Writer's block says you're doing something wrong

LCWF: Veteran producer Jon Plowman

LONDON COMEDY WRITERS' FESTIVAL: Don’t become a writer unless you have something to say, one of Britain’s top comedy producers has warned.

Jon Plowman, whose long list of credits include Absolutely Fabulous and The Office, said that sitting for hours staring at a blank piece of paper could be a sign something was seriously wrong.

‘You should really, really want to get to that blank piece of paper and make it not blank as quickly as you can,’ he told the London Comedy Writers’ Festival this weekend.

Despite banning video cameras and urging the audience to be discreet in discussing the event afterwards, his conversation with fellow TV comedy giant Paul Jackson proved disappointingly lacking in gossip, instead sticking to a mainly scholastic agenda.

Plowman went on to highlight the importance of a simple premise and strong characters in creating a sitcom. While shows such as Fawlty Towers or Gavin and Stacey are, in essence, about very little (an angry man who runs a hotel; a long-distance romance), audiences are fascinated by the characters and what they are going to do next: ‘You should be able to take your characters, plonk them anywhere and know how they would react,’ he told the audience.

Both men warned of overwriting: ‘People don't often talk in paragraphs, so don't write dialogue like that’ and, in a recurring theme of the festival, told writers to think carefully before sending off a script.

‘Put it in the fridge and three months later, read it again. If it's still good, great. If there's anything that could be better, make it better.’

– by Nione Meakin

Published: 11 Apr 2011

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