Thursday, January 31, 2013

This is a weak section

Weak parts really make me sad. Sort of like if you have a favorite author or TV series and you hit a bad book or episode. You just feel the promise that this should have been awesome, only, alas, it was not. That's how I feel about this section. We needed to pass the time and establish some things, but none of the things I needed to establish or show really stand as funny. What's worse, is that to keep on schedule, I had to churn this out in about half an hour. The draft quality shows, and I am ashamed for even doing it. Rules are rules; hopefully tomorrow I will redeem myself with Lucy's morning. I also feel bad about the bouncing back to Lucy. I feel like there was too much swapping recently, and I don't like it.

As always, the Table of Contents is here; the fiction is below the fold

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Misfunderstandings Continue

My favorite part of comic misunderstandings is right when both parties have committed to the misunderstanding. In this piece, Peter cements his misunderstanding of Kenny and Sam, and Kenny locks in on thinking Peter is a negligent pothead. What this moment does is it sets us, the audience, into the role of watching the comic tragedy start to shift into focus. "Oh," we say. "Something is going to go wrong because he thinks this thing that is wrong."

The fundamental misunderstanding between two parties is the basis for lots of comedy. Why is Fawlty Towers funny? Because Basil thinks the wrong guests are hotel inspectors. Watching a character who thinks they are right do things while being so hideously wrong amuses us because the character has reached their incorrect conclusion often due to some fault of their own. In this case, it is less a character flaw in Kenny and Peter that lead to this misunderstanding, and more just different parcels of information. Either way, today's fiction is below the fold, and the table of contents is here.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Of Course He Was Going to be a Jerk

It wouldn't be comedy if Jon was a general nice guy who just wasn't a morning person. No, he is an archetype that's fairly common in these sorts of stories. The all-American smiler who, behind the camera, isn't what he seems to be. There's a dream episode of Saved By the Bell where Zach is on the verge of becoming this, or does. It's been awhile since I saw it. What I like about this scene is that, since we're in Lucy's head, we know that she's offended. We know that she's uncomfortable, and we get to see it from her shy, non-confrontational perspective. Which makes it a lot funnier than if we saw it from a third-person perspective, because we, the reader, would wonder how Jon isn't picking up on any of it. It also calls back a defense mechanism that we've seen Lucy use in the past (imagining saying or doing something vindictive, yet just), while setting up any number of potential future jokes.

As always, fiction below the fold, and the table of contents can be found here.

Everyone Makes Phone Calls!

The cell phone is an amazing tool in modern fiction. It lets you tell stories with people in radically different places talking to each other, without having to deal with logistics like you would with stories even set in the 80s. I mean, they also mess up a lot of possible tension and plots ("Why doesn't so-and-so know such-and-such? They have Google in their pocket!"), but you can avoid that because of Rule of Funny.

I'm trying two new things with today's post. First, posting in the morning before work. We'll see how much I think this is a good idea come 10:00. Second, regular readers may have noticed a post go up yesterday or Sunday that didn't get much announcement anywhere. It is a table of contents post. That'll be where I direct people to from now on, instead of having a rolling TOC throughout each post, to help save space. So, fiction below the fold; check out that link if you've missed anything. Today: We're back with Lucy.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Lucy and Sam: Table of Contents Post

This post will be updated as new posts are added detailing the continuation of the Lucy & Sam story, for lack of a better name. The first few links appear above the fold; to reach the rest, go after the jump. I have created this blog post to alleviate the bloat that is happening on each post with a longer and longer list of links.

1. Start of Lucy's first chapter

Mis-fun-derstanding

Misunderstandings are crucial to setting up good comedy. Mis-overhearing conversations, misinterpreting vague clues and only hearing half of a phone conversation are all crucial, humorous ways, to create uncomfortable situations for our protagonists. Some are fairly easy to make misunderstandings, and others are radically out there. All could be solved if someone just stopped and asked: Wait, what do you mean there with that ambiguous comment? That is, of course, if it isn't all for a school project. You will not believe how long it took me to draft this conversation, and how many times I had to go back and make sure that it was both vague and clear enough to work. I think I failed. It took a little bit of effort to make sure to weave in the right bits to put the reader's mind into the right part of the Overton Window, but if it does work, I'll feel like the three or four days I've spent tinkering with it are justified. And yes: I do sometimes like to drop big fancy ideas like the Overton Window and Détente so my readers can learn something. I'm a helper.

