Friday, May 30, 2014

Tales of Myrick the (Not So) Magnificent, Volume 1

Are you sure you want to be an adventurer?

Believe me, there are plenty of dragons, moronic guards, golems, evil sorcerers, zombies, blood-thirsty plants, undead necromancers, bandits, and troglyns out there who do NOT have your health and happiness in mind. If it weren't for my friends-the squirrel-like Nut-boy, the beautiful yet brawny Princess Frederica, and the ever-loyal but brainless Nonac the barbarian-I wouldn't be alive today to warn you about the many dangers out there. Of course, possessing magic running socks helps a lot, too, even though they seem to get me into trouble as fast as they get me out.

So, I've compiled a few of my life experiences in an effort to convince you, my good friends, to just stay home, lock your doors, and keep a loaded crossbow handy. Oh, and have a barbarian around in case something needs to be thumped senseless.

 

It's out today! This is a fun series of stories that I've been writing over the years. It is a YA fantasy/comedy that pokes fun at fantasy tropes and characters. The collection starts out with the three 'prequels' that I wrote for various sources, like Smashwords and in the compilation: Wandering Weeds: Tales of Rabid Vegetation. Those first three stories are called: The Princess and the Privy, The Crypt of the Undead Sorcerer and Other Vacation Spots, and Of Weeds and Wizardry. The other two installments are novellas consisting of 12 episodes each and were published as serial stories on Big World Network. They are entitled The Lord of the Socks, and How to Hug a Golem. Big World Network is now a free site, enabling anyone to access all the content, including the audio versions. If you can't get enough Myrick, there are three more seasons available there that will one day in the near future also be compiled in print form as volume 2. Currently, the sequel to Delroy Versus the Yshtari is running on Tuesdays there, called Delroy Versus the Pirates of Poughkeepsie. It is a sci-fi/comedy.

Here are the Amazon links for print: http://www.amazon.com/Tales-Myrick-Not-Magnificent-Volume/dp/0692218173
And Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/Tales-Myrick-Not-So-Magnificent-ebook/dp/B00KNFB81M

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Serious Look at Comedy, Part XIB

Part XIB
An Hysterical Analysis: Galaxy Quest, Part II

Just an FYI: May 30th will be my launch of Tales of Myrick the (Not So) Magnificent, Volume I. I'll post more details here once I know some. It is several YA fantasy/comedy serials I wrote for Big World Network.

Anyway, when we left off from the last episode, our intrepid heroes were about to be blasted into atoms by the evil, lizardlike Sarris.

38:40 into the movie. So the ship goes into combat and gets shot up. That's not so funny, but it does increase the tension. It's important to point out that tension is a very needed part of good comedy. When are things funniest? Often times, it is right after a stressful situation. Good comedies know this and utilize it, like here. Humor following tension allows us an even better release.

39:45. Here is a brilliant combination of two comedy techniques: parody and understatement. Fred reports from engineering in a deadpan tone, “Generators won't take it. The ship's breaking apart and all that. Just FYI.” The understatement alone is humorous, but when you realize that this is a parody of the original Star Trek, it makes it all the funnier. Whenever good ol' Scotty reported from the engine room about how bad things were for the Enterprise, he was the total opposite of Fred as he would be screaming in a panic, “She just can't take it anymore, cap'n!” We could also say there's a little slapstick here, because while Fred is delivering his report, the aliens behind him are in a panic and look like they are about to be sucked out into space.

40:ll. The mine field scene. More tension, but also humorous quips to break it up. We see Tommy's panicked reaction while Guy dives under a desk. Alexander says to Tommy, enunciating distinctly, “Try not to hit every single one!”

42:43. The ship's computer doesn't respond to the other crew members. The aliens, in their efforts to make the ship exactly like the TV series, set it up so that the computer would only respond to Gwen. And then all she does is repeat what the computer says. When Tommy gripes, “That is really getting annoying,” Gwen replies, “I have one job on this lousy ship, it's stupid, but I'm going to do it!”

43:47. Mathesar takes the blame for the disaster because he'd seen the crew (in the TV show) overcome greater obstacles. The crew decides it's time to explain that they are just actors and not real heroes. Gwen asks, “You don't think Gilligan's Island is real, do you?” Mathesar answers, “Oh, those poor people.” We still get a laugh at their misunderstanding. Just when we think the Thermians might be starting to understand, they laugh in their goofy way and think the crew is just joking.

