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Posts Tagged ‘writing’

I don’t talk much about comedy writing, which is funny (no pun intended) because much of my work has actually been comedy writing. I’ve been doing my comic for over ten years at this point, and I spent a good number of years writing scripts for a television sitcom (which never got picked up). In addition to that, much of my childhood and teen years was spent reading humorous offerings – Douglas Adams novels, Calvin and Hobbes collections, Dave Barry columns, etc.

I think it’s safe to say that over the numerous years I’ve picked up some tips here and there. And when I see something that could use a little work to make it funnier, it just gnaws at me. So I thought this would be a good forum for that.

I follow a blog called Texts From Superheroes. It’s fictitious text conversations between comic book characters, and it’s a lot of fun. There are a handful that have had me actually laughing out loud at my computer screen. The following example came close, but for one small misstep. Let’s see if you can find it…

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Now, before I start, let me give you the disclaimer that humor is certainly in the eye of the beholder. I’m in no way an expert on it, but there are certain things that just feel right to me. And this offering from Texts From Superheroes was off. Why? Because they went one step too far with the punchline.

Read the conversation again, but stop at Hawkeye’s last message and ignore Deadpool’s last one. Doesn’t that feel like a much stronger ending? I get that Deadpool finds himself in wacky situations – it’s what makes him an entertaining character. But to have him actually explain the ludicrous situation takes a little bit of the humor out of the exchange. By leaving it at “WHO DID YOU PISS OFF!?”, it leaves the reader wondering and perhaps concocting in their own mind who the offended party is. The last bit from Deadpool is basically like explaining the punchline to a joke (and, to be brutally honest, “Ninja Whalers” didn’t exactly tickle my funny bone).

Really, all it boils down to is an age-old axiom: Less is more. Don’t assume your readers are dumb and explain everything. Sure, some of them might be, but don’t let your writing suffer for fear of losing the attention of that percentage of people.

What? Oh, no, I wasn’t talking about you. You’re not only smart, but you’re attractive and you smell nice.

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I don’t normally subscribe to using dreams as a basis for book ideas.  I mean, that’s what Stephenie Meyer did with Twilight, and look how that turned out.  I mean, she’s a millionaire and all, but… actually, maybe that was a bad comparison.  Let me start again.

I don’t normally subscribe to using dreams as a basis for book ideas.  Most of my dreams are nonsensical at best, with the occasional cinematic narrative type dream that seems to make sense for about ten minutes after I wake up, and then I realize how silly it actually was.  But once in a great while I have a dream that can plant the seeds of interesting ideas.

I have a journal I sometimes use (meaning that I should be using it much more) to write down ideas for my works-in-progress.  There are two entries in there with dreams I had that I thought might be interesting to use.  The last one I wrote down was in 2008.  And that one wasn’t really that great.  The one before it was pretty cool, though.  I’d tell you, but I don’t want you to steal it.  It’s copyrighted by my brain.

The one I had last night was so vivid and narratively interesting that I had to capture it on paper.  And my brain continued to come up with ideas and explanations for things that happened.  Chances are, it’ll be more than a year or two before I even get around to actively thinking about using it, but it’s there.

I guess what I’m trying to say is don’t ever waste an idea.  Whether it’s a dream, a question, a newspaper article, a joke, or whatever, write it down and save it.  Maybe you’ll use it, maybe you won’t.  Maybe you’ll look at it in a year and think, “That’s garbage.”  And then you’ll look at it again in another year and realize that it’s brilliant.

Somewhere in the pile of boxes in my living room is a file folder labeled “Inspiration”, where I saved many a clipping or note that would aid me in my future writing.  I haven’t opened it in years, but it might be time to sift through it.

Maybe it’ll stir up more dreams to write down, continuing the cycle for years to come.

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I didn’t really get to watch the show Scrubs when it aired on television. It began while I was in college, and my schedules were always so all over the place that I couldn’t really watch shows with any kind regularity. Plus, I had access to Cartoon Network and I’m a big cartoon nerd. In any case, following college I moved out to California, and we never paid for cable or bothered to purchase rabbit ears (when you could still do that). It was the beginning of our TV being used solely for DVDs and video games (and now Netflix).

But I digress. Scrubs. I had always heard that it was funny, but I didn’t have a chance to dive into it until several years ago when I started watching it on Netflix. And I really enjoyed it, so much so that I just finished my third run-through of it.  It has that wonderful mix of zany and heart-tugging that I like.

It has its problems, of course, like many shows do. But there was one that I definitely picked up on this time around, one that had bothered me subtly before this and made itself known in my third run-through. In at least three episodes there is a moment where a female character is called out for an odd or unexpected reaction, and her response is more or less this: “I’m a woman.” (There is one episode where this bothered me so much that I refused to watch it this time around.) And these are the blatant moments; I’m sure there may have been other similar but subtler ones and I just didn’t notice (I tend to watch sitcoms while I’m doing dishes or other work).

Now, I get that there are differences between men and women, and whether those differences are genetic or developed based on the way society presses women to act, I’m not smart enough to say. I just know that they are there.  Regardless, to boil down a character’s reaction as “I’m a woman” is rather insulting to women. Not only that, but it’s also lazy writing.

Don’t make your characters do something because they’re a guy or a girl. Put some reasoning behind the action. Give the character some dimension. Have it make sense to the viewer (or reader). But don’t cop out with a simple “I’m a woman”.

But then again, I could be wrong. I am, after all, a man.

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As a writer and an artist, I sometimes feel that I’m failure in that I’m not completely depressed and/or write depressing things. It’s a stupid thing to think about, but when many great artists and writers line up with that, it’s hard to believe that someone as generally happy and content as I am could ever be a good artist or writer, or even a great one.

