Obsession is no laughing matter. In reality, obsession can be the weak link in an otherwise strong life chain. However, in the realm of comedy screenwriting, obsession may provide the specific character quirk necessary to garner huge laughs while dealing with an emotionally complex character. Writing comedy scripts is not as easy as it may seem. The construction of characters and their objectives is just as serious as a dramatic romance or a horrifying slasher flick. The primary difference is how these personality drawbacks are displayed and the effects they have on the character.
Cultivating a comedic script requires a solid grasp on characters and including personality quirks that demand attention. Obsession is one of these elements.
Clarifying the Scope of Obsession
Much like many other mental health elements, there is a wide scope of how obsession is processed and showcased. While you may feel that your character is obsessive over something specific, you must clarify not only the obsession but to what degree this trait effects the characters life. The following tips are gathered from my years of comedy screenwriting and acting:
Unique Obsession – The worst mistake I feel a comedy screenwriter can make is choosing a stereotypical obsession. There is an exception: if the common obsession is showcased in a non-traditional way, then that’s thrilling and entertaining. Otherwise, create an obsession that is uniquely your character. At this point you should have a solid idea of who this character is and what they’re history pertains. With this information (even if limited in details or longevity) formulate an obsession for your character. For example, instead of having a character afraid of the dark, perhaps he could be afraid of dim lights – he’s terrified of movie theaters or day spas. While outlandish, its uniqueness is intriguing.
Full Conviction – Many times, screenwriters half-heartily commit to a particular personality element. In regards to an obsession, the intensity of this trait will vary; however, no matter how intense this obsession may or may not be, write with full conviction. If the obsession plays a small role in the character’s personality, then maintain that momentum. An obsessive trait is one that must remain constant to be realistic.
Evidence – The evidence of an obsession is just as important as the previous tips. In fact, each of these elements builds on each other. Together, they provide a well-rounded, and obsessive, character. If one is left out or not followed correctly, this personality trait can’t support a comedic exchange. Now, how do you plan to showcase this obsession? What is the evidence that the character has said obsession? Not medical documents, but how does the obsession make its presence known in their daily life? To what extent does this obsession lead the story? How does this trait drive the comedy within the screenplay? Answering these questions is essential before ever writing a scene with this character(s).