45:50. Fred group hugs the Thermians who just helped him find out how to solve their power problem. This is a cute-funny.

46:00. Alexander finds out he has a protege. One of the Thermians has taken the Dr. Lazarus Mak-tar code as his own. Alexander doesn't know what to think of it, but we get to laugh at this Thermian for dedicating his life to a non-existent code. Alexander forbids the alien from saying, “By Grabthar's hammer,” referring us back to his earlier panic attack over the line.

47:15. The crew has to go down to an alien planet to get a new power sphere. Most of the crew looks nervous while Fred smiles and eats his cheese and crackers that he got from the vending machine before leaving earth. Again, we see opposite reactions as Guy has a panic attack about dying again. Alexander uses an old cliché, “Are we there yet?” This shows that clichés can be a great source of comedy when used right.

48:38. After landing on the planet, Guy panics when Fred opens the shuttle door. Guy, “Don't open that! This is an alien planet. Is there air?” and he holds his breath. Fred sniffs and says, “Seems okay.” Again, opposites.

49:27. We get a chance to laugh at and mock Alexander. He played the scientist on the TV show but doesn't know how to operate a real scanner the Thermians gave him. Tommy adds insult to injury by saying, “I actually thought you were smart.”

50:49. They see the 'cute' aliens. “Are they the miners?” Alexander asks. Fred answers, “Sure, they're like three years old.” Alexander responds, “Miners, not minors,” giving us a combo of word play and ridicule humor. Gwen sees a hurt one and wants to help it. Guy, in his near panic mode, stops her and asks, “Did you guys ever watch the show?” When the aliens turn mean and ugly, as Guy predicted, the crew turns and runs. Gwen says the classic line, “Let's get out of here before those things eat Guy,” playing on Guy's fear that he is the expendable one. To make things even more uncomfortable (thus funny to us) for Guy, they come up with the plan they used in episode 81: the episode Guy's character, Crewman Number Six, died in. Again, some good parody of the red shirt phenomenon in Star Trek.

53:05. They try to come up with a signal. Tommy wants to make a 'caw' sound until Jason brings up that they have communicators, thus ridiculing Tommy. They get Jason back, though, after he rolls around all commando-like and then loses his gun.

53:38. We get a comic look at Fred as he is rolling the beryllium sphere and carrying his snack bag in his teeth. Jason says, “Never give up, never surrender,” and the rest of the crew tells him to shut up. Tommy, who is on the lookout, starts screaming, “Caw, caw!” Here is the repetition technique, bringing up the earlier joke and giving us another laugh at it.

54:00. We see their comical escape as they roll the sphere back to the shuttle. When Jason ends up staying behind so that the others can get away, Alexander brings up his jealousy from when they were doing the TV series, “You gotta be the hero. Heaven forbid anyone else gets the spotlight.” Jason punches Alexander into the ship. As they lift off from the planet, Alexander adds, “It's always about you!”

55:25. We get some classic awkward-uncomfortable humor when Jason wakes up to the large, slimy tongue of an alien pig. Fred has to try and figure out how to use the digital conveyor, which is a parody of the Star Trek transporter. Gwen tells Jason that it's perfectly safe and then the Thermians inform them that it hasn't been successfully tested. Meanwhile, tension for Jason is getting ramped up as he has to deal with the pig-thing. They test the conveyor on the pig and it is beamed up inside out. Gwen tells Jason everything is fine but one of the Thermians interrupts with a truth statement (something true but shouldn't be said), “But the animal is inside out.” Jason starts to panic and the crew lies to him again that everything is okay. The pig remains then explode, spreading guts all over them (discomfort). The Thermian adds another truth that should be unsaid, “And it exploded!” This isn't helping to calm Jason at all.

59:00. To make matters even worse for Jason, a rock monster shows up. Tommy suggests that Jason go for a vulnerable spot. We get another true but funny line when Jason yells back at them, “It's a rock! It doesn't have any vulnerable spots.” Guy's next suggestion falls into the non-sequitor humor category when he says, “Form some kind of rudimentary lathe.” This might also be harking back to the Star Trek episode when Captain Kirk used raw materials to fashion a cannon to defeat the Gorn.

