The Long Haul (2014) by Jeff Kinney is the ninth book in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. I wrote about Jeff Kinney’s writing process in this post, after reading various interviews with him around the web. Kinney tells everyone the same thing — he writes the jokes first, finds a way to string them into some sort of story, then does the illustrations in a single two-month flurry of industry. In short, the jokes come first, story a distant second.
However, when Kinney wrote The Long Haul, he already knew it was going to be turned into a movie, and if middle grade novelists can get away with a ‘jokes first’ approach to story structure, Hollywood scriptwriters can’t.
I was writing it with a movie in mind—this is the first book that I’ve written in three acts and with cinematic set pieces. So I really had a different hat on when I was writing this book.
Little Miss Sunshine uses one of the oldest comic structures, the comic journey. This form goes all the way back to Don Quixote and is really a combination of the comic and myth forms. Part of the success of this combination is that these two genres are in many ways opposites. The myth form, using the journey as its main technique, wants to be big, heroic and inspiring. Comedy is about cutting things down to size, finding the falsely big and poking a hole in it. So in a comic journey story, the myth sets up the laughs (puffing up the characters), while the comedy provides the punchline.
— John Truby
For fans of another well-known drama set in Albuquerque, fans of Breaking Bad may be interested to know that both Bryan Cranston and Dean Norris have small roles in Little Miss Sunshine.
There’s a ticking clock in this film because the pageant has a set date and time. To the outsider, the stakes are low. But for this family, a successful time together means all.
Little Miss Sunshine uses two techniques that are especially valuable: the endpoint and the family.