“I wouldn't give this guy's problems to a monkey on a rock!”
The Story so far…
Who is the Hero
What Does the Hero Want?
The Door Opens
The Hero Takes Control ….and now…
A Monkey Wrench is Thrown
Things Fall Apart
Okay, we have our Hero. Our Hero wants something on an outer level, and has an inner want (or need) as well. An opportunity or change happens, drawing the Hero into a new set of circumstances and giving them a chance to achieve that outer want. The Hero jumps all over it, achieving progress toward that want. Things are apparently going along alright!
Enter the Monkey Wrench
A MONKEY WRENCH is THROWN
“Of all the gin-joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.”
This is where a new wrinkle enters the picture, presenting the Hero with the chance to fulfill their inner NEED.
In an episodic comedy, this is very often the Act Break. The Hero sees that things are not working out as planned…cut to commercial!
The Monkey Wrench in the usual comedy story is when the Hero falls in LOVE. Romantic love, familial love, whatever. It could be the love for a pet, or for some kind of cause, even.
Vorhaus connects this part to the idea of LOYALTY. The Hero is loyal to themselves and their (outer) goal. The monkey wrench displaces that loyalty to someone or something else: The object of the Hero's love.
We see Hero's in countless comedy movies hit this “love” complication: From Austin Powers to those Wedding Crashers to Aubrey Plaza in “Safety Not Guaranteed” to…well, many many MANY many others. Pick any comedy movie - there's a STRONG chance you'll see this moment.
And this newfound loyalty/love causes problems. It gets in the way of achieving the outer goal. The Hero can't have both the outer and inner goals. The cad can't keep on…cadding AND have this amazing new woman's love.
Enjoying the magic powers in a magic-power comedy is at odds with having a future with the Hero's object of love.
The Nutty Professor can't reveal his double identity to the girl he's fallen for.
That 40 year old virgin has a similar problem when he falls for Katherine Keener.
John Cleese can't defend his client and maintain his life and also have Jamie Lee Curtis (Wanda, in that Fish movie).
It's a damn monkey wrench!
THINGS FALL APART
“the center cannot hold”
If “The Hero Takes Control” section is a series of positive scenes, this is the opposite. Things…well, they fall apart for the Hero.
The series of deceptions they've constructed falls apart.
Michael Keaton's job and family life both disintegrate thanks to all those Michael Keaton clones.
The 40 year old virgin's relationship falls apart as he panics about the rapid changes in his life as well as the secret he's been keeping.
In SCHOOL OF ROCK, Jack Black's goal of playing battle of the bands by posing as a music teacher has been displaced by his caring about the students in his class. His deception falls apart too!
Whoever the participants are in the latest body-switch story find BOTH their new lives are becoming a mess.
The Comic Toolbox (oh, all this is taken from “The Comic Toolbox” by John Vorhaus!) also says that this section is “a disaster of the Hero's own making”. The character's flaws are at fault here.
Does this make sense? If you have any questions or want clarifications (or if you have some clarifications of your own), please write ‘em in the comments.
I’m thinking that after next week (the final part) maybe I'll try writing a couple story outlines using this method, for the Newspost after that. Might be fun.
Maybe. But next Thursday we'll put this baby to bed!