How to Write Funny Characters, by Scott Dikkers
Here’s a speedy read, which gets off to a quick start, skips some paper, and begins on page 13.
That’s an outline of what’s ahead, a little talk, then the book starts on page 19. And then… shall I postpone the review for my next article, Scott?
Dikkers provides three methods for creating characters in record time. You’ll find out all about them in five pages.
The book needs to slow down a bit. I mean, is Homer Simpson funny if he naps during a meeting? That’s my incomplete thought, so I’ll leave it with you, like our boy Dikkers.
In fairness, he goes a little bit further, with a quick improv example. You’ll learn it’s all about the character traits.
Next is character relatability, and you’re handed four ways to achieve this. This comes in an A-D of things, but you’re left somewhat short. Dikkers could easily have done A-Z, plus numbers, to give you A1 to A99, through Z1 to Z99.
That would be 2,574 different references, rather than his paltry 4. So now we know Dikkers is a combination of two character types — lazy and unambitious.
What has the man achieved, anyway? No one’s heard of him.
Now on to the character archetypes themselves.
Forty of them, all given a two page spread, a large heading font, and a stick figure to convey the personality. As for the stick figures…
Between the headings and drawings, it leaves about a page for each archetype. Nice, quick, concise, with a line or two on how to use them. Film character mentions assist the process.
The forty types you’re provided cover all you could want, which prepares you for what’s ahead.
And that’s ten ways to make the archetypes original. A how to mix and match, the effect of environment, and other tricks to make old new again. Dikkers does a good job, and once again hands over the info quickly.
Choosing and Using the Archetypes gives you three quick pieces of movie dialogue. The first two snippets are a bit short, but get across a point — jokes come from characters. The third excerpt, from The Secret Life of Pets, is longer, and makes a better example.
While it’s all fair advice, it doesn’t go deep enough.
Imagine two unique people in conversation, both types shown in the book…and while their styles and characters clash, nothing remotely funny might happen. It could be completely dramatic.
So what pushes character differences to really make funny scenes and dialogue? It’s a missed bit of exploration. A bit like Indiana Jones, when he sees a boulder rolling towards him and runs away. There’s no sense in that.
There’s a bit more in the chapter and talk of character flexibility. Points well made. I mean, you don’t break when that round mass hits you, you bend.
Something for the headstone.
Why Should We Care is all about Dikkers life. He start off in mundane fashion, born like he was fired from a cannon, carries on complaining about something…mentions an onion, and…
Actually, it’s really about your creations and how to compel the audience to stick with them. This is the author at his best, and he doesn’t waste your time. He shows you eight effective tools that are simple to use.
The quality continues with a look at common character mistakes. There are nine of them to read about, and it’s top information.
In amongst them, there’s a funny character tip. Avoid stereotypes. While Dikkers rightly guides you from certain things, it’s worth considering that stereotypes can be humour shortcuts.
Think… Rodney Dangerfield, the stereotypes related to his persona, and the interplay with the punchlines.
That said, stereotypes are only workable in the hands of an expert. That’s why I use them.
You can find my film credits and awards online some place. Do your own research and take your time. A lot of time. Pace yourself.
Next is a look at the difference between comedy and drama. It’s all here, in Steve Kaplan’s book, The Hidden Tools of Comedy.
What? Oh, yeah.
Scott Dikkers takes a much lighter touch. His bath tissue is air expanded to resemble a standard size roll, but it only has 3 sheets.
Is it enough to get you through? He talks about Jaws and uses that to contrast with the comic side of things. Start the shower running.
Really, the book shows you all that’s needed to get a grasp of the concept. So if you want the Scott Dikkers’ take on it, its all right here (as in, in the book. Not in this review. I’m not going to show it. Get a grip).
Now on to dialogue, where the pace continues. It’s a dense chapter with a lot of info. Here’s the guide, you take the controls.
There are benefits to being lost at sea.
The only criticism this time — I know, unbelievable — is point 7, subtext. It would be nice to go a bit deeper, but unfortunately, the speedy nature of the book leaves no chance.
Otherwise, all good.
And a couple more pages finish the book.
That wasn’t too hard. Don’t know about you, but I fancy a pack of Lay’s Onion potato chips.
A really good book by Scott Dikkers. If you want a host of character archetypes handed over at lightning speed, with movie references, and lots of other other helpful pointers, this book is for you.
While it lacks some depth, it covers most things nicely, and in an easily accessible format.
Quick read. Plenty of information. Well written and easy to understand.
Could go into more detail here and there.
This complements some heavier books nicely. The Hidden Tools of Comedy and Writing the Romantic Comedy go well with this.
173 listed pages, which starts on page 13 ½. Take away another 63 for blank spaces in between the rest. That’s around 100 pages to read through.
Quicker readers will be through this in… not much time at all. Set aside a couple of hours.
Slower, dedicated readers, will be through through in under a week.