In this case, the set-up is just obvious enough that the reader should get the misunderstanding, but vague enough that someone not paying attention will miss the set-up, hit the reveal (that is coming later), and then double back and realize it is hilarious in hindsight. In this case, I laid it on pretty thick, so you shouldn't miss the mistake. If you don't get what the confusion is, ask. I'm sure someone will explain it. Fiction below the fold; check out what you've missed in the links before the jump.

1. Start of Lucy's first chapter
2. Conclusion of the first Lucy chapter
3. Start of Sam's chapter
4. Sam's story continues with an unfortunate evening
5. Our two main characters interact as Sam gets shot down.
6. We're back with Lucy as she reflects on her new boyfriend
7. Lucy has a little crush; isn't it adorable?
8. Lucy never gets any peace.
9. Sam gets a phone call.
10. Sam meets "Rusty."
11. Sam ponders important questions.
12. Lucy is a wreck.
13. He has a night job.
14. The title makes you think it'll be a different joke than it is.
15. Lucy's mind wanders.
16. I make up a new term.
17. Lucy calls Sam.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Making More Time In Your Games

People like table-top role playing games, but the general consensus is that a lot of the role playing has subtly turned more into combat roles than character roles. The main reason for this, I am going to posit, is pure economics. Resources, specifically.

The first resource is Time. The average time people have to game drops as they age and responsibilities kick in. The two times in your life when you have the most time to play games are at the bookends of it. For everyone else, there isn't time for a day-long delving into the lair of the dark lich. Combine this with the second resource/problem: Players, like any other actor in an economy, are rarely rational actors. These are the two biggest factors standing in the way of getting more RP in your RPG.

So, how do you get more out of your RPG?

Friday, January 25, 2013

In Which Lucy and Sam Speak

I like getting our two leads together more, but it is hard to do. The phone will have to suffice. I also feel like this is getting us into Sam's head more, which is useful. I like the construction style, where our lead spends a few paragraphs living inside their head and narrating their thoughts, before we get to move the plot forward. It feels a natural way of writing, but ideally, I'd spend more time making sure that the conversation ties into what they're thinking about. The important part about this is that it tells us where Sam is going to be tonight, story time. It also helps to build up on Sam's misunderstanding about Rusty, and serves to remind the reader about Lucy's little white lie. Either way, I think I'm looking at a time skip soon to the evening, because I'm running out of things I needed to set up to knock down.

Anyway, fiction below the fold. Check the links for parts you've missed. I'm hesitant to call them "chapters," so let's stick with parts.

1. Start of Lucy's first chapter
2. Conclusion of the first Lucy chapter
3. Start of Sam's chapter
4. Sam's story continues with an unfortunate evening
5. Our two main characters interact as Sam gets shot down.
6. We're back with Lucy as she reflects on her new boyfriend
7. Lucy has a little crush; isn't it adorable?
8. Lucy never gets any peace.
9. Sam gets a phone call.
10. Sam meets "Rusty."
11. Sam ponders important questions.
12. Lucy is a wreck.
13. He has a night job.
14. The title makes you think it'll be a different joke than it is.
15. Lucy's mind wanders.
16. I make up a new term.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Sitcom Détente

Sam and Fiona have a hate-hate relationship. But, not really hate. More simmering dislike. They are in Sitcom Détente. This is the situation where two people who, in real life, would never tolerate each other, do for the sole purpose of amusing our audience. Think of Niles and Roz during the early parts of Frasier; Lisa and Screech in Saved By the Bell, and so-on-so-forth. There is sometimes a patina of an excuse for why they get along with each other (shared friends, family, coworkers, etc.), but they end up in such close proximity so frequently, it is like a cosmic force is trying to concentrate their hate.

