British Comedy Guide

Plot / Sub Plot Question

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steve by any other name

  • Tuesday 6th January 2009, 7:59pm
  • Northampton, England
  • 832 posts

I'm working on a sitcom project about two competing companies. I'd be interested in anyones view on the plotting. The main plot is the underdogs fight to survive. Is it sufficient to have as the subplot their competitors attempts to thwart them, or does there need to be another unrelated subplot?

Any thoughts?

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Eden Carter

  • Tuesday 6th January 2009, 8:18pm
  • Chichester/Brighton, England
  • 324 posts

You mean like a 'Dodgeball' scenario? David and Goliath type thing? You could always stick in a Romeo and Juliet type sub-plot where the son of one company boss is in love with the daughter of the other. I don't know lol, sounds good though!

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Nick Rivers

  • Tuesday 6th January 2009, 9:58pm
  • England
  • 1,036 posts

For me, that sounds more like the general premise rather than a plot/ sub plot i.e. each episode will have that general theme running through them. The plot/ sub plots thus need to be more specific.

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SlagA

  • Wednesday 7th January 2009, 1:19am
  • Blackwood, Wales
  • 5,335 posts

IMO, attempts by company B to thwart company A aren't a subplot to company A's attempts to beat company B. It's really 'Action A prompts Reaction B' and so just events within the main plot. If it were my project, I'd choose subplots that focus on competing characters within your main POV focus company and how their conflicts either reinforce or negate the climax of your main plot: i.e. whether your underdog wins this particular episode.

But there are people here, with more qualified opinions than me. :)

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don rushmore

  • Wednesday 7th January 2009, 2:03am
  • Handsome Boy Modelling School, England
  • 2,968 posts

Sounds like you're adding a subplot because you think it's the conventional thing to do. Marion and Geoff didn't have one, and that's been as good as anything over the last ten years. Good luck

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Matthew Stott

  • Wednesday 7th January 2009, 2:26am
  • Yemen
  • 19,296 posts
Quote: Griff @ January 6 2009, 9:24 PM GMT

Marion and Geoff was superb. But it was only told in 10-minute chunks. You'd be hard pushed to find a 30-minute sitcom without more than one plotline happening.

Though series 2 was 30 minute episodes!

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Matthew Stott

  • Wednesday 7th January 2009, 2:33am
  • Yemen
  • 19,296 posts
Quote: Griff @ January 6 2009, 9:28 PM GMT

Was it??? Blimey I mustn't have seen Series 2. (Adds to wishlist).

There must surely have been some kind of subplots going on in those 30 minute episodes Matt?

Well, I haven't watched it in ages,but from what I remember the main two threads or plots were, like series one, trying to stay close to his kids and talking about his ex-wife, and secondly becoming closer to the woman he was now working for and her kid.

Still the same format as series one, in the car talking, but with an expanded list of concerns.

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steve by any other name

  • Wednesday 7th January 2009, 1:15pm
  • Northampton, England
  • 832 posts

Thanks for the feedback everyone. Time to get the shoehorn out I think. I'm sure there was a blank half page at 49.

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steve by any other name

  • Wednesday 7th January 2009, 2:01pm
  • Northampton, England
  • 832 posts
Quote: Mike Greybloke @ January 7 2009, 8:57 AM GMT

Page 49? How many pages does it run to?

I plucked 49 out of the air but it's actually up to 61. This is my preliminary draft and I tend to just write down everything and chop it back later to 56 pages.

I write in Final Draft BBC sitcom format which is what I was asked to by a production company. They told me that a page was equivalent to half a minute and I should aim for about 56 pages. Every time I submitted a draft at anything longer than 56, it would come back edited to exactly 56, so now I just aim for that.

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Matthew Stott

  • Wednesday 7th January 2009, 2:11pm
  • Yemen
  • 19,296 posts

Are you putting each scene on a new page, or does it really just run to fifty-odd pages?

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steve by any other name

  • Wednesday 7th January 2009, 2:37pm
  • Northampton, England
  • 832 posts
Quote: Matthew Stott @ January 7 2009, 9:11 AM GMT

Are you putting each scene on a new page, or does it really just run to fifty-odd pages?


Each new scene has a new page. The other number I bear in mind is round about 6000 words. Although I do tend to be over on this.

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Matthew Stott

  • Wednesday 7th January 2009, 2:47pm
  • Yemen
  • 19,296 posts

Ah right, I never do that, though I know your supposed to. Well, I sometimes do it if I'm told to.

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glaikit

  • Wednesday 7th January 2009, 2:54pm
  • Newcastle Upon Tyne, England
  • 159 posts
Quote: Griff @ January 6 2009, 9:24 PM GMT

You'd be hard pushed to find a 30-minute sitcom without more than one plotline happening.

This is something I've been wondering about recently. All these how-to sitcom guides always bang on about subplot A and B (sometimes C as well), but I'm sure not all sitcoms do this for every episode.

For example, Father Ted. In the episode where they all try to give up something (cigarettes, alcohol and rollerblading), I'm sure there's no subplots - their individual attempts form one group plot A, which then develops on as the nun gets involved and they try to escape.

Also, in the 'Speed 3' episode while there are different plot strands of sorts (the dirty milkman, dougal wanting to be a milkman, the bomb on the milkfloat, the brick) I wouldn't say that they form plot A, B and C - rather that they are events (for want of a better word) that move the main plot on in different ways. Plots A, B and C would surely be distinct plots (that could work individually on their own if required) that run in parallel to each-other before coming together at the end (or at different points during the episode) to turn into one cohesive whole. None of the strands in 'Speed 3' do this in my opinion.

Personally, I think there is a number of different ways of plotting sitcoms:

- Plots A, B and C (like in Friends when there is generally 3 short plots each concerning two of the friends)

- Plots A and B (like in a lot of British sitcoms, where the plots are longer)

and

- Group Plot A (as mentioned above)

When I'm plotting an episode of something I'm working on I usually look at how much mileage the plot ideas have and apply them appropriately. If a plot idea is strong enough, involves all of the main cast in distinct ways and can twist and turn in interesting ways, then I'll got with one big group plot rather than try to add unnecessary subplots to the script.

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Matthew Stott

  • Wednesday 7th January 2009, 3:02pm
  • Yemen
  • 19,296 posts

Yeah, there's no 'should do' in sitcom writing, it's whatever works for you or the episode.