Chris, of City Hall, and a fellow writer on SlapFight sent me this email, “It’s always good to work & re-work them fundamentals.” He’d been digging around at home and uncovered a writing list that his friend Scotty Watson, (who was artistic director of Second City Toronto) had compiled.
Here’s the email. Full of great advice. It’s good to take a step back sometimes and think.
“I apologize if this is so insanely basic that you shake your head and say, “does this guy think I’m a total newbie?” BUT sometimes it’s good to hear the stuff you already know come out of some one else’s mouth.
1. A strong single point of view, i.e. if this scene were a story being told in a bar, who is telling the story? For example, the Python’s Parrot Sketch is from the point of view of the guy who bought a dead parrot. If it was from the POV of the pet shop owner it would be about the trials and tribulations of keeping his inventory alive and stupid customers who want their money back. BUT since it’s from the POV of the customer, it’s about being scammed and poor customer service.
2. A single, simply stated message. Same example, Pet Shop. The message? “everybody’s out to get you.” or “let the buyer beware.” A scene without a simple 1 sentence message is a rudderless ship.
3. At least One character must change and change forever. We don’t go to the theatre to watch people play with the cat. We want to see a moment in time when someone learns a lesson and changes their behavior… character arc. For better or worse, change is the life event we’re here to see.
4. All the above crap is fitted into a 9 step plot-point-diagram separated into 3 distinct sections.
Points 1-3 (beginning), we meet the characters, theme & tone are established and the ground is laid for the inciting event.
Points 4-6 (middle) the inciting event (or comic mis-understanding), is established, explored, heightened.
Points 7-9 (resolution) variations of the inciting event are explored, (in music we’d hear the bridge or a key change here), before personal realizations are made – change and change forever, (I was wrong all along), and the inciting event is resolved.
Resolution may occur in point 8 if we want to add a twist at the end, thereby setting the ground for a new inciting event, to give the characters a future… and possible recurring scenes. If you do that you wanna pull the bridge forward into point 5 or 6.”
I agree with pretty much everything here, though, to point 3, I am one of those people who could probably be persuaded into a theatre to watch someone play with a cat.