This leads to very unnatural and awkward moments where the audience will think that one of the two went too far, but the writers intended the slight to simply be another in a series of escalating put downs. Worse yet, sometimes the audience actually thinks the people genuinely like each other (though that is usually where the relationship ends up at the end of the story arc.) It's hard to do well, and I don't think I've done it well. But, we can always try. If nothing else, I hope that the phrase Sitcom Détente enters the comedy lexicon, even if it is just among the small group of people reading here. Fiction below the fold, check the previous links if you've missed anything.

1. Start of Lucy's first chapter
2. Conclusion of the first Lucy chapter
3. Start of Sam's chapter
4. Sam's story continues with an unfortunate evening
5. Our two main characters interact as Sam gets shot down.
6. We're back with Lucy as she reflects on her new boyfriend
7. Lucy has a little crush; isn't it adorable?
8. Lucy never gets any peace.
9. Sam gets a phone call.
10. Sam meets "Rusty."
11. Sam ponders important questions.
12. Lucy is a wreck.
13. He has a night job.
14. The title makes you think it'll be a different joke than it is.
15. Lucy's mind wanders.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Back With Lucy and Sam... Again

I present the next section as a sad offering. I tried to make it fun and relevant. But, it is one of those working pieces that just creates a bridge. I think this piece helps to explain why I didn't think Christine could carry a story on her own. She's just... not a strongly identified person yet for me. I don't know what I need to make her real, but whatever it is, I don't have it.

Fiction below the jump; the links to previous chapters are right here.

1. Start of Lucy's first chapter
2. Conclusion of the first Lucy chapter
3. Start of Sam's chapter
4. Sam's story continues with an unfortunate evening
5. Our two main characters interact as Sam gets shot down.
6. We're back with Lucy as she reflects on her new boyfriend
7. Lucy has a little crush; isn't it adorable?
8. Lucy never gets any peace.
9. Sam gets a phone call.
10. Sam meets "Rusty."
11. Sam ponders important questions.
12. Lucy is a wreck.
13. He has a night job.
14. The title makes you think it'll be a different joke than it is.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

I Have a New Assistant

No fiction to be posted today. We're at 32 pages and the next few sections need more TLC before they are ready, so I'm far enough ahead of the curve for a page-a-day that I think I can take a break until Monday evening to make them perfect. If you have any complaints, bring them up with any of my assistants.

Sullivan the Cat, Junior Assistant, is standing by.
The Dwarf Lord and his shield bearers are working on their customer service skills.
Charrlie is now Senior Assistant in Charge of Thrashing.

For the most recent Lucy and Sam chapter (and links to past ones,) click here. For all previous fiction, check the blog year in review post here.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Another Long Reach for a Short Joke

One thing you can do in written comedy you find harder to do on stage is to have scenes like today's play out. It would interrupt the flow of a film to suddenly have a flashback that does nothing more but define relationships between characters, especially since it would break up the rather brisk plotting required to keep comedy moving forward. Very little of what's seen here is important in the grand scheme of things, except that it helps show how Christine and Lucy are foils for each other and paints their rival-friendship in a clearer picture. It also brings us back to humanizing Lucy more by showing us the things that we liked about her at the beginning.

Ultimately, a lot of the jokes feel kind of flat, and frankly, I feel like I've written their conversation poorly. I can write conversations fairly well, but I feel a bit out of my element here. Do women actually talk to each other like this? I don't know; I'd assume so. Put downs and jokey cutting remarks are how men talk with each other in a friendly, bantering way. Then again, people tell me women are different, so I don't know. If the genders were reversed (and we changed Christine's shot about Lucy's figure into an equally degrading shot about a man's figure), would the conversation still flow as well? Would Christine come off significantly more of a jerk for treating Lucy like this than a Chris would for treating a Luke? These are questions I'll never have an answer for; suffice it to say, that from reading this, it should be clear that Lucy and Christine are friends, but Christine is definitely the "fun and down-to-earth" one, while Lucy is the boring one. Which is odd since Lucy wants to work in film while Christine seems to have a boring office job.

The reason this conversation happens here is that it is one I've sketched out for them, but it doesn't fit anywhere else in the flow of events for this story. But, I liked it too much to abandon it entirely. It was actually the first full conversation I plotted out between the two. Initially, I was going to start telling the story from this point, but I felt like Christine wasn't a strong enough character to carry the narrative load. I think she works better as a supporting character rather than a lead; especially since we know nothing about her. I got a real good, intuitive grasp of who Lucy is. But I don't really feel like I have that for Christine, except who she is in relation to Lucy.