1:00:47. Fred figures out the digitizer (after a smile from Laliari, the cute Thermian girl) and brings Jason up to the ship. Jason, of course, lost his shirt during his fight with the rock monster. Alexander gets in his quip, “I see you managed to get your shirt off.”

1:01:55. Sarris boards the ship. Guy sees him and passes out (slapstick). When Sarris learns that the crew are really a bunch of actors, he enjoys revealing to the Thermians the concept of lying. This devastates them, giving us a serious moment again that we'll need some release from.

1:07:25. Here we have the 'whiff of death' moment (see: Save the Cat, by Blake Snyder). All seems lost and the characters are about to die. Jason and Alexander fake a fight to distract the alien soldiers who are about to kill them. They succeed, sending the alien lizards out the airlock. Fred returns us to a lighter vein when he apologizes for the airlock door being sticky and he'll have one of his boys get some WD40.

1:10:40. We don't stay humorous for long as the ship is about to explode. They don't know how to shut down the reactor until Jason remembers that the kids on earth were into all that tech stuff and they have a real communicator. He calls up the leader of the kids, Brandon. Brandon goes into a semi-depressed mode and says, “I understand completely that it's just a TV show.” Jason tells him, “It's all real,” which causes Brandon to have a complete turn around in the opposite direction as he shouts excitedly, “I knew it!” I think this taps into an inner desire many of us geeks have: that our fantasy worlds are real and we can go there.

1:14:07. During a doom and gloom scene with Sarris, we see one of the aliens that was ejected into space smash against the ship's window like a bug hitting a windshield. It's kind of a slapstick/parody of life.

1:16:09. Guy decides to accept his role that he is the “red shirt” and going to die no matter what. He decides to be a distraction in order to save the others. Fred suggests, “Maybe you're the plucky comic relief,” which is exactly the role that Guy has been playing throughout the movie (truth). 

1:17:18. Meanwhile, Jason and Gwen have been running through the bowels of the ship in an effort to prevent it from exploding. They go through all sorts of ridiculous situations like you'd see in a cheesy sci-fi show. Gwen finally blurts out, “This episode is badly written,” poking fun at several sci-fi tropes all at once. After barely surviving the 'chompers', she screams, “Whoever wrote this episode should die!”

1:18:29. Fred gets an idea to take out the aliens by digitizing the rock monster into the midst of them. As the rock monster takes out the aliens, Fred says, “It's the simple things in life you treasure.” Laliari then kisses Fred, causing Guy to say, “Get a room.” When Laliari's tentacles wrap around Fred, he just looks at them and continues kissing her. Most people would be grossed out by it (like Guy), but Fred takes it all in stride (opposites, doing the unexpected).

1:20:00. Alexander and his protege rescue a room full of trapped Thermians. The Thermians give Jason the credit, causing Alexander to grimace and say, “It's just not fair.” At the death of his protege, though, he takes on his Dr. Lazarus personae, dispelling his previous disdain for the role. He says his famous line from the show, “By Grabthar's hammer, you shall be avenged,” and attacks the alien who shot his protege.

1:22:30. Jason and Gwen finally make it to the room and push the button to stop the timer. The countdown doesn't stop. In a panic, they try to call Brandon. We get a quick cut scene of Brandon running out of his house while taking a bag of trash to the garbage can. He is trying to explain to his mom the life and death situation he's involved in while his mom reminds him about the recyclables. Back to Jason and Gwen, they prepare to die until the countdown stops at exactly one second. This is again making fun of a common trope, since the countdown on the show always stopped at one.

1:24:00. We get some action here for a while. Sarris is supposedly vanquished by using the unknown 'Omega 13'. Unfortunately, though, the ship is about to crash to the earth (tension).

1:32:00. Brandon is running out of his house with an armful of fireworks. His parents see it and we get a humorous non-reaction from them when Brandon tries to explain that the ship is about to crash. His mom just tells him, “Dinner's at 7.” After he leaves, his father gives his mother a questioning look, prompting his mom to say, “Well, he's outside.” This is a truth statement pointing out that we nerds have a tendency to want to stay inside and play on our computers instead of get fresh air.

1:33:50. The ship crashes into the convention, panicking the crowds. The crew exits the ship, eliciting applause. The announcer proclaims, “What effects,” not realizing the crash was real. Guy is introduced as “another shipmate.” They say of Alexander, “Give a big hand, he's British.” When Sarris appears, the crowd shoots Nerf guns at him. They applaud when Jason disintegrates Sarris with a real ray gun.

