Setting Is Not Situation
Have you ever found yourself uttering the sentence, "I have
an idea for a sitcom, it's set in a
" with a suitable
epithet? While there is of course no right or wrong way to begin
writing a sitcom, it's worth bearing in mind that the setting
is not the situation. Indeed, the setting should really be there
to enhance the situation.
My favourite example of this distinction is Blackadder. Over the
course of its four series, the setting changed dramatically, but
the basic situation remained the same. Edmund Blackadder wanted
to climb the social ladder, whether it was in the court of Elizabeth,
or to escape the trenches of the Great War.
But in each case, the setting served the situation. Blackadder
was positioned so he could easily see his own place in the world.
So, if your main character wants to be the greatest baker in the
world, it only makes sense to set everything in a bakery. If your
character wants to be rich by this time next year, by all means
have him be a three-wheeler dealing market trader with not much
It could work in reverse of course. Maybe you really want to write
about your life at an abattoir; and a perfectly acceptable sitcom
it could make just from that one single idea. But it can only
serve to enhance matters by having that setting inform your character's
situation. What if your slaughterhouse executive secretly wants
to be a serial killer?