Thursday, 15 April 2010

Sketching In Details

Probably quite unwisely, we allow our eleven-year-old daughter to watch the hospital drama, House MD. She loves Hugh Laurie as Dr House and peppers her speech with medical terms, for example, "Can I have an MRI?" (She is quite serious when she says this) Or, "It's not Lupus."

Her love of Hugh Laurie led her to ask for a Fry and Laurie DVD set as an Easter present (as well as a small Easter egg.) I have been watching them with her, remembering them vaguely from the eighties, while she has been home from school for the Easter break. I have laughed a lot at the sketches, but the main thing I have gained from watching them (apart from realising she is also now in love with Stephen Fry) is that each comic sketch is just like a miniature short story.

They hook the viewer with either a shocking or entirely random start. They entertain well throughout the middle. Then there is often a twist or surprise to conclude, as well as, sometimes, a few satisfying loose ends to leave the viewer something to think about afterwards.

They are very imaginative when it comes to names and pay great attention to small, seemingly insignificant details. Just a change of tie or wig or accent or stance can alter their character substantially.

It all gave me an onslaught of ideas and reminded me how good it is to inject humour into stories. Mine are often dark and I so enjoy the funny ones. Yet they remain the hardest to pull off well. But what Fry and Laurie really taught me was that it's good to be bold, off-kilter, odd, puzzling. This will entice the viewer. Put a ordinary person into an unusual situation or an outlandish character into a 'normal' setting and you have a lure right from the start. Like those strange baits fishermen use for different sorts of catch.

I hope I can make my writing more visual by recalling the small points that bring these comedy sketches alive.

My daughter wants to watch some more while we have lunch on our laps. I'm sure that I shall come away inspired again and look forward to the writing that will hopefully follow.