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How to Write a Dramedy Script: The Secret Sauce to Greatness

A 5-step plan to mixing drama and comedy in a special dramedy blender.

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by Script Reader Pro in How to Write a Script, Screenwriting Genres
March 30, 2021 6 comments
How to write a dramedy script

How to Write a Dramedy Script: The Secret Sauce to Greatness. 

This article will discuss the fundamentals of how to write a dramedy for both movies and TV.

We’ll explore the commonly asked question, “What does ‘dramedy’ really mean?” before delving into a comprehensive breakdown of the major components a writer should know/learn for a successful script, such as:

What makes dramedies so powerful?

How to balance the drama and comedy in a dramedy script

The kind of comedy to employ

How the tone of a dramedy script shifts

And much more. So let’s get started.

What does “dramedy” really mean?

You have probably at some point in your life heard a friend of family member exclaim: “It’s a great film! It made me laugh, it made me cry.”
That movie or TV episode was probably (undoubtedly) a “dramedy.”

Because that’s what they do: fuse comedy and drama to give us a richer emotional experience than just one genre is able to on its own. It’s their superpower, if you will.

Any run-of-the-mill drama can make an eye or two misty. Any quick-witted comedy can make our abs hurt through laughter.

But a dramedy can do both. And should do both, if it wants to be labeled as such.

You’d think the word alone—dramedy— would say everything you need to know about the genre.

“It’s easy. It’s when a drama and a comedy meet on a dating site, get married, and have a baby. Case closed.”

Not so fast. It’s not that simple. In fact, it’s way more complex. So let’s get down to how to write a dramedy that will make a reader laugh and cry.

Before we get started on the nuts and bolts of how to write a dramedy script, let’s first make sure we’re on the same page with some dramedy examples.

Dramedy examples.

The Duplass Brothers, to name one example, are dramedy wizards. They have, by-and-large, helped shine a bright, fresh, modern light on the genre.

Standout works of theirs (among their many) include dramedy films like Cyrus, The Skeleton Twins, and the richly-nuanced (albeit canceled-too-soon) HBO show, Togetherness.

Mark and Jay Duplass are among the hottest in-demand writers/creators in the business right now, and they owe a lot of this demand to their masterful grasp of how to write a dramedy.

Movie dramedy examples.

Below are just a handful of examples of standout dramedy films.

American Beauty

The Apartment

The Graduate

Hannah and her Sisters

Jerry Maguire

Lost In Translation

Paper Moon

Sideways

Up in the Air

The Way Way Back

TV dramedy examples.

Here are some examples of other successful TV dramedy shows:

After Life

Big Little Lies

Casual

The Kominsky Method

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Orange is the New Black

Sex Education

Six Feet Under

This is Us

The Wonder Years

How to Write a Dramedy Script

What makes dramedies so powerful?

The strength of a dramedy is that it’s rooted in human experience. Audiences are more sophisticated now and are demanding more compelling emotional arcs.

A person doesn’t feel just one emotion their whole life. We’re in a constant state of flux.

Even in a single day, an individual can go through a myriad of feelings and emotions. One morning a person can wake up feeling miserable and then feel great by the time they go to bed. Or vice versa.

Perhaps it’s for these reasons, dramedies really resonate with viewers. They feel more true to life than either a straight drama or an out-and-out comedy.

This is what makes them highly relatable and marketable—there’s something for everyone. And highly relatable and marketable is a good thing when you’re writing any script.

Overall, a dramedy is a dynamic and complicated expression of our dynamic and complicated selves, put to paper.

It’s precisely for these reasons that make crafting one particularly challenging but also immensely personally/emotionally rewarding.

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How to write a dramedy script. Step #1: Tip the balance in favor of drama.

Here’s the difficulty: a dramedy has to serve two masters and has to perform duel functions.

It must be lighthearted when it’s needs to be, and fraught with drama when it needs to be. This mix of genres is why dramedies are so often described as “heartfelt,” “feel-good,” or “charming.”

But blending the drama in a story with its comedy partner is where the challenge lies. You may be asking yourself, “When do I do funny and when do I stay on the dramatic tone?”

