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Writing Fear Free: Alter the Pattern for Comedy

Kimberly Williams-Paisley, John Larroquette, and Scott Cohen as Virginia, Tony, and Wolf.

I’ve already written a post about changing up predictable patterns in your writing, but yesterday I found another great example of doing so for comedic purposes.

The movie is The 10th Kingdom, a Disney miniseries from 2000, and it is corny and delightful. Two modern-day people are swept into an alternate universe where all fairy tales are true, but happily ever after is threatened by an evil queen who escapes from prison. The heroes are aided by Wolf, who was released from prison by the queen and who has somewhat divided loyalty but a good heart.

The three face many of the predictable fairy-tale situations: wish-granting beans, poisoned apples, games of trickery played by dubious characters, and for the most part, these play out in the normal pattern. (I’ll give you this magical ax if you can guess my name. If not, I’ll chop your friend’s head off. They play the game and win.) So an insane test leads to panic and ultimately victory.

Finally, near the end of the movie, Tony, played by John Larroquette, has had enough of the tests and here’s what happens: http://youtu.be/LGo31JR-iTI (Sorry I can’t embed it.)

After hours of watching the same pattern, this struck me as a moment of comic glory.

How does this apply to your writing? Well, if you see that you are developing a pattern, like taking your hero through a series of tests, one way to shake things up or insert a moment of levity is to completely obliterate it. Set it up but then throw it out the window…or through the door that leads to a horrible death. If that scene shows us anything, it’s that sometimes we accept crazy scenarios for no good reason. As Tony asks, “What does that achieve?”

If you are trying to write comedy, this is a great technique.


4 thoughts on “Writing Fear Free: Alter the Pattern for Comedy

  1. Okay, I have never seen The 10th Kingdom, but that was funny. Maddie, hanging over my shoulder, comments “That was a very bad frog.” Lol!

    Meanwhile, I spent half of Firefly waiting for the scene from your other post 😉

  2. You haven’t seen it? YOU haven’t seen it? YOU MUST SEE THE 10TH KINGDOM! It’s got something for kids and adults. And Wolf is a great character, and Scott Cohen plays him with abandon. It’s just a fun series.

  3. Incidentally, that scene has a lot of similarity to the chompers scene in Galaxy Quest. Those doors are just there for no reason.

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