The British Sitcom Guide

Writers Area WRITERS' AREA

Comedy Writing Area : Step-By-Step Writing Guide

1. Be Committed
2. Buy the Books
3. Get the Fresh Idea
4. Create A Protagonist
5. Create Conflict
6. Write Your First Episode
7. Attend A Course
8. Get Feedback
9. Send it Off
10. Sell it
Get the Fresh Idea STEP 3 - GET THE FRESH IDEA

It is critical you base your sitcom around a fresh idea which opens up plenty of potential.

You probably already have an idea about what you want to write about. Its worth asking yourself these questions though...

Has it been seen on screen recently?
If your idea is too close to something that has just been a hit then yours won't happen. If your idea is too close to something that flopped then it will draw in that stench of defeat. If your idea is too close to something that was middling, then commissioning heads will probably feel much the same way about a similar project. Don't, for example, pitch an idea for a sitcom based around a foul-tempered hotel owner – it would always be looked down upon as ‘not as good as ' Fawlty Towers '.

A sitcom set. This picture is actually from American sitcom 'My Life is a Sitcom' (broadcast ABC 2004)

Are there logistical reasons why it can't be shot in a studio or on limited sets?
Keep a tight budget in mind. No going to the moon (unless its radio). No hundreds of extras. A small cast in a limited space. ' The Royle Family ', ' Ideal ' and ' Early Doors ' all have just one room.

Is it too far-fetched?
Situation comedies are still based on reality.

Is there no real drama and therefore no chance for comedy either?
When was the last time you watched a sitcom in which nothing bad or interesting happened? Only ' Last of the Summer Wine ' can get away with being boring week in, week out.

Is there potential for more than a couple of episodes?
Some situations don't have much life in them. Take, for example, the excellent ' The Worst Week of my Life ' – where will Howard go for his third outing?

Do you have some knowledge of the situation?
It helps if you know the situation inside out already as this makes the writing easier. For example, a lot of the British sitcoms set in hospitals have been written by doctors. Jimmy Perry based ' Dad's Army ' on his own funny experiences and the characters he worked with in the Local Defence Volunteers. ' Yes, Minister ' became a first-class political satire thanks, in part, to a civil servant who fed Jay and Lynn stories from government which you just couldn't make up.

Hopefully whatever idea you have is rolling around your head preventing you from sleeping and nagging at you day and night. That is a sign you have a good idea, either that or maybe you have nits?


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