A publisher run by readers

Dan Harmon #writingremedy

Published on

1/30/2015 11:26:10 AM

In which we outline what Dan Harmon can teach us


For the second part of our #writingremedy series, we’re looking at what we can learn from creator of Community,

Dan Harmon.


Find out more about Dan here.


What Dan Harmon can teach us about character


He had this to say about writing believable, consistent characters that still show development:


“I do this by resolving, if only arbitrarily, that there is one thing at the core of a character that can never change, instead of hanging the character’s life on what is essentially a bunch of superficial nails. If I create a character and say ‘she’s a vegan from the North Pole that loves porn,’ that sounds really ‘unique’ and ‘real’ and stuff, but until I know some simpler, more fundamental things about her, I’ve got three stories before she’s done – the one where she eats meat, the one where she lives at the SOUTH Pole and the one where she gets hit on the head with a coconut and totally hates porn.”




What Dan Harmon can teach us about structure


Dan Harmon writes every episode of Community in the form of a circle, split into the following eight moments.


A character is in a zone of comfort,

But they want something.

They enter an unfamiliar situation,

Adapt to it,

Get what they wanted,

Pay a heavy price for it,

Then return to their familiar situation,

Having changed.


Click here for his breakdown of this method


What Dan Harmon can teach us about definition


In the DVD commentary for season one of Community, Dan Harmon made the observation that if you wrote the word “apple” on an apple, you’ve actually made the object less like an apple. It’s now 90% apple and 10% self-description. It’s a useful thing to consider when in danger of defining something in any excessive amount of detail, because this ends up diminishing the existence of what you’re trying to define.


Extra links


Here’s a great interview with Dan Harmon on his writing process, using his story circle


Brought to you by your friends at Readership

Sign up here