The initial story would have been involved complications building out from Christine's prank. Initially, she swapped out Lucy's VHS tapes, and Lucy's parents brought her a DVD player, so Lucy decides to upgrade her movie collection and donates her old tapes to a school or children's hospital. Hilarity ensues. That plot probably would make an excellent short story, but the longer reaching plot involving how Lucy and Sam screw up a charity dinner seemed more challenging to write.

Either or, fiction below the jump, follow the links if you've missed a section. As always, comments welcome.

1. Start of Lucy's first chapter
2. Conclusion of the first Lucy chapter
3. Start of Sam's chapter
4. Sam's story continues with an unfortunate evening
5. Our two main characters interact as Sam gets shot down.
6. We're back with Lucy as she reflects on her new boyfriend
7. Lucy has a little crush; isn't it adorable?
8. Lucy never gets any peace.
9. Sam gets a phone call.
10. Sam meets "Rusty."
11. Sam ponders important questions.
12. Lucy is a wreck.
13. He has a night job.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Clarity Is For Suckers

The thing about comic protagonists is that they have to mean well. Even when they're accidentally destroying everyone around them's lives, they mean well. That's why we like them; zany schemes are always for a good cause. Watching them mean well and get kicked around is amusing for us. Especially when they're treated in such horrific ways that we'd never stand for in real life. People like Dr. Cox can get away with treating people like crap because it is funny when it is fictional.

On the bright side, we also know that, ultimately, in the end, the nice ones tend to win and comeuppances are paid forward. With a passive character like Lucy, that comeuppance usually has to come from an outside source, but the point is that despite her flaws, we don't like bad things happening to our narrator. At least, I hope we sympathize with her. Or I've been doing this all wrong.

As always, fiction below the fold. Click the links to see past sections. On a side note: People seem to be Googling to find their way to this piece. I don't know why, but I don't see anything like that getting posted for awhile. We've got a long way to go to get to the end of this story.

1. Start of Lucy's first chapter
2. Conclusion of the first Lucy chapter
3. Start of Sam's chapter
4. Sam's story continues with an unfortunate evening
5. Our two main characters interact as Sam gets shot down.
6. We're back with Lucy as she reflects on her new boyfriend
7. Lucy has a little crush; isn't it adorable?
8. Lucy never gets any peace.
9. Sam gets a phone call.
10. Sam meets "Rusty."
11. Sam ponders important questions.
12. Lucy is a wreck.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Lucy Is a Wreck

Part of the fun of having two protagonists in a piece of comedy is that we get to see things falling into place. Either or, since we already knew what was going to happen to Lucy, we were freed up to spend some more time in her head than watching the scene unfold. Which is good, because I feel like too much of her early chapters focus on building up to the present. Not only that, since things just happen to her, we don't get to spend enough time just listening to her, like we do with Sam. Not only that, but Lucy is really finding her voice as a character better and better, I think. She feels kind of generic in the first section, but now I've got a good feel for the level of snark she keeps in her internal monologue. We also get a feel that she's better at reading people than Sam, but that she's also a bit more self-centered than he is. She's not selfish; she just is Lucy-centric in her thinking until she can shake herself out of it.

Also, she's a liar, but a liar of convenience. Not calling the insurance people? Sure, sure. That's fine. Telling everyone she has a boyfriend to avoid uncomfortable flirting? That's fine. The threshold for what Lucy is willing to lie about is a lot lower than she thinks, which makes her a fun character to write. As always, fiction below the fold; click the links to follow along.

1. Start of Lucy's first chapter
2. Conclusion of the first Lucy chapter
3. Start of Sam's chapter
4. Sam's story continues with an unfortunate evening
5. Our two main characters interact as Sam gets shot down.
6. We're back with Lucy as she reflects on her new boyfriend
7. Lucy has a little crush; isn't it adorable?
8. Lucy never gets any peace.
9. Sam gets a phone call.
10. Sam meets "Rusty."
11. Sam ponders important questions.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Sam Ponders Important Questions

Sam is a deep thinker. He puts plans into motion; part of what makes comedy work is that there must be a zany plan. However, you should never go straight to zany. No, you need to work your way up the totem pole. You start with a simple plan. Eventually, you have multiple zany plans going at once. Then, hilarity ensues.

