Sunday, May 25, 2008

Scooby Don'ts

Remember Scooby, Shaggy and the gang, solving mysteries every week? Well, it seems there are a few writers out there who never forgot our dear friends and their psychedelic Mystery Machine.

Charles Gramlich did an interesting post recently on reading bad fiction. It got me thinking about the relative value of learning from good fiction (inspirational!) to learning from bad (a, well, different kind of inspiration, I guess), when I realized that everything I might learn from reading crap fiction, I learned watching Scooby Doo!

1. Graceful Exposition: Now, we all need to lay a little pipe here and there, to set the stakes (or reiterate them), to fill the reader in on PERTINENT background, or to set the scene. To see how to do this gracefully, read Cold in the Light: Charles reveals detail gradually, as needed. He does this naturally, in conversations. When deep background is needed, he brings in a character whose LIFE DEPENDS on being filled in. The stakes raise, and we learn more.

By contrast, how often did Velma start the show with things like, "Gee, it sure is dark out here in the forest at night." or "Jinkies, Shaggy, I'm sure there's nothing to these rumours about a haunted mineshaft."
Then again, they were all so stoned, they thought the dog could talk...

2. Mystery: A good mystery has more than one suspect. I believe I was four by the time I figured out that it was ALWAYS the creepy old man.

3. Suspence: Not every story has to be a whodunnit. Or in Scooby's case, a What-dunnit (psst! before you call an exorcist, check out the creepy old man...), but an element of suspence is, shall we say, desirable. Highly desirable. Even in a romantic comedy.
Actually, Scooby and the gang weren't too bad at this. I mean, yeah, I was a kid, but those ghosts flying down the mineshaft/across the graveyard/over the fog-shrouded docks, with their blazing eyes and unearthly howls... Yeah.


4. Rational Action: You're dealing with a Terror From Beyond the Grave, or else some delusional and possibly violent madman (after all, he's already hoping to scare you death- the hatchet might be next!), what's a rational course of action? Some sort of trap involving electric fans, 10,000 rubber bands and a lot of feathers, of course!

Now, Scooby Doo was farce, and in farce your characters can be assinine. Look at all those Comedia del'Arte plays where the young man doesn't recognize his own sister because she has a *teeeensy* little mask on, or that his page these many years is actually a REALLY HOT CHICK with her hair up under a hat. Like I said, farce, that sort of thing is allowable (within its own set of rules, of course), but ANYWHERE ELSE, your heroes (and villains, please God the villains) Must. Act. Rationally.

And last...

A Powerful Climax: Remember being little? Remember when those howling Terrors From Beyond the Grave were so scary in the first twenty minutes of the show? I was left alone once watching Scooby Doo, just a little feller. My folks weren't gone more than ten minutes (trip to the donut shop, back in the days before children lived their entire childhoods on permanent lockdown), but by the time they got back I was shaking in terror. What if the ghost was here? In the apartment? Was that a noise?

No need to worry about me wandering off, or fucking with the stove. I was too rigid with fear to move!

That's what a strong First Act can do. Now, remember how you felt when that Dread Spectre turned out to be a seventy-two year old man in a bedsheet? On roller skates? When his unearthly howl came from tissue on a comb?

My sense of betrayal knew no bounds.

That is what a crappy climax can do. Even as a child, I hated the sell-out wusses at Hanna Barbara. yeah, I know now that they were bowing to pressure from the network, who were bowing to pressure from the advertisers, who were running in terror of every purse-mouthed, sexually-repressed, bitter old lady whose one great pleasure in life was finding Satan on a jar of peanut butter.

But, dammit, they messed up the STORY. They took away the end. And for the audience, the audience who've stayed with you from page one, messing up the end is the worst, the absolute WORST thing you can do.

(Oh, one more thing. These points, all are actual reasons I've dropped books in the last few weeks. Some of them, I dropped with extreme prejudice...)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

A Few of My Unremarkable Things...

So both Avery and Sphinx Ink have tagged me with the Six Unremarkable Things meme. The rules are:

* Link the person who tagged you. (See above)

* Mention the rules in your blog. (These are they)

* Tell about six unspectacular quirks of yours. (See below)

* Tag six bloggers by linking them. (They shall be "it")

* Leave a comment on each of the tagged blogger's blogs letting them know they've been tagged. (OK, that will take a little time.)

I rather enjoy memes, let's see how I do on this one:
(just to hedge my bets, funnies will be served as a distraction...)

1. I have a weird, Ayn Rand-ian belief (Fountainhead, not Atlas Shrugged) that we each have something in life that nourishes our souls above all other activity. It might be playing with the kids, following the Mets or crafting dollhouse furniture, but identifying that thing and staying true to it is the key to a fulfilling life.

2. That pile of wood outside is larger than my old kitchen. I'm splitting it with an axe and maul and having a BLAST!

3. I prefer cats to dogs. Nothing against dogs, but for me it's cats, all the way.

4. I went blonde again with my dreads, hence the change in the profile picture.

(even managed to get my tattoo in there!)

5. IF is my favorite poem.

6. Three times a week, I shave with a straight razor. My oldest razor is 180, my youngest a mere 60-70. I find the ritual of shaving calming: something about knowing that a moment of distraction can mean a lost nose is very centering!

Yay, fun! And for all you Tom Waits fans out there, his new gangsta rap album:

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Keeping Warm

I'd blog more right now, but those cold nights ain't gonna warm themselves!

To make up for it, here is an utterly gratuitous picture of Mr. Butler Dynamo...

Monday, May 12, 2008

Shiny Silver Jumpsuit

SO I'm a few dollars poorer, but back up and running.
The implant *does* itch a bit, but the New Wee Beastie (NWB) is smaller, lighter, and like 3.6 Gajillion times more powerful.

Why, it even runs on Edison's Electrical Current instead of good old coal!

Now, where's my jumpsuit and flying car?

Thursday, May 8, 2008


Yes, my laptop a bit... older. But it was once quite flash and it's always suited me fine.

At least, it did until last week, when the poor wee beastie suddenly decided not to read its USB ports anymore. This meant no recharging the iPod. No printing docs or backing up on my flash drive.

No downloading new photos of Midge and Butler. What's a poor boy to do?

Well, according to the Great and Mighty Google, there were a few things. Each of those things got a little harder. Checking the drivers. Deleting them in Safe Mode. Finally, I took the truly hard line: I reformatted the C drive.


Granted, Old Bessie here wasn't good for much but email and writing, but at least she was good for that. Now, I'm slowly, painfully, *dial-uppingly* (the WiFi, of course, refuses to go) rebuilding from the rubble. New settings. New downloads. Some of my favorite old programs have... changed. Mostly for the worse.

Reluctantly, very reluctantly, I'm looking at new machines. The kids they got these days are faster and cheaper than Old Bessie ever was. It'll be sad to see the end of an era.

I'm thinking about the new laptop from SkyNet. It promises good things...

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Perhaps that splatter graphic will explain how my rewrite goes. And why I've been a bit of a stranger, blog-wise.

Still, it's necessary. One of my characters *had* to change motivation. She goes from hanging on in the periphery to being right up front in the action. She has good reasons to show up where and when she does. To do the things I wanted her to.

Of course, she also has good reasons to go off the reservation on me. Her acting in her own best interests is having bigger consequences than I thought. Oddly, she gets more and more with the rest of the program in the second half of Act II. But changing this one subplot turns out to be a bigger deal than I thought.

While looking for that bloody splatter, I found this little gem: