Many times, the term conflict is thrown around when serious-themed screenplays are written. While conflict plays a vital role in dramatic films, this screenwriting element is universal amongst all genres. Just as comedy acting is considered one of the most difficult forms of acting, comedic writing follows suit. It’s much easier to make people cry than it is to make them genuinely laugh. If you’re writing a comedy screenplay and wish to add depth while laying the scene for true comedic moments then you must add conflict through varied character personalities.
Establishing conflict through character personalities is not an abstract notion; however, in comedy screenplays the writer must make very specific personality choices for success.
In almost every comedy film the primary character must face off with another character who is completely opposite regarding not only lifestyle, but also personality. Creating comedic moments during character interactions is almost guaranteed if you require two or more individuals to solve a singular problem; however, each character must possess a conflicting personality.
During the construction phase of character personalities, take note of the following tips to ensure this combination of different persons comes across as intended:
Establish Purpose – People with conflicting personalities rarely find themselves in an intimate situation because of a voluntary choice. More often than not, these interactions are forced upon them due to unforeseen and uncontrollable circumstances. During the first several scenes, establish the reason why these characters must engage on a more personal level. I like to reference the film “Identity Theft” where the two main characters must go through a wild, and humorous, adventure. While they are from two completely different world, the conflict created by their personalities and their requirement to stay connected is what makes this comedy successful.
Relationship Alterations – Throughout the course of the film, it’s imperative that your main characters with conflicting personalities have some sort of alteration within their relationship. These changes satisfy, or balance, the emotional levels established from conflicts. The alterations in their relationship doesn’t have to be “happy.” In fact, far too many films have their opposing main characters come to some sort of agreement or “middle ground” by the end of the movie. While this is the “feel good” element many comedies interject, it’s not necessary for a successful (and marketable) film.
Maintain Their Opposition – While the characters may begin to understand each other a little better throughout the course of your screenplay, it’s essential that the foundational conflict caused by their opposing personalities remains unchanged. Even if the characters become close friends, their personality conflicts sustain. The only difference is how they handle these conflicts.