostly so I can just get this draft finished. The sooner I get to the end, the sooner I can start on the rewrite.

As I said, progress continues to be slow and steady, but it’s still progress.

-One week to the Great American Pitch Fest, so you still have time to register. Use code MaximumZ20 at checkout for a whopping 20 percent off!