Have you ever seen the New Year's Resolution episode from Friends? You know, the one where Ross wears leather pants, Joey tries to learn how to play guitar, and Rachel tries to gossip less?
If you're a Friends fan, I'd be shocked if you didn't know the episode I'm talking about.
Rolling Stone even suggested this episode really should be called “‘The One With Ross’ Leather Pants' because no one else’s 1999 New Year’s resolution produces results as memorable — or disastrous.”
But even though Ross's leather pants fiasco is what makes the episode, it's not the only resolution that wins some laughs.
Today, let's focus on brainstorming some New Year writing prompts to kickstart your writing year with some humor.
In Case You Don't Know “The One With All the Resolutions”
Somehow I managed to never watch Friends until my sophomore year in high school. I have no idea how this happened, but it did, and thank my funny bone Chad, my boyfriend then and now husband, introduced me to the show.
Friends was a cornerstone source of entertainment for Chad's family.
They watched the series on a repetitive loop (like many others) and wrapped up holidays with their favorite holiday-themed episode on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's.
Now after sixteen years of knowing this family and joining them for re-runs for the umpteenth time, it's not rare for us to ask each other what our favorite episodes are—holidays and more.
Hands down (in addition to “The One With the Embryos” and “The One Where Ross Gets a Tan”), for every family member from my mother-in-law to me, “The One With All the Resolutions” ranks as an unquestionable favorite.
Most popularly for the shared reason Rolling Stone places this episode in its top twenty-five list—leather pants:
In an effort to try something new each day, Ross buys chic leather pants for his date with a woman named Elizabeth Hornswoggle (much to the chagrin of Chandler, whose resolution is to not make fun of his friends).
But the luxurious material makes him so hot in her apartment, he has to run to the bathroom and pull his pants down for relief … only to come to the horrifying realization that he can’t get them back up, no matter how much lotion or baby powder he applies.
OH. MY. GOD. this episode is hilarious.
Don't believe me? Take a short break to watch this clip (you can stop at the 4'46 mark).
So why is this episode so funny?
One important reason: it speaks to the herd failure most experience after setting a New Year's resolution, which is something we can keep in mind as we head into today's New Year writing prompts.
Ross's Leather Pants Fiasco is the Memorable Moment, But So Are Others
Although most people would say this is the most memorable (and knee-slapping) moment in “The One With All the Resolutions,” there are plenty of other hardy highlights in the episode's twenty-three minutes.
After all, this moment (which works most as the episode's climax, as it's the climax in the episode's A Story), illustrates the peak of what audience members have been observing since the opening scene, when the cast of Friends each proposes their New Year's resolution.
But while Ross's story is the dominant focus in the episode, the twenty-three minutes would fall flat if we looked at Ross alone.
The other Friends members also each propose their own resolution, with Chandler and Joey and Phoebe taking on a B Story, and finally Rachel wrapping up the C Story. (Learn more about television/sitcom structure here.)
Yes, there are focus storylines for the resolution episode, but it's the whole of the cast that carries the story's structure forward.
And practicing writing prompts that can all benefit the whole is an important lesson in thickening a plot with purpose.
Watch how the opening scene introduces each character's New Year's resolution in this video clip:
Build a List of New Year Writing Prompts That Play Out in One Story (Like in Friends)
Start the New Year off with some writing humor by building a list of potential resolutions gone wrong for multiple characters!
You don't need to write a full TV episode or story in today's prompt, but I'm hoping that building a list of potential ideas that can all connect to the central storyline—Near Year's resolutions gone wrong—might inspire you to write a short story or novella, just for fun.
How can you do this?
Step One: Create a cast of three, five, or six characters
Make a list of three, five, or six characters. You don't need to go overboard with this, just mix it up with a variety of genders and personality traits. Make them different from one another.
Step Two: Give them each a flaw (or quirk)
Give each of your characters a character flaw or quirk, like Chandler's inability to not make fun of his friends or Phoebe's eccentric teaching methods.
Step Three: Make New Year's resolutions that create conflict
Use this flaw or quirk as a way to create a New Year's resolution for that character that will conflict with their goal of fulfilling it.
Step Four: Pick one character and make a list of complications
Choose your favorite! Picks one character and come up with a list of five complications or obstacles that make that resolution harder to fulfill. Rank them from easiest to overcome to hardest.
Step Five: Write a scene that shows a resolution disaster
Looks at your list of complications. Which one seems like the most fun to write? Choose it, and now toss your character into a New Year's resolution fiasco that will be fun to write!
Need Some Ideas to Kickstart Your New Year's Writing Prompt List and Session?
If you're having trouble building a list of characters and their resolutions cold turkey, don't hesitate to borrow from some of the most common New Year's resolutions people set each year.
These usually include:
- Better Eating
- Learning a New Skill
- Saving Money
- Quitting a Bad Habit
- Reading More
- Spending More Time with Family
- Undertaking a Major Clean Up
And this is only the beginning of what could be a very long list!
Borrow some of these ideas and think of the funny situations you could place characters in because they struggle to complete their New Year's resolution.
Coming up with multiple New Year's writing prompts only gives you extra ideas to work with on another day.
Have fun, and Happy New Year!
What New Year resolutions would your characters struggle to complete? Let us know in the comments.
Follow the five steps mentioned in today's New Year writing prompt to build a cast of characters with New Year's resolutions that will be hard for them to complete.
Then, set a timer for fifteen minutes and write a scene for your favorite character and moment that shows their New Year's resolution going terribly wrong. (If you'd like a recap on how to write a strong scene, take a few moments prior to your fifteen minute session to refresh your memory here.)
When you're done, share your scene in the comments below, and be sure to leave feedback for your fellow writers. Bonus points if you can make yourself and others laugh!
Abigail Perry is a Certified Story Grid Editor with professional teaching, literary agency, and film production experience. In addition to writing Story Grid masterwork guides, she works as a freelance editor and is the Content Editor for The Write Practice. Abigail loves stories that put women and diverse groups at the center of the story—and others that include superpowers and magic. Her favorite genres include: Smart Book Club Fiction, Women's Fiction, YA Fantasy, Historical Fiction, and unique memoirs. She also has a B.S. in TV, Radio, and Film and loves working on screenplays that are emotionally driven and/or full of action. You can learn more about Abigail on her website.