One thing I like about this is that we see a different relationship between Sam and Kenny and Christine and Lucy. Sam and Kenny seem like close friends, and they have a history. Lucy and Christine may live together, but there's a lot more tension in that relationship, probably because they live together. Sam seems comfortable with Kenny, and the two acknowledge each others' differences. Lucy seems bitter whenever one of Christine's suggestions backfires. What amuses me about this scene is that if Sam had listened to Kenny, nothing would continue spiraling out of control for him. If he went with his guy and confronted Lucy, nothing would spiral out of control. It is by taking a third option (a zany scheme!) that things continue on a crash course for farce. This feels like a good place to end Sam's morning, and because I have a good feel for what I want Lucy to be doing next (well, that and watching Sam get shot down again isn't funny. It's just sad.)

Fiction below the fold; follow the links to get caught up.

1. Start of Lucy's first chapter
2. Conclusion of the first Lucy chapter
3. Start of Sam's chapter
4. Sam's story continues with an unfortunate evening
5. Our two main characters interact as Sam gets shot down.
6. We're back with Lucy as she reflects on her new boyfriend
7. Lucy has a little crush; isn't it adorable?
8. Lucy never gets any peace.
9. Sam gets a phone call.
10. Sam meets "Rusty."

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Sam Meets Rusty... Sort Of

So, we the reader know there is no such person as Rusty. Sam, however, is unaware of this fact. Therefore, he is prepared to reach some incorrect conclusions when his morning takes an awkward turn. The fun thing about misunderstandings like this is that you can have a character say perfectly innocent things, while the audience is fully aware that everyone else in the scene is hearing something else entirely. It's a bit harder to do in text, and I hope that it translated well.

This is one of those scenes that worked really well in my head, because I kept thinking things like "Then he says something funny, and it is funny." That does not work as well during the actual writing process. Fiction below the link; check the links if you've missed a beat.

Poor Mortimer. Poor Lucy. Poor Sam.

1. Start of Lucy's first chapter
2. Conclusion of the first Lucy chapter
3. Start of Sam's chapter
4. Sam's story continues with an unfortunate evening
5. Our two main characters interact as Sam gets shot down.
6. We're back with Lucy as she reflects on her new boyfriend
7. Lucy has a little crush; isn't it adorable?
8. Lucy never gets any peace.
9. Sam gets a phone call.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Sam Gets a Call

Not a lot of commentary today on this fiction. Like Lucy's section, this is a chance to forward the plot, while trying to build some relationships. Unlike Lucy, who is a relatively mild, well-spoken young lady, Sam and Fiona are a bit more rough in their language. So, heed your content warning as two cranky people have an early morning phone call. As an added bonus, this is probably the only time in the currently outlined version of the story that Sam ever actually wins; therefore, he is right to savor it as much as he does.

1. Start of Lucy's first chapter
2. Conclusion of the first Lucy chapter
3. Start of Sam's chapter
4. Sam's story continues with an unfortunate evening
5. Our two main characters interact as Sam gets shot down.
6. We're back with Lucy as she reflects on her new boyfriend
7. Lucy has a little crush; isn't it adorable?
8. Lucy  never gets any peace.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

On Binders and Discretion

I think I know a guy who might have some, because, you know, he bothers to be prepared.

Well, actually, there are probably a lot of people with binders of women, but there's only one that has it in the context that the author means. Remember when it was worth mocking and making memes about a man who took proactive steps to ensure the sort of diversity that is now lacking in the White House? How does it go? I was told if I voted for Mitt Romney, the White House would lose its diversity, and they were right.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Lucy: On Dress Codes

This is the last section for Lucy for a bit. She has condensed a lot of plot; enough that I am taking tomorrow off from this story to draw a character diagram for myself so I don't forget things. Most importantly is setting up the proper call backs and references between characters. In comedy, this creates a rapport between people. It's why you might have a comedy relief duo or trio in a more serious piece. You create a bond between the characters which makes them seem more real, while also giving them a specific niche of humor to work from. This dynamic is what you can use to build a running joke that grows and then gets subverted, like these scenes from Police Squad, which rest on the dynamic we build between Dreben and the scientist (my favorite being when he walks around the set.)