Good question. And there isn’t a clear formulaic answer or industry standard Beat Sheet for it. But there is a basic rule of dramedy you can apply…

Tip the script’s tone in favor of drama.

This means it can be useful to approach a dramedy first and foremost as a drama. But it’s the characters’ sometimes humorous reactions to the conflict that sets it apart from a straight drama.

In other words, the tonal balance should be dramatic, with moments of hilarity sprinkled throughout.

Dramedy script examples of drama-leaning stories:

In Big Little Lies, the A-story surrounding a murder and abusive husband is mixed with many funny moments, such as the barbed exchanges between Ed and his wife’s ex-husband, Nathan.

In Hannah and her Sisters, the sisters’ dramatic relationships underpin the whole movie, but they’re countered by the hilarious bumblings of the two lead male characters: Mickey and Elliot.

In The Way Way Back, Duncan’s family issues in the main storyline are straight drama, but they’re offset by moments of pure comedy, such as his attempt at breakdancing in front of a crowd of a kids.

How to write a dramedy script. Step #2: Sprinkle in some subtle comedy.

The comedy in a dramedy is usually of the more subtle variety. Not the broad comedy found in movies and TV shows such as the The Hangover, Parks and Recreation, or Zoolander here.

This means that the hilarious set-piece involving a drunk monkey at a foam party that’s currently in your dramedy script can be safely removed. Save it for another script with a broader comedic tone.

Instead, make sure that the humor in your dramedy script is sufficiently understated. So, leaning more on verbal wit and humor rooted in realism, and less on big set-pieces and weed jokes.

This is why, when an overtly over-the-top moment of physical comedy appears in a dramedy, it can feel out of place and unnecessary.

Remember the dance scene in Dan in Real Life in which Dan and Marie boogie down in a very over-the-top way with other people in order to make the other one jealous? That’s what we’re talking about.

Dramedy script examples of subtle humor:

In Casual, most of the humor arises from sexually charged awkwardness. And, of course, the effortlessly amusing and affable character of Alex.

In Greenberg, the comedy mainly comes from funny lines and subtly awkward situations. There are moments of physical humor too, though. Such as Greenberg attempting to swim, or running away from a pissed driver.

In Laggies, the funny moments are again understated—such as Megan’s argument with a friend over a buddha statue, and Craig’s snappy one-liners.

How to write a dramedy script. Step #3: Increase the drama, decrease the comedy.

TVTropes has the #1 rule of dramedy listed as:

“In any work that has both drama and comedy, the drama rises proportionally with the level of tension in the story. The comedy does the reverse.”

But what exactly does this mean?

Simply that a dramedy script should become progressively more like a drama, while simultaneously becoming less like a comedy.

Most often, by the time a dramedy (movie, at least) reaches its third act, it’s more or less morphed into a straight drama.

The jokes have pretty much gone. The amusing misunderstandings have all but disappeared. The funny dances have invariably vanished.

What we’re left with is the heart of the movie—the drama that brings the tears rather than the laughter—and gives a dramedy it’s unique special sauce.

Dramedy script examples of straight drama endings:

In Broken Flowers, the end of the movie is taken up by Don meeting a guy who he thinks is his son. This is the emotional heart of the film and Don’s desperate situation leaves little to laugh about.

In The Graduate, it’s the first half of the movie that contains the funny scenes involving Ben at the hotel and his affair with Mrs Robinson. Then the comedy gives way to a rape allegation, threat of prosecution and thrilling race to the altar.

In Sideways, once Miles has waved goodbye to Jack, he learns Victoria’s pregnant, drinks alone, and finally drives to see Maya. There’s not much that’s funny about this final sequence.

How to Write a Dramedy Script

How to write a dramedy script. Step #4: Immerse yourself in dramedies.

Reading and watching dramedy films and TV shows are a great way to study the tone, structure and pacing of successful dramedies.

There are a vast number of excellent choices out there to look at for a real sense of feel of how an effective dramedy works.

