Second City, Writing 1, Session 1
Well the first session of the Writing 1 course from Second City just wrapped up. Really good group of folks, some with exereince, some just trying to do something that scares them. I really love that. It was a good meet and greet, and overview of what’s to come. We learned a couple techniques to brainstorm ideas. I’m here for it. :D
Write it and then figure it out
Last night we had another super fun and collaborative writers meeting for our sketch comedy show. Some of the new folks came out of their shell and lots of great pitches were discussed.
As we closed out the meeting, I was asking about some technical specifics. I told everyone how I have this pitch for a sketch in my head and I can’t quite get it on paper as I’m focused on some very specific things that I don’t know how to get around.
These are tactical roadblocks we’d have to solve with performance and stage craft that would introduce complexity. We (rightfully so in my opinion) tend to work around those kinds of things and focus on the writing and performing not the props and other things.
Anyway at the end of me voicing my concerns myself and Greg, the director basically finished each other’s sentence. “Well, write it and then we’ll figure it out”.
I think that’s good advice for a lot of things. Get it out of your head. On paper. Then have a think about it. Don’t hold it in until it’s perfect.
Perfect is the enemy of done.
A while back, I wrote a funny little bit about not being able to find turmeric when you need it most.
I’m calling BS on this “10 minute curry recipe as it doesn’t account for the time I spend looking for the GD turmeric on the spice shelf, me running around the house yelling where’s the frigging turmeric, having to drive to the store, not being able to find the turmeric in the spice aisle, me yelling at the teenaged kid working there about having too many damn options for every figging thing but not being able to find the one thing you need, and yelling at him to just tell me where the effing turmeric is, driving back to the house and finding the turmeric on the counter where I put it after making breakfast so it’s easier for me to find for when I started cooking lunch.
I’ve been tinkering with turning this into a sketch. But there’s too many scenes. It feels more like a short film to me.
So I started writing a bit, and planning this out using the Dan Harmon Story Circle. I’m conflicted as I really enjoyed the early seasons of the show Community, but am not a fan of the man himself. Regardless, and in separation those concerns, the story circle framework is interesting.
It’s not about putting things into the scaffolding to generate the story, as much as it is about using the scaffolding to check character arc and plot.
I approach this as writing and then using the scaffolding to see where there are strengths and weaknesses in the story. But, full disclosure, I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m new to this.
I have some scenes written already, and a lot on post-its. The idea of the scenes, and the overall arc of the story. I’m still curious how much change I can have happen in the main character. I’ll have to draft it out in script to really understand that, I think.
Also, I’m having trouble with the ending. I have a couple ideas but none that I love, yet.
Again taking this from initial idea, notes, and now the story circle has helped me shape it more. Back to the writing app to get a draft of the script written.
10 pounds of potatoes in a 5 pound bag
What a great first writers meeting last night. I came in with two drafts. The first is a version of a standup set I’ve performed a bunch. The second is a first draft of a newish idea about campers.
I was a little deflated after the meeting in all honesty. But that was me and my second arrow. The Buhdda once said:
‘If a person is struck by an arrow, is it painful? If the person is struck by a second arrow, is it even more painful?’ ‘In life, we can’t always control the first arrow. However, the second arrow is our reaction to the first. This second arrow is optional.’
I knew the camper idea was trying to be a lot in not a large space. It had too much in it. I did want to bring it into the group for feedback to “find the funny”. The bad news is that I didn’t leave that meeting with any one single idea to explore. The good news is that it had a lot going for it, and I need to settle on one idea.
The older idea got a lot of laughs (yay!) but it’s also about two things, and would be better if it’s about one thing.
I rewrote a draft of the Campers sketch this morning and it’s already funnier and more true to the original idea.
I’m challenged by the format of sketch. Maybe it’s the directors style and mindset and/or an overarching principle of sketch. But it seems to be get in, heighten a single idea, get out. We try to keep sketches short. Three minutes is long for us.
I’m a bit wordy in my process, and I refine down. I’ll keep that in mind for the next new idea. I’ll work a little backwards and see how that feels. To start with single idea not arrive at it via rewrites.
Maybe that’s just my process now, and that’s OK. Maybe it can and should change to be more ‘efficient’. Either way I’m learning, growing and laughing a lot.
My funny Pact
I deleted all my older posts and stuff. I’m now intending to use this blog to chronicle my work towards writing comedy. I am focused on Sketch comedy with my friends at Hey Party People!. We’re setting up our next show in Portland, Maine. Stay tuned for details.
My longer term aim is to write a screenplay for a comedy film. I’ve written a treatment (a short description of the film). That needs iteration for sure. I’ll be tinkering with that, and looking at some storytelling frameworks to further my knowledge. To me, frameworks are scaffolding that can be manipulated. They shouldn’t be super prescriptive. Maybe that’s my newbie showing, lol.
So I have writting and performing sketches, and studying frameworks as my first two ‘acts’. The third act I am undertaking is Homework for Life from Storyworthy by Matthew Dicks. It’s a really neat concept, and I can summarize it as simply write important things down. A Commonplace book for your life, in a nutshell. Review it frequently and see if there’s anything story worthy there.
These ‘Acts’ are a part of the Ness Labs Mindframing system.
- You make a PACT with yourself. (Write everyday)
- You take frequent actions. (See above)
- You react. (this will be me writing about all the above here)
- You create an Impact, a larger thing to build to. (My comedy film screenplay)
Thanks for reading.