Okay, I know I skimmed over a few things here to shorten this. A lot of what I found funny were all the 'awkward' moments throughout the show. And of course, the little parodies of Star Trek were brilliant. I hope you learned a few things from this analysis that you can use to help you in your own comedy writing. 

Unfortunately, my schedule is getting more hectic and I'll have to take a hiatus from this series. I'd like to continue, but it probably won't be weekly. There's just too little time and too much to write. I've got five novels screaming inside my head to be let out, so it's kind of noisy in my skull. Still feel free to send questions or thoughts about this series, I'd love to hear them. Until next time, live long and prosper and party on, dudes.
 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Serious Look at Comedy, Part ???

I'm afraid I must apologize. This has been a busy week and I have not been able to get back to writing my analysis of Galaxy Quest. This has been one of those weeks where I've had more to do than time to do it and something had to be cut out. Hopefully, I'll have some time next week to get back to it.

On the good news front, one of the things that has kept me busy is getting ready for the print launch of The Tales of Myrick the (Not So) Magnificent, Volume 1. It is scheduled to be released May 23rd, so as I get more details, I'll let you know. One of the things I'm trying to get ready is the audio book version. I've already done the audio for the two seasons that were released through Big World Network (The Lord of the Socks and How to Hug a Golem), but I'm releasing the three prequels (The Princess and the Privy, The Crypt of the Undead Sorcerer and Other Vacation Spots, and Of Weeds and Wizardry). The three prequels are taking me longer to record than I planned, due to technical issues and the fact that they are a lot longer than one of my typical weekly episodes. They'll come out to almost two hours of narration, but the time-consuming part is all the editing it takes to get a clean sound.

Until then, live long and prosper.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Serious Look at Comedy, Part XIa

Part XIa
An Hysterical Analysis: Galaxy Quest, Part 1

A couple of months ago, while watching Galaxy Quest on a road trip, I took notes on some of the things I found funny or remotely humorous. Of course, writing out something like this is going to kill the comedy but I hope that this analysis will help you understand some of the comedy techniques we've been discussing. Also, remember, we all find different things funny, so what I bring out may not be funny to you and I may miss a few things that you thought were hilarious. I'll use the movie character names here because of the confusing aspect of actors playing actors playing characters. *Spoiler Warning* Everything that follows:

In the first minute, we see an over-acted “lost episode” during a fan convention. This establishes the movie as a spoof of our dearly beloved Star Trek and its conventions.

At two minutes, we see the actual 'intrepid crew', but we get the rule of opposites here: they are neither intrepid nor very happy to be around each other.

When we hit 3:40, the captain, Jason Nesmith (Tim Allen), arrives. He is happy and soaking up all the attention he gets from these conventions while the rest of his crew is not (opposites).

5:15: Alexander (Alan Rickman) wears a rubber head in order to reprise his role as an alien character from the old TV series. He refuses to say his famous line, “By Grabthar's Hammer,” establishing that he is tired of his role and wants out. The video behind him says it anyway and we see his chagrin.

6:05: When Jason finally comes out, he revels in the attention he is getting from the crowd as he says his famous lines. When he tries to continue, the mic gets cut off, creating an awkward and embarrassing situation for him.

7:22: A group of kids who are big fans of the show arrive to ask Jason about a 'conundrum'. Here is some truth in humor as this isn't so much as mocking fandom but portraying it and letting us see some of the humor. Of course, they get cut off as Jason decides to go flirt with Gwen (Sigourney Weaver).

8:04: Aliens, called Thermians, from the Klaatu Nebula arrive (this name probably is a reference to the 1951 sci-fi movie, The Day the Earth Stood Still and the line 'klaatu berada nicto', creating a nice little inside joke for sci-fi fans). They look silly and awkward. There is a misunderstanding between them and Jason; Jason thinks they are booking him for a 'gig' while the Thermians think he's a real starship captain who can help them with an evil bad guy. We get so see another silly aspect of them as they imitate Jason saying 'mum'.

9:25: We then get a serious moment when Jason overhears people making fun of him. He comes back to the signing table and snaps at the kids with the conundrum. He then goes home and gets drunk. This isn't funny, but it sets up character motivation and some humor down the road.

