Thursday, February 20, 2014

Writing the SpongeBob Life

Somewhere in the dim, dank recesses of our basement storage are boxes filled with assorted VHS and DVDs of childhood years.  Among them is a set of SpongeBob Squarepants episodes.

I liked SpongeBob.  He loved hamburgers and . . . well, he lived in a pineapple under the sea.  He also lived vicariously through an assortment of characters who served as friends and foils.  As I recall, one friend was Squidward--a fellow who played the clarinet (and that no so well), and another was a squirrel named Sandy (who wore a glass dome on her head so she could live under the sea).  Watching that show, and other animated features, always impressed me as a writer's paradise.  With animation, a writer can do most anything.

Many years ago, in college, I had a course in Shakespeare, and the professor pointed out that there are, in actuality, few plots.  Shakespeare was a master at using similar plot lines over and over again.  Certain of these involved a flawed hero (Hamlet), the star-crossed lovers (Romeo & Juliet), or plots that were either tragic (the hero's flaw ends badly) or triumphant (the hero's flaws are overcome and there is redemption at the end).

Writing novels (and short stories) basically involves one of these (or a few other) plot lines.  The writer may not always be aware of using a plot, but nearly all novels are formulaic to some degree, with mysteries, thrillers and romances being the most predictable.  Still, a great genre novel never misses, and the best writers have a knack for kicking some new or unexpected element into an old formula.

And for those who want to write comedy, I don't think you can go wrong with studying SpongeBob episodes.  Take out the starfish and the blowfish and the Crabby Patties and you have some decent comedy here. With a few holes in it.


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