The K.H. Rule Of Drama

The K.H. Rule of Drama is named for the former student who taught it to me. Teachers do learn from students, you know! I do not reveal her name here, in the clear, on the pestilent Internet, because she is from time to time Googled for job interviews. Since leaving my tutelage, she moved to Los Angeles, worked for a studio and then left the fleshpots of Hollywood to take up a higher calling. Hell, ditch digging is a higher calling than Hollywood. It has proved of some embarrassment to her to be Googled and asked at job interviews about the silly rule I named after her. So, henceforth, her name shall remain a secret.

Unless you buy my book, of course.

The rule is: Just when everything seems hunky dory, everything is so… not.

I’ve been watching SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE. The guys are trying to put on the play and several people are against it… there’s a big swordfight on stage and the people who are against the play enjoy the theatricality of the fight and are, by the end, joyously for the play. They retire next door to the tavern for hilarity and libation. Intercut with a guy running through the town. In the tavern, everyone is happy because they think all their problems have been solved. Will Shakespeare, having a drink with the love of his life, Viola de Lesseps, gives his former enemy, Hugh Fennyman, a part in the play, solving a huge problem. Cut to the guy running, meanwhile Fennyman announces that he’s going to play a part… everyone is in a jolly, jolly mood. Everything seems hunky dory.

Then Philip Henslowe asks Will what the ending of the play is and he says he doesn’t know… “Let us have pirates, clowns, or we shall send you back to Stratford to your wife…” OOOPS. Horrible. Buzz kill of major proportions, since Viola de Lesseps, his beloved, doesn’t know Will is marred. She runs out, furious and hurt. Will feels terrible, awful, ghastly. Then, they top it.

The stygian mood is made much worse when the running man runs in and announces that Christopher Marlowe is dead, stabbed to death in a tavern. Will, in agony, blames himself and says, “What have I done?”

Gay, bumptious hilarity to death on a cracker in twenty or so seconds.

Check out the children’s book Holes. If you haven’t read it, you should. Stanley, the hero, and his friend Zero, have been hiding out in the desert and hatch a plan to find the buried treasure. At night, they sneak back to where everyone has been digging five foot deep holes for eons… and sneak into the hole that Stanley dug a couple of weeks ago… the one that he thinks is the one the treasure is in… and they dig and dig and then they FIND IT! Talk about hunky dory: it’s the happiest moment in the entire book… and guess what happens… “Suddenly, a bright light was shining in his face. ‘Thank you,’ said the Warden. ‘You boys have been a big help.’” So not hunky dory.

Give a look to RACHEL GETTING MARRIED. Fantastic example of the hunky dory rule… In the kitchen, a great scene of high family hilarity. A scene none of us has ever watched before… a dishwasher loading contest! Ever witnessed a dishwasher loading contest? I’ll bet not. But when you see it in this film, you certainly believe that this family is well versed in dishwasher loading contests. Father against future son-in-law… a battle of the wits, pitting one plate-stuffing technique against another. And everyone laughs and is having a GREAT time. And suddenly somebody pulls out the children’s bowl that belonged to the dead kid and they all look at it… and look at it… and hate the Anne Hathaway character for what she did in the past… and they mourn again… and it brings everybody down like a pregnant pole vaulter.

The K.H. Rule rules!

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4 Comments

Filed under Scenes, Writing Process

4 responses to “The K.H. Rule Of Drama

  1. Great post. Those moments are so strong.

    I have your book so I can find out the true name of this rule. But I promise not to Google her.

  2. Brett in Manhattan

    There’s a subtle example of this rule in “Annie Hall.”

    Woody thinks he has a tumor. So, he goes to the doctor, but, it turns out to be nothing. He bounds out of the doctor’s office, skips down the street, then, suddenly, stops and becomes sullen.

    Even though he was healthy, he still had to deal with the problem of life.

  3. elevenbulls

    This is great – I haven’t seen this “named” before, but it’s a great way to allow yourself to resolve one tension without a lull in the film. I bet you can find these pretty often at the midpoint.

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