Mr. Enter's Writing Tips General Thread -

Skysora

kiwifarms.net
Since he's made another of these, I think they should get their own thread.

http://www.deviantart.com/art/Writing-Tips-Story-Arcs-Arc-ing-Over-the-Goal-522357159
One of the most common questions that I get for the own show that I'm producing right now, Growing Around, is "what's the story arc?" Now they don't mean the arcs of each of the character and how they develop. They're talking about a deeper plot, and that always triggers a response question "why does it need a story arc?" Let's be totally clear here. I'm referring to cartoons, not novels or movies. I'm not even talking about mini-series. I'm talking about your typical 11-minute cartoon that airs on a standard cartoon channel. There persists a stereotype: either your show has an integral plot like Avatar or Steven Universe, or it's going to be as mediocre as Johnny Test. This is not true, and I'm going to tell you why.

A show needs to find its strength and utilize it. Sometimes that kind of strength needs a story arc. Gravity Falls' strength happens to be mystery, and a good mystery needs an ongoing arc. Sometimes that strength doesn't need a story arc. Back in the first seasons of Spongebob and Friendship is Magic, no one was really clamoring for a story arc. Some shows do get arcs later on gracefully like Kids Next Door, but others don't really. I don't want to use this example, but the first thing that comes to my mind is the Friendship is Magic Equestria Games arc. Whether or not it's good, no one would be complaining that FiM needs an arc if it was removed entirely. The story isn't even a genre thing. I could say that action series need a story arc, but then there's Samurai Jack. Beyond a beginning and an eventual end-point there's not much of an ongoing story. And Samurai Jack is my favorite cartoon of all time if you're wondering. Characters do make returns, but it seems like different episodes can take place on entirely different planets.

A story arc, like anything else, is a tool. Unlike cliffhangers, I won't say that you need to be sure that it will be resolved before you get cancelled, but you should know the utility of it. There are many reasons. Number one: it's a way to get people interested in the next episode of your show, even without cliffhangers. It's not the only way though. Getting people to like your characters or humor or world or atmosphere are all ways. A story arc just adds "story" to that list. Number two: it's a way to develop your characters. I could go on, but it'll just be the same. The story arc is one way to arrive at a destination with many roads leading up to it. If this one is a device is a tool though, it's kind of like a power drill. It's very good at doing its job, probably better than you could do without it, but if you use it improperly you're going to lose your eye.

There are two things you've got to worry about—spoiler alerts and continuity. Ah, the spoilers. In a show with no story arcs, you're never going to have to worry about this, like ever. How is this a bad thing? Well... if one person in a group of friends hasn't seen that latest super awesome episode that's super important to the arc and changed everything then the rest of them will be deterred from talking about the show. And the people who are dicks and go around spouting spoilers will be killing enjoyment for the people who are going to watch it, but are late to the punch. Needless to say that it's not good to deter people from watching your show. That's the opposite of what an arc is supposed to do.

Now for continuity. This is multi-faceted, but in general, during an arc every episode must be aired in the right order. Ignoring networks and their funny antics when it comes to this, this is a very limiting factor and the reason I myself have been hesitant to use a story arc. In a story arc, only certain stories will work at certain times. In a conspiracy story, when your character becomes a fugitive of the law, that limits the stories that you're able to tell. Granted every series needs some degree of continuity (even in Ren & Stimpy, the characters Ren & Stimpy are always Ren & Stimpy), but you only want as much continuity as to not be a hindrance to creativity. And usually when you're doing an arc you need to plan out almost everything if you want it to be as cohesive as Avatar. Then there's continuity lockout—you have to start the show from the beginning, and the further on the show goes the more heavy of a task that is.

And that brings me to this: a story arc sets the ending in stone, unless the creators can make a larger arc which usually doesn't happen. When Aang defeats Fire Lord Ozai, the show is over. And the show must last that long for the story arc to be complete. If it lasts any longer than that, unless the writers can bring in an even bigger arc, it's not going to be as good. And if you don't believe me look at the episodes of Yu-Gi-Oh between Pegasus' competition and the Battle City tournament. After a heavy arc, an audience probably won't enjoy your "filler" episodes, and during the actual show, they're not going to like the "filler" episodes either as they want the plot to keep moving. After all, they can't skip an episode or they risk being thrown in continuity lock-out.

It's that one fact that keeps me hesitant to add a story arc: something that is entirely optional. You want success stories that don't need a story arc? Gumball. Friendship is Magic (seasons 1-3). Star Vs. The Forces of Evil (probably). Sometimes a show can be a heavy-duty narrative-driven epic, and sometimes it can just be a series of episodes. Now keep in mind, I'm not telling you that you can just abandon continuity. At the very least (unless you're doing a sketch show), you need some consistency. Your characters should be recognizeable in each episode, people should come to your show for the same reason, etc. (It largely depends on what you're doing. In some series, you need to make sure that the world is consistent, sometimes you don't).

