Beloved high-concept comedy Groundhog Day turned 30 years old recently. That’s 30 real years. By some estimates, if Phil had gotten stuck in his time loop (where the same day repeats every day add infinitum) on the film’s release day, he’d be out of it by now. A.K.A. We’ve all had enough time to play piano, sculpt ice and speak French, just like he did. Either way, one thing that’s remained a constant in all that time is our love for this Bill Murray classic, and for the genre it bore: the timeloop movie. It’s a premise so inviting that its turned into a whole genre; Edge of Tomorrow, Happy Death Day, Palm Springs, but nothing’s quite capitalized on the potential of that first film.

How to Write A Groundhog Day

Sight Unsound works through the key elements of a Groundhog Day-narrative as outlined by Harold Ramis and Danny Rubin’s preeminent example and planted with precision into the characterization and philosophical throughline of Happy Death Day.

Consider that the characters entering into a loop like this must have a considerable ego. The events of the film will wear down their ‘high-and-mightiness’ as they learn to improve. Their personality must be suitably stubborn to withstand a durable stay in the loop before learning the error of their ways. Happy Death Day illustrates this in its protagonist by outlining her defensive, distancing self-centered personality.

Think of the loop as existing in a constantly repeating attempt to move your protagonist to attain the maturity to accept the call to adventure before where you would have more conventionally entered the second act. Just stretch the refusal of the call within in inch of its life, and translate that minor arc into the spiritual roadmap of your protagonist.

Sight Unsound next expounds a more specified series of stages in your main character’s journey. They are fourfold: Changes in the physical (given this time they explore their environment and attempt to find a way out of their predicament), the emotional (growing an attachment to an overlooked personality from which to relearn their appreciation for life), the psychological (wherein a character engages in self-examination and expresses their discoveries to the overlooked personality and improve themselves), and then a break comprised of a false resolution where the character believes they must have grown enough to escape, and before the final spiritual resolution. You may sprinkle the five stages of grief amongst your character’s trek through these phases

Another box to check off is this simple rule: The day that loops must represent total rock-bottom for your protagonist, the proverbial cross roads where they choose wrong until they choose right.

All of Sight Unsound’s musings are phrased through an armour-based analogy to help better illustrate his points. The great conclusion we can draw from Groundhog Day films is this: The loop is what reminds the character of how they are spending their finite days, by making them infinite.

How to Write a Groundhog Day
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