Uncategorized, Writing

More Lessons Learned from Watching Friends

Last month, I talked about watching the first two seasons of the sitcom, Friends, on Netflix. Now I’ve completed watching through the end of season five and I thought I’d share what more I’ve learned since then.

 

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1) Archetypes

Last time I talked about how Joey, Chandler, and Ross are archetype equivalents to Kirk, Bones and Spock (respectively). Now I wanted to talk about the girls. They are also a power trio called the Three faces of Eve. Phoebe equates to the playful innocent one, Rachel equals the hot and sexy one, and Monica is the calm and capable wife or team mom. Interestingly, Monica is the one who shown to be someone who could build a home life and is therefore a good match for Chandler. Rachel is definitely the hot one, the one we all desire to be. Phoebe veers toward being a manic pixie dream girl when the show highlights her eccentricities to the point of weirdness.

Utilizing archetypes with a twist is makes an effective story by combining a universal element with a unique spin.

 

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2) Comic Exaggeration

Over five seasons, the comic identifying characteristic for each individual becomes increasingly exaggerated. Joey starts out as somewhat dimwitted but by the end of the fifth season his stupidity is often played for laughs. Sometimes, I think he gets dumber every show. Phoebe was always eccentric but now she is just weird. Ross was always high-strung and type A but now he delves toward whiney jackass.

Some of these are due to the sitcom format. But it’s still a cautionary tale. Character quirks can quickly become irritating if exaggerated too far.

 

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3) Couples

At the end of the second season, Ross and Rachel became a couple. In a sitcom format, they couldn’t allow them to be a happy couple for long so by the middle of season three, they go “on a break” and never really reunite as a couple. So therefore the beta couple of the show, Monica and Chandler, become the main couple and the heart of the show within a single season. They get together in the finale of the forth season and are moving in together at the end of season five. Ultimately, their relationship is shown as a healthy example and much more interesting than the endless on off-again, merry-go-round of Ross and Rachel.

I’m still enjoying watching the show. I’ll report back at the end of season seven.

Writing

What Writing Fanfiction Taught Me About Writing

As a professional writer, I often get asked why I would “waste my time” writing fanfiction rather than original work. I never quite know how to respond to that. The short answer is that, for me, it’s play or that it’s just for fun, like a baseball player tossing a ball around with his child in the yard or a ballerina going out dancing at a club with her friends. It is my way of playing with my writing talent.

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I think most writers, if they’re honest, started out writing fan fiction. How many times have you seen a movie, watched a show, or read a book and wondered about some loose plot line or a different ending or even just what happened to them after the story ended? Writing that down is fan fiction. With the advent of the internet and sites such as Archive of Our Own (AO3) or Fanfiction.net, fan fiction can be shared easily.

Also, as a new writer, there’s a lot to learn—point of view, description, action, characters, setting… It’s daunting to have to come up with all that at once. It’s fun to play in another person’s world for a while. For me, I often set out to learn a specific technique, such as deep point of view, by writing fan fiction. I’ve also used it to teach me how to write certain story arcs or plots, such as sex to love romance (the inverse of the typical romance plot).

Posting my writing has led to interaction with readers and fans which I hope will be very helpful when my original work comes out. Writing and sharing my fan fiction has given me confidence in my own writing and the courage to publish my original work. It also taught me where my natural talents lie as a writer (dialogue, humor, angst) and what I will never be good at (Description!). It taught me discipline, to set deadlines and meet them, to finish my work and get it out there.

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Additionally, it’s given me a writer community. I have dear friends and brainstorming buddies all over the country, connected by the wonders of the internet. We have ongoing Skype chats and a weekly “drabble night” where we gather together at the same time and enjoy writing sprints for a specified period of time.

When I decided to write this article, I asked my friends what fanfic taught them. And my dear friend, Heather, answered with this opening line, that I think encapsulates it perfectly:

Writing fanfic has taught me that I have stories and ideas worth telling.

 

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Disney, Writing

What Building Legos Taught Me About Writing

So, we recently enjoyed Fox’s two week holiday break from school (also known as “No, you will not write so much as a sentence, Mommy! No productivity for you!”). Santa as well as wonderful family members and friends brought Fox lots of Legos for Christmas. His gift to me was the Cinderella’s Lego carriage.

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Suffice it to say that Fox and I spent a lot of time on Christmas break building with the tiny little bricks (aka manicure ruiners and impromptu burglar device—you ever stepped on one? Yeouch!)

Anyway, while building my 87 step tow truck, I reflected on what building Legos can teach you about writing.

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1) The picture on the front of the box looks great. Just like the mental picture of your perfect, beautiful story with the clever dialogue and gorgeous metaphors. And then, in reality, you put the sticker on crooked (or backwards) and it never comes out just like the photo on the box. That’s okay. It’s still a beautiful Lego tow truck or a novel. Whichever.

2) Takes longer than you expect. I hoped that I could finish our car carrier in something less than a lunar month. Maybe not. Just like a novel, it takes way longer than you thought it would to put together 300 Lego pieces into something resembling the intended creation. That’s ok. Take however much time you need.

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3) You’ll always have extra pieces. I think Lego puts extras in there just so you’re never entirely sure that you followed the directions properly. No matter what happens, there are going to be pieces of the story—scenes, dialogue, description, the entire third act—that you don’t need for the final version. Keep them in a handy-dandy ziploc. You might need them for that next project—Lego or otherwise.

4) There’s a point in every project where you’d like to toss it across the room. For Lego, this usually happened around step twenty. For writing, it’s usually just past the mid-point where I decide hate the story, every character in it is too stupid to live, I must have been drunk when I came up with the idea and I should never again scribble notes in the middle of the night… At that moment, maybe take a short break, grab a juice box, and just breathe for a bit. Then, keep going. You’ll never build that 700+ piece castle if you quit. Same for your novel.

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Now, time to get back to mine…