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The Comedy Story Skeleton

Last week, we explored the subgenres of Comedy. Let's take a look at the building blocks for the story skeleton.

The Comedy makes your reader laugh while subtly focusing on ideas, ethnicity, relationships, prejudices, social practices, politics, religion, or manners. It uses humor to explore topics without having to be “politically correct.” A Comedy can range from mindless farce to dark satire. It can follow the pattern of other genres, with the rule being that it has to be funny.

The reader asks: What do I think and how has this changed it?

The protagonist is the character responsible for solving the overall story problem. If you stack two separate story frames, you may have two protagonists. If you write a multigenerational or historical epic, you may have a story arc for four separate "protagonists” with different friends, foes, and antagonist or antagonistic forces that are consecutive or interwoven.

In a Comedy, the protagonist it is the person who shines a light on other’s foibles or speaks a controversial truth. The protagonist doesn’t have to be “good” necessarily, but he has to be sympathetic.

The antagonist is a character or entity who has a goal that is the opposite of the protagonist’s goal. The antagonist should also have something deep within that is driving him toward his goal. The emotion  or underlying belief system must be as strong as the protagonist’s for the stakes to be high. The antagonist can be a group or organization but there must be someone who leads the group for the reader to focus on.  

In a Comedy, the antagonist takes the opposite side of the thematic argument or is the one who poses the greatest hurdle to the protagonist’s goal. 
There can be a “friendly” antagonist that has good intentions and acts as the catalyst that prompts the protagonist to make a necessary change. They can be concerned friends, parents, coworkers, or people who think they are acting in the protagonist’s best interest but who are misguided in their beliefs.

External scenes involve all the key players actively trying to achieve or avoid something. External obstacles follow the genre that it resembles, only exaggerated for comic effect.

Antagonist scenes follow an actual antagonist or antagonistic forces keeping the protagonist from reaching his goal. If there isn’t someone specific standing in the protagonist’s way, the antagonistic forces keeping him from solving the story problem have to be compelling and funny.

The antagonist’s POV is rarely explored in these stories, rather he acts as a foil for the protagonist. If the protagonist is the straight man, the antagonist is the fool. If the protagonist is the bumbler, the antagonist can be the straight man.

Interpersonal Conflict scenes
show the friends and foes intensifying the complications. They are either the overly serious people or the complete dunces that cause hysterical complications for the protagonist to overcome. They can wittingly or unwittingly help or hurt him. If you veer off into their point of view, you can show them solving their own problems or working behind the scenes to assist or complicate the protagonist's goals.

Internal Conflict scenes
can be funny or the serious thread that runs throughout the piece. The protagonist can have a serious personal goal but go about achieving it in ways that cause funny situational difficulties. Or he can have a laughable goal that ends up with serious consequences.

Next week, we take a look at ways to inject Comedy into your plot.

Pick up a copy of the latest entry in the Story Building Blocks series: Comedy, Build A Plot Workbook available through Amazon and at local bookstores on request. Also available for Kindle.

For more about how to craft plots using conflict check out, Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of conflict available in print and e-book and check out the free tools and information about the series on my website.

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