Screenwriting Secrets by John Scott Lewinski

Screenwriting Secrets » ComedyWriter

Without question, comedy remains the hottest genre in Hollywood every year. Producers and development executives are constantly on the lookout for genuinely funny scripts and writers capable of constructing solid comedic storylines.

ComedyWriter is a Windows-based program for creating humorous scenes, characters, situations, dialogue, expressions and punch lines. While clearly not specifically a screenwriting program, such comedic aids can definitely aid a screenwriter working on that next high-concept laugher.

ComedyWriter attempts to reproduce the thought processes and interactions of the best comedic writers and writing teams by placing the reliable tools of the trade into an easily manageable and educational series of exercises.

By breaking the study of comedy into categories such as substitution, surprise, exaggeration, shock, understatement and the word plays, ComedyWriter avoids becoming a mere database for sight gags of one-liners and helps to develop comedic situations for any story.

ComedyWriter includes hundreds of fill-in-the-blank scenes and situations that supply the raw material for building a comedic story. A screenwriter can add his or her own concepts, characters and twists at any time as the software successfully combines flexibility with the ability expand. The program includes a special feature that acts as a simple word processor to allow users to store their comedic ideas within the program for use later in the process.

The program's developer make the argument that comedy works because of well-established comedic theories (some dating back to the age of great Greek comedies of the Golden Age). Comedy is not just a list of jokes slapped on a premise, no matter how many bad "Saturday Night Live"-based movies Lorne Michaels tries to force down America's collective throat.

Good comedy writers need to know the formulas to create effective comic ideas. According to the developers, the best comedy writers know what buttons to push to make 'em laugh. So, ComedyWriter acts as a writer partner. Its developers insist most good comedies arise out of the team writing process, ala most sitcoms. The program allows the writer to use his or her own preferences, tendencies and personalities to guide and shape the comedic elements within the software.

According to the program's supporting materials, "ComedyWriter furnishes the raw material. You (the writer) contribute the response and quality control."

The set-up and organization of the software reminds the user of a class or training program. The materials begin with a basic overview of comedic process and principles. Following the overview, the product moves into a study of techniques and begins unveiling its databases, elements and options.

ComedyWriter offers extensively researched databases, or "Lists" that fill the program complete with several thousand topical, literate snippets from popular culture and history. A writer can mix or match them by choice, or let the program randomly toss them together to encourage external creativity and brainstorming.

Attempting to put a scientific face on the esoteric world of comedy, ComedyWriter constructs extensive lists of everything "funny." For example, the "Play on Words" section of the program includes definitions and examples of such verbal wit samples as: rhymes, homonyms, associations, alliteration, double entendres and common expressions taken out of context.

Other examples of "funny" elements tucked away inside successful comedies, according to ComedyWriter, are unusual situations, eccentric suggestions, off-the-wall combinations, bizarre characters and odd juxtapositions.

For that last concept, ComedyWriter offers an unusual graphic function, The Goofy Graph. This feature takes odd, fabricated or juxtaposed relationships and represents them creatively by producing a line chart, bar graph, pie graph or rubber chicken graph.

(See? This whole comedy writing thing is paying off already!)

Following the overview and the study of techniques, ComedyWriter leads the movie script through comedy writing exercises that resemble film school homework assignments. For example, if a writer starts with the simple rhetorical question of "What if...?". he or she can often develop a high concept idea that could develop into a complete, thriving screenplay.

For example, "What if...?" Alfred Hitchcock was more than great storyteller and really experienced the sort of thrillers he presented on screen? "What if..." aliens abducted a moron and thought he was the typical example of an Earthling? "What if..." the President of the United States actually tried to convince the American people that he thought oral sex wasn't intercourse?

OK, that last one is a bit far-fetched, I admit, but you get the idea. ComedyWriter is a brainstorming tool and can lead a writer who never consider himself or herself funny toward genuinely comic ideas.

Depending on your favorite genre and your personal tendencies as a writer, these three products can aid a novice or experienced writer in overcoming that nasty "stuck" feeling. There's no shame on hoping a computer can help break you out of your non-writing blues. How often does a writer turn to a friend, family member, teacher or mentor for inspiration? Computer programs like these products simply let a writer use his or her computer as one more creative outlet.

Such programs might not completely cure or do away with Writer's Block, but they can certainly help its victims overcome the effects more quickly.

To order the latest edition of ComedyWriter, click here.

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