This can be either a specific style of humor or a subject of humor. In Frasier, Niles and Roz have a very specific dynamic with each other. Urkel and Carl have one in Family Matters too. Think of pretty much any sitcom (or comedy in general, I think,) and you find different dynamics in play between parts of the ensemble. In this case, we've now created some character pairings. We have Lucy and Jon; Lucy and Sam; Sam and Kenny; Sam and Fiona; Christine and Lucy; Lucy and Roger, and now Lucy and Peter. Also: Poor Lucy. Nothing ever goes her way. This feels like a good time to switch back to Sam for the next session, solely because we've set most of the dominoes in motion for her side of the story. It is now time to start setting up things from the other end so that it can all explode in everyone's face.

As always, fiction below the jump, while the links below can help bring you 

1. Start of Lucy's first chapter
2. Conclusion of the first Lucy chapter
3. Start of Sam's chapter
4. Sam's story continues with an unfortunate evening
5. Our two main characters interact as Sam gets shot down.
6. We're back with Lucy as she reflects on her new boyfriend
7. Lucy has a little crush; isn't it adorable?

Probably my favorite Police Squad quote: "We would have come earlier, but your husband wasn't dead then."

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Opposite of a Perpetual Loser

I feel like Lucy is too competent to be a good comic character in the same way that Sam is. Sam is funny because he's awkward and unsuccessful. Lucy is funny because situations conspire to make her miserable. Along with the perpetual loser, Lucy's fits another comic archetype. She isn't a loser; she has a job she likes and loves. She has friends. She's clearly attractive and could be dating if she wanted to. But, she's frustrated by her instincts to please people. She doesn't want to hurt feelings; she wants to be liked.

Most of all though, she wants to do all of these things the right way. But, she's weak. She takes the road of least resistance for any number of reasons, and that sets her up for comic falls. She's a bit of a push over; she's nice. She is the sort of person who could be your friend, but in the world of the comedy she's also the passive protagonist. Unlike Sam who acts, and funny things happen, Lucy has things happen to her and she reacts. She's not quite the straight man in the act; she's the foil.

As always, fiction below the fold. Click the links to catch up or join us from the start.

1. Start of Lucy's first chapter
2. Conclusion of the first Lucy chapter
3. Start of Sam's chapter
4. Sam's story continues with an unfortunate evening
5. Our two main characters interact as Sam gets shot down.
6. We're back with Lucy as she reflects on her new boyfriend.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Back With Lucy

I think Lucy has more words than Sam now. So, we're back to Lucy and Sam. Today, we're trying to move the plot along while still giving us a chance to watch Lucy squirm. We're also seeing her in the element she'd much rather be in. One of the things about comedy is that it has to be tightly plotted, almost as tightly plotted as a legitimate Who Done It?

A legitimate murder mystery, by the way, is one in which the reader is given all the clues the investigators receive and has an even shot of resolving the crime. With comedy, the audience should be able to start to get a vague inkling of how the story is going to climax. The exact details shouldn't be telegraphed, because if they are you lose a key element of comedy: the unexpected reveal. Even gag comedies, like Police Squad/The Naked Gun, which rely on a constant stream of little funnies, build up to set piece finales.

In comedy, the reader/viewer has an idea how things will end. You surprise them by either playing with how you get to that end game, or you surprise them by subverting the end game. The point being that, this bit, is a rather slow part in service of plot, that, hopefully, still has enough amusement to not frustrate the reader. Fiction below the fold, catch up with the links above the fold. As always, the page-a-day fiction, minimal editing happened here.

1. Start of Lucy's first chapter
2. Conclusion of the first Lucy chapter
3. Start of Sam's chapter
4. Sam's story continues with an unfortunate evening
5. Our two main characters interact as Sam gets shot down.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Bringing Sam and Lucy Back Together

There's one thing that is easy to do on screen or stage that is hard to do in writing. That is, to have someone enter the scene at just the right moment to turn an awkward scene into a hilarious scene. It is easy to see someone in the background perk up and look over just as the hero reveals the web of lies,  makes a confession or says something that is easily misunderstood.