When studying a dramedy, pay close attention to the premise and plot. You will most likely see that the backbone of the material (be it a film or TV show) is serious in nature.

Next, pay close attention to the characters that have been written. You will notice that most will already have an innate humorous personality to them, be it awkward, quirky, sarcastic, candid, sad sack, etc..

This humor is usually a character’s defense mechanism for dealing (or not having to deal) with the stress, tension and conflict they are experiencing, either internally or externally.

Lastly, study the timing, tone and pacing of when drama rises proportionally with the level of tension, and when comedy does the reverse.

Dramedy script examples to download and watch:

50 Best Screenplays to Download and Read in Every Genre

50 Best TV Scripts to Read and Download for Free

20 Best Drama Script Examples to Download and Read

20 Best Comedy Script Examples to Download and Read

How to write a dramedy script. Step #5: Mine your own life.

Another critical key to learning how to write a dramedy script is mining your own life. This not to be confused with the old writing adage, Write what you know.

Some writers adhere to this with disciple-like fervor. Others argue that “Just because I’ve never been on another planet, doesn’t mean I can’t write about it.”

And neither would be wrong. But there are still other writers, like the author Avi, who feel:

“Students are always being told [to write what they know], but I always say that you should write what you feel–that’s stronger and a much better place for any writer to begin.”

Avi’s mode of thinking could arguably be the best approach for all screenplays, but for dramedies in particular, it’s absolutely critical.

Write your life just how you live it. Tap in to what you feel and experience on a daily basis.

Take note of when joy was bested by drama or drama relieved by humor.

Understand that our own lives—every day—has a three act structure: Morning. Afternoon. Night. And a lot of “dramedy” happens in the spaces between.

Anyone with the ambition to write a dramedy script, should freeze right where they are, and first think about their day (or the previous day, or day before that).

They should feel the big moments and nuances, and even the minutiae of that time spent, in their finger tips—understanding that they are a “character” in their own lives, taking action and making choices.

Now shake it all up, scrape out all the boring parts, plant those feelings and experiences into characters, cement those characters into a well structured plot, and you will be well on your way to crafting a great dramedy.

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How to write a dramedy script: conclusion.

Now that you have the tools and source material to write a dramedy script, the only step left is to dig in and go for it. Just remember, everyone’s life is a dramedy.

One moment we can be having a nice dinner out with a loved one, the next be in an argument with them outside the restaurant. That’s life. The good and the bad. And it’s beautiful.

Happy writing!
(And sad writing. Blend them together and magic can happen…)

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Are you writing a dramedy movie or TV script? What do you think of our suggestions on how to approach it? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

How to Write a Dramedy Script

Liked this post? Read more on how to write a dramedy script…

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Protagonist and Antagonist Conflict: Why It’s Between 3 Characters Not 2

[© Photo credits: Unsplash, Flickr]

6 Comments
  1. Sylvie says:

    What an amazing resource, with a wealth of information! Thank you so much!! I hope to do much better in any future writing opportunity that comes up because of this!

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Glad you enjoyed the post, Sylvie – thanks for reading!

  2. Adrienne Aiken says:

    “ Just remember, everyone’s life is a dramedy.” That’s how I have felt about my life for years and why I write in this genre the most, haha.

    Great article. Thanks.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      It’s probably the genre that’s nearest to real life 🙂 Thanks for reading, Adrienne!

  3. Theophilus Jamesfaith says:

    Hello there. I’ve been following your blog and email updates for a while now, and I want to thank you for helping startup writers like me deal with issues that comes with writing scripts. I have a problem though – I have written a prose about a heist movie and I want to transform it into a script but I have no idea how to do that. Can you help with some heist movies scripts recommendations. Thank you for your time & help. Have a nice day.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks for reaching out, Theophilus! We have some posts on coming up with concepts and starting a script that you may find useful here.

      Heist movie recommendations:
      The Asphalt Jungle
      Baby Driver
      The Ladykillers (Not the awful Coen Bros. remake)
      Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels
      Now You See Me
      Ocean’s 11
      Reservoir Dogs
      Ronin
      The Town

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