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The seven basic storylines: #3 Comedy

Girl and boy in old-fashioned clothing

One thing you may not have realised about stories is that, for all the possible variations, each falls into one of seven archetypal narratives, as described by Christopher Booker. In this miniseries, our guest contributor, author Lewis Bright Rees, will take you through them.

Everyone knows comedy. It’s simple enough: they are lighthearted, funny, feel-good stories that make you laugh. Right? Well, they can be, but comedy the genre and ‘Comedy’ the plot structure are two very different things, and many of the funniest comedies actually fall under other storylines.

In short, a Comedy is a love story

Two characters are destined to be together, whether by fate or just cohesive narrative structure. Picture Lizzie and Darcy or Ross and Rachel. They’re compatible (although they may not realise it at first) but, for one reason or another, they can’t be together. Soon, they find themselves drawn into a web of confusion and miscommunication.

As they fall for each other, more and more complications arise – new love interests or new jobs, hearsay or love potions. Whatever the reason, they feel like they may never get together.

We are in it for the conflict

The thing is, simple romances kill narrativesPride and Prejudice wouldn’t work if it focused solely on Jane and Bingley. Narratives thrive on conflict and drama. A romance that works in real life would struggle to grab our interest on paper.

We want to see the plucky high-achiever get with the jaded ex-lawyer in her study group, or the broken king of the post-apocalyptic world fall for the goofy guy who treats him as an equal instead of a ruler. We want to see them together, but we also want to see them overcome the hurdles in their way.

…and the resolution

Everything turns out well in the end. They find the missing piece of the puzzle, the misunderstandings are cleared up, or the fairies brew an antidote to the love potion they’ve all been dosed with. However it happens, the characters are now free to be together, and everyone can live happily ever after.

The sunny ending makes this plotline more suitable for some genres than others. The vast majority of romances and rom-coms revolve around Comedy, whereas it’s relatively rare for it to be the main plotline in genre fiction.

We all want our happy ever after

This is among the most realistic of the plotlines, and it’s not hard to see why. Most of us experience romance at some point in our lives, and it’s rarely easy. We all have histories, and we all have “what-ifs?”.

The Comedy storyline shows us that happy endings are possible, as long as we have it in us to weather the storm.

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