In text, it is hard to do that, because it relies on the coincidence. Which, ultimately, in text is hard to do, especially if you're doing it in first person. In this section, I tried to keep Fiona, as a character, on the periphery throughout both Lucy and Sam's sections. This means that she isn't just introduced suddenly for the point of the joke. We've established she is there, she is working and that she is, by God, annoyed with Sam, friendly-ish, with Lucy, and that she has every reason to be busying about the O.G., as Sam calls it.

Whether it works though is a question to be left up to the readers. Fiona's timely arrival is solely to make Lucy squirm. Which is what we should fully expect, because that's what happens when people lie in sitcoms. Fiction below the fold; if you're just joining us, the first chapters are available at the links below:

1. Start of Lucy's first chapter
2. Conclusion of the first Lucy chapter
3. Start of Sam's chapter
4. Sam's story continues

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Further Adventuers With The Perpetual Loser

The perpetual loser is a sitcom, and in general, comedy, main stay. Watching someone fail is funny. We like it because we see a bit of ourselves in the loser, but we also see that the loser has the moment where he could turn comic failure into triumph. The fact we see exactly what Sam should say in this situation, and that we wait for him to stumble into it, gives us two good feelings. One, we get to see someone fail, and two, we get to know we would not have failed given that opportunity.

Comedies require a gentle sort of loser for the reader. Modern comedies have given us what I call the Jerkomedy. In this, we can't identify with the hero. The "hero" is a psychopath at worse, a deliberate jerk at best. He doesn't have a foible that makes him human: He is a raging man-child out to take revenge for petty slights, or simply because he can get away with it. We root for the jerk hero not because we want him to win, but because we want his victims to suffer. He might get some comeuppance during the story, but by the end, by virtue of being pitted against even viler people, we cheer for them because the situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody's part, and the hero is just the guy to do it.

You always want Urkel, Danny or Zach Morris to win because, at their hearts, they are decent people. I haven't seen a lot of modern sitcoms, but you can usually judge the quality of them by how often you're rooting for the heroes because you like them as opposed to because you want to one-up their antagonists. You can have non-heroic comic heroes and do it very well (Seinfeld is probably the best example), but there's something a lot different in that sort of set up.

The point of all this is that, that is sort of how I see Sam. They are relatively oblivious to each other's back stories and goals, but we want them to succeed on some level. Sam is a bit pathetic, but I feel like, once we get inside his head, we get a much clearer picture of who he is. This helps us identify with his goal. As we watch his self-inflicted wounds while trying to achieve it, I want to know if we're coming to root for him because we like him, or if we're just enjoying bad things happening to him. I don't know, but whatever. I'm just rambling now. Fiction below the fold. We're 12 pages in (if you total up the whole of the piece), so we're making good on a page-a-day.

Note: Lucy is not quite the perpetual loser; she fulfills a different role entirely.

For those just picking it up now, you may want to go to the start of the story, in the following links:

1. Start of Lucy's first chapter
2. Conclusion of the first Lucy chapter
3. Start of Sam's chapter

Monday, January 7, 2013

Further Adventures With Sam

One thing I find hard for a comedy story is telling it in third person. It just feels weird, since a lot of comedy comes from getting a good voice for the protagonist. Not only that, most of the comedy I like best comes from word play, irony and farce. However, you can't set up "things the character doesn't know, but the audience does" with a first-person POV (or at least, at my level of writing skill, I can't.) You can do it from a third-person POV, but then you lose some of the power of a voice.

A way around that, of course, is to have a whimsical narrator. I'm not a fan of writing a whimsical narrator because then, the POV starts to take on a character of its own. Take Terry Pratchett's Disc World stories; they have an extremely effective third-person POV, but you would be hard pressed to convince me that the narrator is not as much a character as Vimes or the Patrician in the stories.