12:00: We see Jason hungover and not wearing pants (this is always funny, right?). Meanwhile, the Thermians show up, looking as goofy as ever. Here we see opposites again with Jason a hungover wreck while the aliens continue their humorous smiles. The aliens also talk in a silly way.

13:08: Mathesar (Enrico Calatoni), the Thermian leader, says, “You are our last hope.” At this moment, Jason isn't giving us much hope of anything.

13:39: Here we get one of my favorite parts of the movie. While Jason is looking for his shoe with his underwear-covered butt pointed toward them, Mathesar says, “This is our greatest honor we could hope to achieve in our lifetime.” This combines embarrassment with a statement of truth.

13:48: Those of us who have ever sent kids out to find something get a kick out of this when Jason asks for help finding his shoe and the aliens just stand in one spot and humorously look around, smiling.

14:23: In this scene, the Thermians are riding with Jason in a limo. As one of the aliens goes into some exposition about their problem, we are distracted from it's boredom by the Jason's actions. We get a further distraction when when he tries to flirt with the cute alien girl, Laliari (Missi Pyle), who then speaks in a shrill (thus, funny) voice because her translator is broken.

15:30: Jason wakes up, drooling (awkward, ridicule). He burps (crude). At this point, Jason still believes this is an acting gig. It is a conflict of misperceptions.

16:55: Jason makes a joke but it flops (awkward), mainly because of the different interpretations of the situation.

17:14: Jason sips from his soda as he addresses the big lizard-like baddie, Sarris. The Thermians are all frightened while Jason thinks the special effects are good and he is still just doing an acting job. Jason acts bored by Sarris's speech so he orders a full assault. We see an alien running around the ship in a silly fashion (reminiscent of Monty Python's Ministry of Silly Walks sketch). We finally learn the aliens were hoping Jason would negotiate with Sarris, not fire on him (awkward). Still, it looks like Jason defeated Sarris so the aliens are grateful for him saving them. Jason is again put in an uncomfortable situation when Mathesar tries to hug him.

19:07: We see Jason go into a panic when ooze covers his body (think: pie in face) in order to shoot him back to earth. He realizes that the whole situation he was just in was real (including revelatory music) just before he is launched through space, screaming (more opportunity to laugh at his discomfort). When he lands, he is standing next to his pool, shaking.

20:12: The rest of the crew is at a store opening and reciting lines like they'd rather be somewhere else. Jason shows up, bumping into the kids. He accidentally swaps the real communicator the aliens gave him with a fake one belonging to one of the kids. When Jason reaches the rest of the crew, he tells them what happened to him but they don't believe him. He tries to prove he's telling the truth by activating his fake communicator. The others mock him by showing him theirs.

At 21:51, the Thermians returns with bad news: Sarris was not defeated. Jason uses a malaprop when he introduces the Thermians as 'termites'.

22:51: There's more misunderstanding when the rest of the crew starts to suspect Jason is talking about a job. There's that moment of silence while they all ponder the possibility before they all dash out of the van at once (comedic rhythm). Guy (Sam Rockwell), who has just been tagging along as an outsider, joins in, not realizing what he's getting himself into.

24:18: They are transported to the Thermian base. The Thermians walk into the room without their disguises, thus freaking out the crew. They restore them just before Jason shows up. Guy screams, in opposition to Jason's excitement. When Fred the engineer (Tony Shalhoub) arrives, Jason and Fred poke fun at the rest of the crew. “What's wrong with them?” Fred asks. Jason answers, “I don't know.” As they walk further into the ship, Tommy the pilot (Daryl Mitchell) falls down, providing us with a little slapstick.

At 25:57, we see the aliens worshiping the crew. The crew learns that the aliens believe the television transmissions of their show are historical documents and thus, all true. The aliens have no concept of acting, pretending, or drama. This sets up the humorous situation the crew finds themselves in: they are frauds. We get further humor when the aliens don't recognize Guy, but when he tells them he was in the show, they revere him as much as the other crew members. Gwen summarizes the situation by saying, “We're actors, not astronauts.”

29:33, Jason is eating up all the attention. Alexander says, “It's like throwing gasoline on a flame.” At the same time, Guy is all smiles, just loving being a part of the crew which puts him as an exact opposite of Alexander's glumness.

30:26: Thermian crew called in by Malthesar's screech and they enter with their characteristic silly walk.