At a writers Q&A panel that I participated in recently, I was surprised to hear devastating stories from the other three authors that I was with, and how those events shaped their creative lives. I sat off to the side thinking that I had never had to deal with anything like that, and I questioned if I was even a legitimate creative because of it. Should I have been damaged in some way in order to draw inspiration from and to give inspiration to others?

The answer is a resounding no. It’s always a momentary thing when I start walking that line of thought, but I always come back to the fact that it’s not a requirement to have to deal with an extreme tragedy in order to be creative. It’s a requirement to deal with life, the good and bad, to be able to draw on both when the creative product needs it.

It’s a similar debate that I have with myself when I’m writing and I feel that I’m not using enough conflict in the story. But I absolutely hate when I’m reading or watching something wherein terrible things frequently happen to a character or characters. Yes, I get that sometimes it’s a cliffhanger, and yes, I get that it’s supposed to keep readers/viewers engaged. But I do like to see good things happen to people more than just once amidst a sea of awful events. Experiencing too much negativity through a story as a reader or viewer just exhausts me emotionally, and it ends up costing me enjoyment of the creative product.

But this is all personal opinion. I know there are people out there that like to read the dark, depressing things, and there are people out there that want to read the fluffy, happy things. I like a good mixture. And that’s why there NEEDS to be creatives who have all experienced different things, good and bad, joyful and ugly. That way there’s a book or a TV show for each person who needs it.

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Wow, it’s been two months since I last posted.  I wish I could blame it on being sick twice in as many months, or the holidays, or the craziness of our lives… and I could.  But the real blame lies squarely on my unwillingness to make a post for those two months.

I’m a creative person, as you may have guessed.  I’m also a Cancer.  This means that I’m exceptionally sensitive about things.  And the fact is that my stats for this blog are dismal at best.  So for the past several months I’ve been suffering from a case of “Why bother?”.  Childish?  Perhaps.  Unprofessional?  You bet.  But it’s my personality, and it’s not something that I can change easily, if at all.

In any case, I’m here to try to get back on track, because books don’t sell themselves.  Nor do they write themselves, and that’s one thing that I can assure you of – I have been writing over the course of the past two months.  Blood of the Father is still chugging along at my normal slower-than-it-should-be pace.  But I was also (and still am) juggling multiple projects for my webcomic, including a print book that I will post about here at a later date.

So, I’m over the “Why bother?” phase and back into the “Let’s do this!” phase.  It is 2016 after all, and I promised myself that I would be pushing me harder this year than I have been.

Onward!

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Work on Blood of the Father continues to move along, if a little slower than I would wish it, but that’s par for the course.  And for the most part, I’m pretty happy with how it’s turning out.  However, I still do have those momentary doubts that nip at me and distract me with their sharp, pointy teeth.

One of the doubts I keep having is that I’m using far too much exposition.  And, really, it’s less of a doubt and more knowledge; I know that I’m adding too much exposition.  And I keep telling myself that it’s still the first draft, that I’ll be going back and trimming the fat when all is said and done.  Still, though, thinking about all that word vomit makes me think that the real action doesn’t start until too late in the book.  And then, if I remove that exposition, the book will be too short.  Then I’ll have to add stuff.  Then… then… then…

Do you see the unending line of thought here?  This is what goes on in my head, and I’m sure it – or a version of it – happens to many writers.  The best thing I can do is to keep writing, even if it is exposition.  The story is in there, in that giant block of stone.  I just have to carve it out and put the fine details on it.

Although sometimes it seems to me that carving a statue from a stone would be far easier than writing.

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Lately I’ve been watching a bunch of videos on YouTube dealing with video games, whether it be top ten lists, historical looks at the industry, or rare collections. In the midst of watching many of the videos, I find myself sort of wishing that I was more of a gamer. I’m a retro gamer; I love my old Nintendo consoles and the older games will always be more of a draw for me. But some of the more modern games look amazing to me, not as necessarily just as a gamer, but as a writer.

There was a time when video games were simple, yet still had crazy stories attached to them. I mean, Yars Revenge for Atari – which is one of my favorite Atari games – is repetitive and really doesn’t make any sense, but it actually has a story! Obviously, as technology advanced and allowed games more room to grow, the stories actually fit in with what was happening on the screen. Then, at some point, the majority of games became the story.

ff6For me, my all time favorite video game story is Final Fantasy VI (which was released as Final Fantasy III on the SNES when I was younger and first played it). This was my first real interaction with a game that was mostly story, and a great one at that. It had a fantastic setting that meshed magic and technology (a premise that I stole for my first serious story), it had characters that were fleshed out and believable, and it grew in scale as the story progressed and became absolutely epic. Yet, at the same time, it was still fun and lighthearted in many aspects, echoing some of my favorite fantasy authors like David Eddings.  I may be biased and it may be because I’m so far removed from the game at this point (haven’t played it in way too long), but I don’t recall having any problems with the writing in that game. The same could not be said for the next few installments in the franchise, however.

Nowadays, the stories combined with the exceptional graphics capabilities available make games more or less interactive movies. I know I’m behind the times in writing about this now, but my life and circumstances haven’t allowed me to shell out for new consoles or powerful gaming PCs in order to play the newest of the new games.  I typically don’t get to play games until long after they’ve been released.  In any case, it does amaze me to think that at some point, jumping into the video game industry as a writer would have been a very lucrative career move as well as a satisfying creative life.

Perhaps someday when I have a little more time to do so, I can actually start playing some of these games and immerse myself into the stories. By then, though, who knows how far video games will have advanced? Perhaps we’ll have reached the peak of the visual works and then people will be forced to up the ante on the writing, making even more amazing video games to play.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to kill a half-hour here and there by playing The Simpsons: Hit & Run.

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