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Writing: Comedy, Suspense, Drama

Writing: Comedy, Suspense, Drama

Author: Rebecca Oberg

This learning packet should review:
• New terms and definitions
• How to write each paper (key components/differences)
• How to analyze each one
• Writing process

New Terms: A few terms that may be new are:
• Comedy/Comedic
• Drama/dramatic
• Suspense

This learning packet discusses three genres of writing: comedy, drama, and suspense. Tips for successful writing of each genre are included in two formats: text and multimedia video clip. By learning the elements of each genre and how to successfully write within these genres, you will be prepared to analyze examples of work from each. Information about the writing process overall is also provided.

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How to Write Comedy

When I started writing, I typed out all of Bob Hope's monologues, studied them, then put them away. Two weeks later I reviewed the front page of the newspaper, duplicating his style with new topics. When I met Bob Hope, he asked me to write some jokes for him. I wrote 300, and he used 10 in a show where he only told 30 jokes. The next day he called me and said, "I like your stuff. It looks like you've been writing for me all your life." I said, "Mr. Hope, I have, only you didn't know about it."

1. Keep in mind that good stand-up comedy writers are neither anointed by God nor born into it; they just write a lot. All you need to do it is a pen and some paper.

2. Steal time; compose jokes in your head while you're stuck in traffic or shaving.

3. Write with a person in mind. Get into their pattern of speaking.

4. Duplicate the person's style, but use different topics or subject matter. Do this for many different performers.

5. Don't show anyone your work until you think it's terrific.

6. Research and analyze topics that interest you. Ask questions about your topic.

7. Understand that a joke occurs at the intersection of two ideas.

8. Connect ideas that go together or are wildly opposite.

9. Manipulate your audience. Take them down a particular road and then surprise them with something else.

10. Pull the rug out from under your audience. Employ good timing so that they don't step on the rug too early or get on it and then get off before you've had a chance to deliver the humor.

11. Respect your audience at the same time; they are your bread and butter.

How to Write a Funny Story

This informative video offers basic tips for writing a comedic story, focusing on what writers should think about as they begin to plan their work.

Source: YouTube

Nine Tricks to Writing Suspense Fiction

Suspense is a hard discipline to master, but the following tips will help to ensure a thrilling experience for the reader:

1. Give the reader a lofty viewpoint. The reader should have foresight. Let the reader see the viewpoints of both the protagonist and the antagonist. The reader sees the lines of convergence between the protagonist and antagonist and feels the consequences of the perils ahead. The tension will build from the reader’s self-imposed fears of knowing that the hero is on a collision course with disaster.

2. Use time constraints. The protagonist should be working against the clock, and the clock should be working for the bad guys.

3. Keep the stakes high. The crisis has to be important to ensure readers will empathize with the protagonist.

4. Apply pressure. The protagonist should be working under what seems to be insurmountable odds. All his skills and strengths must be stretched to the breaking point in order to save the day.

5. Create dilemmas. Suspense loves a dilemma. The antagonist needs to be throwing things at the protagonist that present awkward challenges or choices that will test her caliber. The protagonist—as a hero, he can’t let innocent people die without a fight, or stray from his morals or promises. The great thing about dilemmas is that they need time to be solved, and with the pressure of time constraints, the tension can only build. So test, tease and tempt the protagonist.

6. Complicate matters. Pile on the problems. Give the protagonist more things to do than he can handle. By the end of the book, the protagonist should be just barely preventing everything from crashing to the ground.

7. Be unpredictable. Nothing in life runs perfectly to plan for anyone. The hero shouldn’t be able to rely on anything going right for her, and any step forward should come at a price. The antagonist shouldn’t go unscathed, either.

8. Create a really good villain. In a mystery, the villain has to be somewhat transparent because you don’t want the reader to catch on to who she is too quickly. But in a suspense novel, the bad guy is very visible. The ultimate antagonists are smart and motivated. They have to be to have created this spectacular hook that’s going to keep readers riveted to their La-Z-Boys for the length of a book. Flesh this person out.

9. Create a really good hero. If the book has a great bad guy, then it’s going to need a great hero.

Suspense writing is all about creating a pressure cooker with no relief valve. You have to keep turning up the heat using multiple burners. Employ these techniques and your reader will never come off the boil.

Adding Suspense to Your Writing

This clip focuses on integrating suspense techniques into writing. Though the clip discusses adding suspense to scripts specifically, these concepts work just as well in other types of writing, including novels or short stories.

Source: YouTube

Tips on Writing Drama

Writers often seek out advice when starting to write drama, whether writing a screenplay or writing a stage play, but tips and hints are regurgitated so often that they have become meaningless cliches.

The Cliches

Guides to writing drama will often offer up tips such as:

    * Show Don't Tell,
    * Make Sure Dialogue Advances Plot or Character

These tips are so basic to writing drama that they have become cliches.

In fact, the advice is so obvious that it is hard to believe anyone contemplating writing drama would have to be told such things. After all, if a scriptwriter is telling instead of showing, spelling out the development of the story and the characters' relationships to the viewer, then there is no drama. And if dialogue doesn't advance plot or character, why would any writer put it in the script?

Perhaps looking beyond the cliches might lead to some advice that is actually useful to writers.

Show Don't Tell

Writers are often given the tip that they should "show" and not "tell." Scriptwriting is all about letting the story play out before the audience's eyes. Spelling out the story would be like the chef going to the table and tell the diners how juicy the steak is instead of letting them taste it for themselves.

Drama is About Revelations

Of course a drama writer should "show" and not "tell," but drama is about revealing things to the audience.

The writer should constantly be asking:

    * Is there a way to make a scene more visually dramatic?
    * Is there a way to use what the audience sees and understands to manipulate what the viewer is thinking and expecting?

In other words, can the waiter arrive at the table with a plate covered in a silver dome to build anticipation before revealing the delights that lie within? Or, can the anticipation be built up, and a surprise delivered when the cover is lifted off revealing something the customer was not expecting?

The real point about "showing" and not "telling" is that writers must step out of the shoes of the author and place themselves in the shoes of the viewer. From that perspective, the writer is then concentrating on what is revealed, and when.

Make Sure Dialogue Advances Plot or Character

Again, this is a very simplistic piece of advice and when it is examined, it hardly seems worth mentioning. Why would a drama writer waste time writing dialogue in a scene that has no point?

To go back once more to a restaurant analogy, how would the hungry diners feel if the chef came to the table and started telling them about his marital problems instead of preparing their meal?

Drama is About Making Every Word Count

Writers should make sure that dialogue serves multiple purposes. The best drama is loaded with subtext and layers of meaning.

    * Always take the opportunity to develop relationships between characters at the same time as developing plot.
    * Always, if possible, cut dialogue and replace it with meaningful actions or reactions from actors. A single look can often replace a speech.

The most important point to remember is that time is limited in every dramatic medium: on stage, on big or small screen, or on the page. The audience should always be on a journey that twists and turns. The more depth and intrigue there is in a story, the more value there is for the audience.

A Perspective on Writing Drama

This video clip offers an easily accessible and helpful perspective on writing drama, whether the dramatic work is a screenplay meant for film or a paper meant for your English class. This clips is particularly strong in its discussion of character creation, a key element of strong drama.

Source: YouTube

Five Helpful Steps for Writing a Story of Any Genre

This brief clip offers five pieces of advice for beginning writers of any genre, including comedy, suspense, or drama.

Source: YouTube

More Information on the Writing Process in General

To gather more information about the writing process overall, visit the Creative Writing learning packet on Sophia:

Source: Rebecca Oberg