30:50: Jason says to Tommy, “Loredo, take us out.” Tommy, “Excuse me?” Tommy may have been the child pilot on the show but he has no idea how to actually fly the ship the Thermians constructed for them. As they launch, things seem to be going okay until the ship starts drifting to the side. We get some visual humor as they try to use body movements to steer the ship away from the side of the dock. The ship hits and we get the obnoxious scraping sound for several seconds until the ship clears. Once clear, we see Tommy's embarrassment as the Thermians all clap.

33:15: The crew is served food the Thermians think they'll like based on their observations of the 'historical documents'. Since Alexander plays an alien in the show, they assume he likes the tics they serve him. Alexander says, grimacing, “Just like mother used to make.” This allows us to laugh at his discomfort as the tick does a dive back into the bowl. Also at this time, Mathesar goes into more boring exposition. Everyone is now paying close attention except for Guy, who is first dangling a long string of alien spaghetti into his mouth and a moment later, gags on it.

35:30: After seeing the previous captain being tortured, the crew tries to make a run for it. This is no longer just an acting gig, but a life and death situation. We get Guy's speech, “I'm not even supposed to be here. I'm just crewman #6. I'm the guy who dies.” This is an obvious poke at the high death rate of people who wore red shirts in the original Star Trek.

36:29: Jason talks to Sarris again to explain the previous 'misunderstanding'. Tries to have Gwen mute the broadcast. Jason then calls Sarris stupid and ugly (insult humor). Unfortunately, Gwen didn't mute it and Sarris hears every word (awkward). We then get Guy speaking some highly-complex terminology by saying, “Red thingy moving toward the green thingy. I think we're the green thingy.”

Anyway, this is getting a little long and one of my goals with this series is to give you short, quick articles to read. I'll take up the rest of the movie next week. Until then: never give up, never surrender!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Serious Look at Comedy, Part X

Part X
Steer Truck: Into Dorkness

Sorry for being a little late, but when I started on this project, I did initially say Thursday or Friday. Hopefully, not too many of you lost sleep as you anxiously awaited this installment. Once you read it, you are welcome to take a nap.

This week, we'll talk a little more about setting. What are some other good ways to create a humorous world to put our intrepid main characters in? We can try spoofs, parodies, and satires. Some of the already aforementioned worlds of Douglas Adams (Hitchhiker's Guide) and Terry Pratchett (Disc World) fit into one or more of these categories.

Spoofs: are a lighthearted imitation of something in order to make fun of them. The movie Galaxy Quest is a good example of this. Even the title is a play on words for Star Trek. All through the movie are subtly hidden spoofs of the original Star Trek series, like Tim Allen managing to get his shirt ripped off. In fact, there is so much we could discuss about this movie that I'll save that for it's own installment.

I've done this in my Tales of Myrick the (Not So) Magnificent by creating a fantasy world that pokes some fun at traditional swords and sorcery. I also threw in characters that spoof classic heroes like Conan and Elric of Melnibone.

Parodies: are pretty similar to spoofs, and are often considered the same, but I would differentiate them as something making fun of a more serious source material. For instance, in 1969 the Harvard Lampoon produced a book called Bored of the Rings that hilariously mocks the names, situations, and characters from Tolkien. They did another one called Doon based on Frank Herbert's classic with a similar sounding name.

Satires: have been with us since at least the Greeks. They tend to expose human or society foibles in such a way as to ridicule them. This is the source of a lot of the humor from Adams and Pratchett as they bring up aspects of English society in their sci-fi or fantasy worlds and make them look ridiculous.

There are all sorts of levels for these categories from subtle to outrageous. It's up to you to decide to what degree you want to show these elements, but be careful of how weird you get or you might lose some of your audience.

Next week, I'll see if I can do a scene-by-scene breakdown of Galaxy Quest, but no promises.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

A Serious Look at Comedy, Part IX

Part IX
Location, Location, Location

Last week we talked about how we can create a humorous atmosphere by putting our main character against their supporting cast. This could also be classified as the 'man versus man' conflict. This week's topic is related, but this time we pit our wily and witty hero against their social environment, or 'man versus society'. Of course, putting our character against their setting also includes the 'man versus nature' conflict, too.

