Christopher Booker’s book The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories outlines seven plots. One of these seven is ‘Comedy.’ Booker explains comedy as a specific series of events. Not everything that is funny fits into this category.
The ‘Comedy” plot begins with a large group of characters. The hero and the heroine can’t get together. Everyone else thinks that they should be together. Unfortunately, something foolish keeps them apart. Misunderstandings cause a series of humorous situations. Sometimes the problem is one person’s fault such as one of the characters is in a relationship with someone else. Other times, the problem is no one’s fault. Either way, there is confusion, miscommunication, and frustration.
Misinterpretations make the situation worse. Characters pull farther and farther apart. Eventually, the truth comes out. Misunderstandings are explained. Characters’ ideas change. The relationship is healed through love and understanding. Everything gets sorted out.
Students create a staggered flip organizer that explains Booker’s plot ‘Comedy.’ The organizer also contains a page for students to list examples from literature or pop culture. Next students answer a ‘Digging Deeper” question. For this lesson, students will select words that describe each part as well as think more about why people enjoy this genre. Finally, three outline pages provide practice.
Comedy Plot Description
The easiest way to understand Booker’s “Comedy” plot think of Hallmark Channel movies. The light romantic comedies begin with a ‘guy meets a girl’. The two like each other. A problem keeps them apart. The two work through the problems and live happily ever after. Not many books for upper elementary students fall into this category. Below are three stories that have elements of the ‘Comedy’ plot.
The story Tangled falls into the ‘Comedy’ story plot. Rapunzel meets Flynn Rider. Flynn is a thief who steals Rapunzel’s crown. The two teams together to find the lanterns that float through the sky. Problems escalate until Flynn, who admits his real name is Eugene, dies. Rapunzel brings him back to life with magical tears. The two marry and live happily ever after.
Ella Enchanted is a Cinderella story with a twist. As a gift at birth, a fairy gives Ella obedience. Ella must do everything she is told. Ella meets Prince Charmont. She soon realizes her ‘gift’ could harm Charmont. This keeps the two apart. Ella eventually overcomes the magic. The two marry and live happily ever after.
Anna thinks she is in love with Prince Hans. When Anna tells her sister Elsa about Hans, the two argue. This causes Elsa to shoot out sparks of ice cursing the kingdom into everlasting winter. Elsa runs away to keep from hurting anyone. Anna and Kristoff team together to find Elsa. They hope to break the icy spell.
Anna and Kristoff encounter trolls, a comedic snowman, harsh conditions, and magic. When they find Elsa, the two sisters argue. A burst of icy magic hits Anna in the heart. When Anna returns to the palace, she begins changing into ice.
Anna asks Hans to kiss her to break the spell. He refuses. Anna learns that Hans doesn’t love her. He only wants her kingdom. Anna then realizes Kristoff is the one she loves. Shortly after this, Elsa returns to the palace. She saves Anna from Hans’ blade. This love between sisters breaks the spell. The kingdom thaws. Kristoff and Anna get together. The story has a happily-ever-after ending.
If you missed the link to the handouts, here it is again.
Jump to the plot you are interested in using these links.