Hey everyone. Got a few thoughts with a specific example for you today. The subject of this Friday the 13th is a bit of writing advice, an old saw for me, as it frequently annoys me how obsessed I used to be with it (And to some extent still am).
Let me just say that even good writing advice is clearly to use where applicable, and otherwise ignore.
On to the example. Orson Scott Card, regardless of your politics (And his are pretty disagreeable to me), is a pretty excellent writer at his best. He also has a couple writing advice books out there, including one called “Characters and Viewpoint.”
One particular piece of advice from this book is that the protagonist should be the character suffering the most who still has agency. Solid advice, if you ask me. If I recall correctly, Card also states that the greater the suffering, the greater the drama.
I think this advice is mostly good. The second part, in particular, rings true to me in an odd little example that wandered back into my mind this morning.
The lobster named Pinchy.
In an old episode of “The Simpsons” Homer (Our protagonist) accidentally boils his pet lobster while trying to give it a bath. This is a sad moment, and I guess it really does prove the drama increases with suffering. However, it does little to spoil the ridiculous bathos of Homer than eating his pet’s remains and gushing about delicious they are between his tears.
In this example, which I think is a funny episode, but one that leaves me feeling down, the humor really does come from the juxtaposition of the dramatic death and the ridiculous dinner.
In this example Card’s advice really does work, as the normally humorous Simpson’s episode is made dynamic by a tragic event.
Not every bit of advice applies equally in every situation, but if one considers the characters as if they were real people, and how they will feel in different situations, one can really deliver a dramatic punch even in humor.
Thanks for reading!