I seriously don't know where this idea came from that each series needs to have a narrative arc like that. The point of it being a series like this is that each part can be self-contained. I think that this may have come from anime influence, because like I said in my Zatch Bell review, they tell very strong arcs with each episode flowing into the next, with very few episodes of doing nothing. And don't even get me started on the badly paced ones where we've got five episodes of someone charging up an attack during the same fight and then one episode moving the plot miles to get to another fight.

To conclude though, saying that every cartoon needs a story arc is like saying that every recipe needs baking soda. It's wrong and if you apply it to the wrong recipe, you're going to turn your food into a vinegar volcano. It depends on the series. It can add cohesion when used right, but when used wrong, it restricts creativity and freedom. A science fiction and a fantasy series may definitely need it (though there are exceptions), but using it in a slice of life or comedy series can make things get... cluttered. Imagine it, season 10 of Spongebob is about him going on an epic quest to slay the foul demon who has enslaved Bikini Bottom. Along the way we learn about Squidward's abusive childhood while Mr. Krabs is thrust into depression as he's finally realized the sins of what he's been doing lately and throws away the krabby patty recipe as if it were the Hand of Mitus. If you want to see that from Spongebob, you probably don't want to watch Spongebob.

Past Tips:
Cliffhangers, Don't Use 'Em
Avoiding Bad Worldbuilding
[URL=http://mrenter.deviantart.com/art/Writing-Tips-Never-Assume-It-s-Funny-510478298]Never Assume It's Funny Video[/URL]
Building a Better Body Swap Episode
 

Swiggity Swooty

Food and good doesn't rhyme.
kiwifarms.net
From his Worldbuilding journal:
Today's rule of thumb: any worldbuilding should remove more questions than it adds. Yes there are exceptions, but that's not the point. You're not an Adventure Time writer. I don't care if you're saving the answers until later. Remember, you want your audience to be around until later, and more importantly, you want them to care. Bad worldbuilding actively kills the suspension of disbelief. People aren't stupid, and giving too many details is often the result of not having faith in your audience. You often don't even have to tell your audience anything about your world up front. If they can gravitate towards the characters or the story, then you can let the world unfold in front of them.
"any worldbuilding should remove more questions than it adds."
I assume everyone knows the joke I could make here.
 

Hodor

z-list shitposter
kiwifarms.net
He... actually has some decent advice in the worldbuilding one. Not very good, but a few decent tips for people starting out with it. Thing is, a lot of what he says are common sense


Today's rule of thumb: any worldbuilding should remove more questions than it adds. Yes there are exceptions, but that's not the point. You're not an Adventure Time writer. I don't care if you're saving the answers until later. Remember, you want your audience to be around until later, and more importantly, you want them to care. Bad worldbuilding actively kills the suspension of disbelief. People aren't stupid, and giving too many details is often the result of not having faith in your audience. You often don't even have to tell your audience anything about your world up front. If they can gravitate towards the characters or the story, then you can let the world unfold in front of them.
The problem with this is if you're building a fairly alien setting- for example, Dune- you kind of have to hold your audience's hand at least at first. Imagine reading that book, which is full of bizarre terminology that has little explanation, without the narrator elaborating on it or the glossary.

Fantasy comedy is a thing (good luck with that. Horror-comedy is easier to write).
Or you could know the basic tenants of the fantasy genre and poke at them like most fa/tg/uys do. Like writing a Drow in a DnD tie in as effectively an Eastern European immigrant. The reason horror-comedy is a nightmare is that they're on opposite ends of the emotional spectrum.
 

chimpburgers

Big league
True & Honest Fan
kiwifarms.net
The main issue I have with him giving out writing "advice" is that he doesn't even apply any of it to his own crap cartoon. Second of all, he doesn't have any qualifications whatsoever to tell others how to write when all he's done is make low production videos "ranting" about cartoons. A real writer could run circles around his ass.
 

Jewelsmakerguy

(Cheesy 80s music intensifies)
kiwifarms.net
You know, for someone who thinks he can point out bad writing. He needs to take a few tips himself.

Also, I don't see why cliffhangers have to be avoided. Sure if the show gets canceled that's a bad thing. But what if you have to split something up between more than one episode? I can think of plenty of shows that have to do it in order to advance the plot, especially in action shows and soap operas. Though I assume if Enter pointed that out, he'd be called out as the hypocrite he is.
 
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