What I learned about writing from 30 minute cartoons

I’ve been watching a lot of animated shows lately. Baseball season is coming to a close, and my Texas Rangers are playing a lot on the West Coast, meaning their games are on really late. So I did what any self dignified nerd does:
I started recording animated series and watching them. Mainly Batman and Superman, sometimes I catch Ninjago or Pokemon. But I’m older now, and instead of just watching Batman pummel people or Superman fly off into the distance I’m paying more attention to the stories themselves.

They are full of references to previous time periods, pop culture, and even have comedic elements. And more importantly: most of them are good. They keep my attention and make me want to get to the ending.

And then I started thinking about the stories I write.

Do they make people want to get to the end? Do they have drive?
I think some do and some don’t; hopefully I know which ones so I can throw them away.

So here’s the challenge:

1. Watch some old cartoons
Catch some old cartoons in reruns, or buy a dvd set. I like the DC Universe ones, great Sci Fi, bu there are countless other series. GI Joe, Transformers, Dragonball; just to name a few. See how the stories are good or bad, really analyze the plots and circumstances.

2. Try writing something with an established character

Try writing some fan fiction. C’mon, you know you want to. Use a comic book character, or movie characters, just try to make something new with something old. You’ll be amazed at how much you can learn about your writing, and how much you can change things that are boring.

3.  Watch some more cartoons

Ok, so I couldn’t think of a third point. But hey who doesn’t love cartoons?

Let me know if this helps!

Short Stories – Serials, or One Shots?

Lately I have been writing a lot of short stories.

A few of them are actually good, some not so much.

But we’ve already discussed the importance of getting out the good with the bad.

With thee advent of my stories came another question though:

Am I writing these characters only once, or are they going to come back?

One character I wrote, Mal West is his name, I think will come back. He’s a detective, and there’s always a case. In another one I wrote, the characters name is Hershel Gentry, and he isn’t coming back. Although, he kind of thinks he’s a detective…

Anyway, here’s the bigger question:

Can this short story turn into a lot of short stories?

If it can’t it’s ok. I wouldn’t want some of my stories to be a series. That would be a pretty lame series. But if it can, here are some helpful guidelines.

1. Make your character lovable

I don’t necessarily mean they have to be loved by everybody, but they need to be memorable. If your audience can get into the character, they are definitely going to read more than one story about them. So give your character a quirk, or personality trait, or even a weapon that everyone can distinguish as that character’s.

Example: Superman stands for truth and justice, Monk is a hypochondriac, and King Arthur has a magical sword.

2. Give them an occupation that lends itself to stories

So my character Mal West is a detective. He solves crimes, and there’s never a shortage of crime. So the first one I wrote is a murder case. Next time maybe a theft. After that another murder. But the point is that he can have several stories written about him, and he’s being a detective, but he’s always got a different case.

Example: Batman solves crime from a plethora of villains (Joker, Two-Face, Penguin, Ra’s Al Ghul)

3. Don’t forget the mood

So in a previous post I talked about how short stories are more about ‘mood’ than anything else. I still hold to this. So when you get a series going, don’t forget the mood. It’s really easy to slip into a cookie cutter story writing mode if the characters are always the same. So be prepared to change the mood from story to story. One could be sad, one could be dark, one could be lighter. Just don’t forget the mood when writing a short story, or it will be just another short story.

What have you been writing? Tell me please. If you’re writing short stories, are they one shots or serials?