This is pretty simple. Say we want to have a scene at a fast food establishment. What's the fun in having it at a boring old place like that? How about if we have them meet at Wally's Wiggly Pickle Palace? First off, the name connotes humor, but it makes it more believable when silly/funny things happen. In Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, did they take Napoleon (yes, the Napoleon) to some run-of-the-mill ice cream place? No, they took him to Ziggy Piggy and had him 'eat the pig'.

So, having a funny-sounding name adds humor, but how about if we spice up the location a little? In the upcoming second season of Delroy Versus the Pirates of Poughkeepsie, I needed him to go investigate the New Vegas Space Station and Casino. I was racking my brain trying to think of how I could make this setting more interesting and create humorous conflict. I realized that casinos often host conventions. I next asked myself, what kind of convention could be going on during Delroy's visit? How about a Star Trek convention? That would allow me a few inside jokes for sci-fi fans. I also decided that Delroy would know next to nothing about Star Trek while his butler-bot, Minx, would be an expert on it. This creates a 'fish out of water' situation. Fish out of water is a great way to put our characters in conflict with their surroundings. We can see this in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy or The Hobbit (books and movies – the movies even used the same comic actor—Martin Freeman).

Another thing we can do is create an entirely humorous world to set our characters in. This is what Douglas Adams did in Hitchhiker's as well as Terry Pratchett with his Discworld books (and the city of Ankh-Morpork). Another series I enjoyed was the Myth series by Robert Lynn Asprin. These are all good to study if you want to see how to create a comical yet functional world.

Of course, man versus nature can create humorous situations, too. Most of the time, though, this type of story is more dramatic, such as Jack London's short story To Build a Fire or movies like The Perfect Storm. The only humorous example I can think of right now is the 2004 movie Without a Paddle. It all boils down to how the characters respond to the stimuli or their situation that makes it comical.

So, have fun and happy world-building.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Serious Look at Comedy, Part VIII

Part VIII
Journey to the Four Realms

How else can we make our stories humorous? How else can we create that 'atmosphere of funny' that we talked about in Part III? 

Character interactions. It's where our main point-of-view character is in opposition to the cast that surrounds them. Sometimes it's just two characters, like cop-buddy stories, but we don't have to limit ourselves to only two.

I break this into four categories. First off, we have the serious main character with a serious supporting cast. How boring. We'll save that category for those who want to win Oscars or other awards.

Next, we have the serious character with a comic supporting cast. When I was writing Dragon War Relic, someone in my writing group mentioned my 'Kermit the Frog' character. At first, I didn't know what he meant until I realized that Jared, my very serious, down-to-earth main character was surrounded by a wise-cracking teen, a vegetarian ogre, and three short elves who loved Star Trek and had Tolkien-elf envy. With the Muppets, Kermit is the one sane character surrounded by Fozzy Bear, Miss Piggy, and Gonzo the Great. Other examples: Space Jam (Michael Jordan versus all the Looney Toons) and Back to the Future (Marty McFly versus Doc Brown, Biff, and his teenage parents). Oh, and how can we forget good ol' Arthur Dent in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy?

Another category is the comic character with a serious cast. The main thing that carries this is the POV character's 'comic perspective' (which I'll try to expand upon in a later installment). Basically, the comic perspective is the way the character perceives and comments on their world. This is often what makes stand-up comics so hilarious. The first example that comes to mind for me is ABC's Castle series starring Nathan Fillion. You have your wise-cracking author (who we writers tend to idolize) surrounded by a bunch of serious NYPD detectives. From the literary world, we have the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, except we have a wise-cracking wizard in modern-day Chicago. Or Larry Correia's Monster Hunter series with Owen Pitt. I currently have a series on Big World Network called Delroy Versus the Pirates of Poughkeepsie which, obviously from the title, pits my clever scam artist (at least he'd like to think so) against a bunch of cut-tongue killers.

Lastly, we have the comic main character surrounded by yet even more goofballs. One famous example is the Disc World series by Terry Pratchett, where you have people like the criminal Moist Von Lipwig (funny-sounding name, too) surrounded by an entire city of hilarious characters. My Big World Network serious Tales of Myrick the (Not So) Magnificent also is set in this kind of world, with my wizard-wannabe Myrick traveling with the ever-fearful Nut-boy, the thought-challenged Nonac the Barbarian, and a surfer dude from San Diego who possess a sword that sucks all happiness out of its victims.

So, hopefully that gives you some food for thought as you are creating your worlds and characters. Good luck.