There's another way to get around this problem, which I have employed. That is to share narrating duties, much like sitcoms have multiple view point characters, in the classic A-Plot, B-Plot construction. Characters in the A-Plot are working toward one goal, those in the B-Plot are working toward a separate goal. Their interaction forms the basis of our narrative flow (Oh no! Joey and Jesse are trying to work out creative differences while Stephanie wants to be a big girl like D.J. Hilarity ensues.) Through this plot construction, we create things that the audience knows that the principals in the A-Plot and B-Plot don't know without having to completely slow down a plot to have some "As you know" conversations.

So, we're taking a break from being inside Lucy's head to slow down the story and readjust reader expectations. Here's an interesting thing to try if you know someone who might want to read this, but has not yet read Lucy's section. Have them read this section first, then have them read Lucy's side. See if their impression of Sam is different from yours.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Further Adventures With Lucy

I don't know how this character has managed to live for seven pages, despite me not really having a good idea. As much as I love writing comedy, from a theoretical perspective, I hate writing comedy from a technical perspective. I think good comedy builds up to a specific moment where the protagonist of the piece either achieves something or sees his or her goals crushed. But, just like tragedy, that needs to happen through their own fault. Simply having outside forces conspire to crush the hero is not funny, just cruel. That's why Frasier is hilarious; everything that goes wrong is because Frasier and Niles are flawed characters, who we still want to root for despite their flaws. The obvious influence of sitcoms should be becoming more apparent in the pages below.

I don't know yet if I like Lucy. There's no reason I picked Lucy except that I was thinking of sitcom-y (not to be confused with situational Communist) sounding names, and the first one to come to my mind, obviously, was Lucy. I don't even know if I really have a vivid image of what anyone looks like (except Christine is short, her date is handsome, and Sam is plain, but not unattractive.)

And, yes. Sam is named after that Sam.
* * *

Saturday, January 5, 2013

It Really Is Oscar Material

I was going to post some more thoughts on the last fiction piece I posted, and maybe the update if I posted late enough today to have two solid enough draft pages to feel like sharing. Instead, I saw this. It is super delightful to see what parents will go through to help their children.

It is a heart-warming story of a father who will stop at nothing to crush his son's hopes, and a son who, against all odds, still finds a way to disappoint his father. Someone, make this a movie.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Writing Tests

Every few months, while I'm doing this fiction a day, I try to do writing challenges. What this usually means is that I spend more time writing things outside than inside my comfort zone. Which is perfectly fine by me. One criticism I always receive, and one I think most writers is that they don't write the opposite gender well. The sneaky way around this is to minimize the role of that gender in your stories. Sneaky doesn't mean good. Anyway, below the fold, the first three pages from this year's page-a-day work. I don't like it, but I think it is a good start.

I actually don't like the first three pages I've written this year. Which makes me sad. Last year, one of the first projects I started was Across the Gap, which I became very happy with as a working draft, and at some point, I'd like to go back and revise and edit in detail.

But, for now, I'm not sure -what- exactly is going on with this story. It's... very stream of consciousness, which is part of the reason I don't like it. I hated To The Lighthouse, with a passion. I feel like I can redeem it with the punchline at the end, but even that feels weak, since it doesn't tie in with the opening story at all. It really feels a long reach for a flat joke.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Carrots: The Universal Snack

Carrots are a great snack. Even without anything, they are amazing. You can add hummus or peanut butter with relative ease; if you're willing to spend some time in the kitchen, you can even use them in some form as a side or topping for almost anything: sandwiches, pizza, pasta, rice. Anything.

They sell them in giant, orange bags. Well, the bags are clear plastic, but they look orange because of the carrotness of the bag. These are the thoughts I have after working at the new building. This year's blogging will be a bit slower, and I don't expect to get back into the full swing of things until next week. But, for now, carrots.

Or whatever snack you prefer.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Fiscal Cliff Averted... New Cliff Scheduled

We enter 2013 with legislative insanity in the wings. At 2:00 a.m., the Senate passed a fiscal cliff deal. This deal, like every other large, omnibus bill passed by Congress, is a hodgepodge of ideas, Senate vote-winning handouts and overall politicking that makes a very large, very awkward, deal. Let's look at some of the signature things that CNN claims the bill solves: