techniques and secrets of Arsenic Lullaby
Writing part 2
Okay now that i've told you what not to do...here is some tips on what to do.
FIRST...here is what i consider before i even go forward with a story. "if a hundred stand up comedians were in a room, how many of them could have come up with this?" if the answer is more than 10 i generally skip it. There are some exceptions, like say i NEED something for a deadline or i feel that the illustrations will carry it to a level that someone else couldn't do justice to. AND of course if you are writing horror or crime or romance or something other than comedy you'll want to use something other than "comedians". but the point is you have to keep in mind you are competing with the entire world. if you are not doing something unique, something better than the competition, than why would anyone bother reading it. "if a hundred comedians where in a room how many of them could have come up with this"...this question is how you force yourself to a higher level, and trust me you need to be writing on a higher level. You are competing with people who are more skilled and have been doing it longer and people who are more talented and don't need to work as hard. DRIVE and PUSHING YOURSELF TO BE BETTER is the difference between success and failure.
SECOND ...assuming your idea has passed the test of no.1, commit these words to memory- PERSICION, IMPACT, HEART. Your story needs each of these things.
PERCISION- this is demostratable skill in the work. for me "precision" is skilled illustration, details, correct perspective, interesting backgrounds that add to the stroy...if you are only a writer this would then pertain to skill in writing - a beginning middle and end that work together ...anything that shows that you are a accomplished professional who knows what they are doing.
IMPACT-something that grabs the reader, something that shocks them via a wildly original idea, gore, violence, a interesting camera angle, something that GRABS THEM.
HEART- this is important ...heart would be defined as something that they can identify with or makes them forget they are reading a story and feel like they are in the world you have created, heart is a reason they should give a fuck. In Arsenic Lullaby, and really in most stories, heart is the characters. Voodoo joe just doing horrible things would not be as great if you didn't get the impression that you knew the character...Joe bitching and moaning is important because it's funny, but it's more important because it let's the reader know who he is, what he's about. He's no longer just a 2 dimensional character delivering gore, he's a character, a person, that has a bit of depth and that makes it all that more disturbingly believable.
When you create a character...give him personality, it draws the reader a little deeper into the world you've created, and THIS sets the stage for other jokes or twists. It's not just dialogue that does this, it's body language, reaction to other characters, clothes, and the physiacl environment he/she is in and why.
Get this all to jive and you then have another dimension to work with- the dimension of that personality dealing with things. Joe's two greatest adversaries are a girl scout and a kid with no hands...it's ridiculous and almost so contrasting as to be boring and predictable-"the evil bastard's rival is a kid...gee how clever" what made it great was that Joe's personality was established enough for it to instead be- "ha! the only one he can't shake is the stupid kid". Joe was established to be genuinely evil and just as genuinely a jerk. It was established that he was exactly the type of person who would let a little thing like a girl scout selling cookies drive him nuts...it was established that he's the kind of person who would feel the need to beat that girl on a her level. if he was just a 2 dimensional character everyone would wonder why he doesn't just kill her. 3 dimensional Joe wouldn't just kill her because that wouldn't be satisfying enough for him...he is often his own worst enemy because he like most humans has a flawed moral code, like most humans a victory is more about satisfying his ego than an actual goal. And like most humans it is the triumph or failure with the little things in life that keeps us up at night. it is why we curse the printer rather than re reading the manual, why we jiggle the key three times as we put it into the lock rather than getting a new one made that's not bent. We struggle all day long with things we don't need to struggle with not because we don't have time to fix them properly but because in our own sick way, deep deep down, on some level, we enjoy the struggle. Or at least some of us are wired that way...i am. Which brings us back to advice i gave you last time ...inserting your friends or your personality into the characters.
People often ask which of the characters is the most like me. truth be told there is a facet of my personality in all of them, the gleefully jerkiness of Joe, the blind faith in his work of Edgar, the misery and haplessness of the Clot and Baron Von Donut. each of them is like a recipe. a dash of my own twisted circular logic, a dose of the beligerantness of a guy i know, the self assured dismissiveness of old men over the age of 65 stir and there you have Tex Buckaroo...you these things have to congeel and be mixed properly and let sit in order for the personality to stay consistant but you get the idea.
now...let's put all three elements into play.
Voodoo Joe is in a diner agreeing to help a guy get even with his brother.
Precision-the diner has to look real, have little details (stains, empty dishes, chairs and decor that fits, posters that you can almost read) the subconscious picks all this up and says "i believe we are looking at a diner" or "something's missing, i don't buy into it"
Impact-there is a guy WEARING A TIKI HEAD...IN A DINER..with a FETUS ON HIS SHOULDER
Heart-why is he working out of a diner? because he's too lazy and preoccupied and suborn to create or find a better more suitable local.
that should be all you need to know to get started, i don't pretend to be Mark Twain so i don't know that any of the other guidelines i use are suitable for everyone or even correct. but at least now if you listen your won't be putting out boring crap that your friends have to pretend is good because they are your friends and don't want to hurt your feelings.