Creating Reality Fiction: Using Dark Comedy to Develop Imperfect Characters

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Creating Reality Fiction: Using Dark Comedy to Develop Imperfect CharactersMy dark-comedy novel has a voice similar to “This is Where I Leave You” by Jonathan Tropper and “Silver Lining Playbook” by Matthew Quick. I recently gave a shout out on Twitter to Matthew Quick, as he’s got a new book coming out in July, “The Reason You’re Alive” and he liked it!

I was so excited. Both books have memorable, quirky, imperfect and real characters. I’ve waged a lifelong battle with depression, anxiety, and insomnia, so I’ve always had a bit of a dark side to me. This is because, I understand firsthand how our mental health can be tied to one’s childhood and the setbacks or circumstances dealt to us.

This is what led me to fall deeply in love with reality fiction, a genre that exploits tragedies of life through dark comedy. This is my personal definition of this fairly new genre. When done properly, dark comedy can add layers of complex, three-dimensional characters fastening imperfection with human hypocrisy and peculiar irony. You are left in tears, laughing, and in awe at how much you can relate to these everyday flawed humans that reflect our own anxieties and despair. Dramedy or otherwise drama-comedy hybrid novels, movies, TV shows often have elements of dark, off-beat, uncomfortable comedy drama as well as an adhesive of painful honesty that ties everything together.

This is my second novel. For this one, I opted to take my time on character sketches and structuring my story. It took me five months to do extensive sketches for each character. I even chose real-life actors that would play them as if it were a movie, to assist in the development. An undergraduate degree in film production and a master’s degree in television, radio, and film have helped me to visualize a story. Painting a picture of character quirks progresses the story further than the dreaded mental “in the head” narrative that better works sparingly.

Still, you need to embrace whatever works for you, as every writer is different. But, I casted each character with well-known actors whose personalities fit the character I was creating. Doing this enabled me to write the character sketch with much more precision while also inspiring me to add things I never would have otherwise.

I also plotted a decent portion of my novel and most importantly knew the ending. I actually knew the conclusion, even the title before I even began the character sketch and plotting process. Having spent a grueling five months carefully constructing my novel allowed for me to write it all in three months. Granted, I had just given birth to a baby and was breastfeeding throughout the entire time I wrote my dark comedy novel.

The Bottom Line:

I feel much better about my dark comedy novel and noticed I didn’t need to do a huge facelift during the revision process. I believe that planning ahead contributed to this by making personal edits and revisions easier. Who knows, my editor might suggest otherwise, but my sister who recently landed an agent for her YA book told me that it was a good read and didn’t require extensive editing. She also complimented me on the fact that I had taken so much time doing thorough character sketches, as she said my characters were very strong and three-dimensional and the dialogue was realistic. Regardless, I still need to impress and land an agent of my own. I plan on attending the West Coast Writing Conference at the end of January. In the meantime, I wish happy writing to all aspiring writers who are hoping to get published. We’re in this struggle together, so I try to pass along any tips that helped me. I hope you do the same.





4 thoughts on “Creating Reality Fiction: Using Dark Comedy to Develop Imperfect Characters

    Ipuna Black said:
    December 22, 2016 at 11:30 AM

    Yes, your characters are living and breathing in your story. The biggest mistake I made was reading Stephen King’s book, On Writing, and then, thinking I was Stephen King. Ha ha ha. (Reading the book was definitely not a mistake.) He doesn’t plot a ton and gives himself plenty of wiggle room for the natural creative juices to flow. Although, I think it is important to allow for change and natural creative energy, you can’t let the story run away from you. Everyone has their own writing process, but for me, having a story structure can really save on editing. Now, Stephen King, he’s the man and can do whatever he wants. Ha ha.
    The West Coast Writing Conference should be great! It’s wonderful being around other talented creative writers. The connections you make at the conferences are always great as well!

    Liked by 2 people

      Sonyo Estavillo said:
      December 22, 2016 at 11:42 AM

      Yep, plotting and doing character sketches isn’t always fun. But I am the type that needs it. Thanks for being a beta reader sis. Now onward to attempt to land an agent and at the very least network!


    jennylynnangelo said:
    December 24, 2016 at 12:00 AM

    I’m no writer but as a lover of novels and of flowers and nature this makes me smile. I read a lot of blogs and so many of them are senseless but this post really dives deep into the art of writing. I don’t have a blog, but I read them here and yours especially gives me reason to look at the books I read from a different perspective.
    Thank you!

    Liked by 2 people

    Top 10 Toddler Books You Should Read To Your Child said:
    January 2, 2017 at 12:10 PM

    […] say and see the PBS commercials on why you should read to your child. My husband and I are both writers and avid readers. Although a slow reader, I do read quite a bit and am currently reading The Book […]


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