Friday, August 31, 2012

August W1S1 Update

It's been a minute since we've had a W1S1 update, hasn't it? This month seemed a bit low compared to last month--probably the editors on summer vacation--however, I did mange to get my Deep Cuts submission in the nick of time, after spending many, many hours staring at the ending (why are endings always the hardest to nail down?) And next month, I shall be anxiously awaiting the verdict on my UFO submission. Fingers crossed! By the way, if you haven't already, today's the last day to pre-order UFO.

Now of August stats:

Stories written: 2 (one 2,600-word sci-fi weird tale and one satirical flash fiction)
Stories submitted: 26-27(hoping to get in one final sub in for the month)
Stories accepted: 0
Stories rejected: 20

Starting to miss those acceptances, haha. Although who knows, maybe they're just around the corner... One can wish.

And from my explorations on Youtube, I bring you Personal Trainwreck! A short series of skits about a sleezy, over-hyped fitness instructor. Here are my two favorites, though check out
the rest, they're all great.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Character-dependent comedy

Little over a week ago, I posted some editors’ comments on a single story. I wanted to dig a bit deeper into one specific point that one of the panelist’s made:
If she [the character] doesn't take herself seriously, the audience can't take her seriously.  Ironic in comedy, I know... but nonetheless true.
False! (as were a many other things this panelist said) Some characters are purposely made to be silly, because we’re supposed to laugh at them. This is what we call character-dependent comedy, which is not quite as well-known as situational comedy or sitcom.

So I’d like to explain character-dependent comedy, then hopefully editors won’t make such idiotic assertions.

To start, as the name implies, the comedy depends on the characters, compared to sitcom where the comedy depends on the situation. The character will usually have an exaggerated personality trait (or traits); maybe they’re ultra-vain, or a perfectionist, or just plain crazy. Whatever the trait, this will likely be a source of conflict, either for themselves or those around them. Think of Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory, his egotism and condescending manner tends to get on everyone’s nerves.

Hyacinth from Keeping Up Appearances is another example of the exaggerated personality, specifically, superiority-complex. Let’s just say, she doesn’t mind asserting herself where she doesn’t belong.

The character also gets him/herself into trouble. Mr. Bean is notoriously known for his crazy antics, all of which are his fault. However, we love him for it.       

(You’re probably noticing that I have a taste for British comedies.)

As for the question of believability—can you take any of these characters seriously?—that’s not as much of an issue when your characters’ behavior is outside the norm. The point of the character is to be silly and outrageous. Duh. It’s not like sitcoms where the situation is outrageous, and the characters either suffer through it or figure a way out.

So a quick comparison/summary of character-dependent vs. sitcom:

-Exaggerated personality trait(s); not entirely relatable
-Source of their own problems; bane of other characters
-Get themselves into situations

-Relatively normal character(s); relatable
-Outside sources for their problems
-Thrown into situations

It’s a focal thing. Ask yourself: Am I laughing at the character or the situation they're in? And like anything else, not everyone will “get” that you’re supposed to laugh at the character; they may just view the character as an idiot, or unbelievable. I suspect that the panelist isn’t a fan of Mr. Bean. Which is the shame, ‘cause he’s missing out.

Okay, one more example, but this one's too funny to not post.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Many Perspectives of Editors

I've been debating about posting this since it involves posting editor's comments, and from personal experience, less secure editors can't help but email you about it (yes, this really happened once). However, this time I can turn it into a learning experience, specifically: every editor has a unique perspective.

For the veterans out there, you probably know this already: Editors are hard to please, and there's no pleasing all of them. But for the newbies, take note!

Last month, I subbed a humor sci-fi tale to a market. Initially, the first reader liked it, however, when it hit the appropriately named "Death Panel"...well, this was their various responses.

Death Panelist #1:
I didn't thrill to this at all.  While I'd like to consider myself studied enough to say there's a lack of solid timing and pacing with the jokes and humor, I'm a flubbering nub when it comes to technical rigor.  It could be the comedic timing's off, but what I've identified as my "can't get over" flaw is the voice.  The first thing that made for a unpleasant read was the reader invitational through the fourth wall, into a world I really can't conceive.  It'd be easier to walk beside the protag as it were in a conventional world, but when we're throwing up guard-screens, diving off balconies and flying up to giant domes and the potential cracks therein on a rocket pack, then it gets to be something a little more harder to visualize then jumping out of the Volkswagon Beetle and finding gum wrappers.  The second thing that was a definite, identifiable problem for me was the protagonist is really all over the place, and never really takes herself seriously.  Having a genuine motivation (which she does) isn't the same as seriously, believeably working towards her goal.  Where's her fear of failure, of getting shot, of falling?  If she doesn't take herself seriously, the audience can't take her seriously.  Ironic in comedy, I know... but nonetheless true.    

Death Panelist #2:
Hmmm, some funny stuff here. It reminds me of some of the stuff Harry Harrison used to write. not as rip roaring funny as I like but not bad.

Death Panelist #3:
I vote no - I couldn't get into this one either. (Of possible
relevance, it always takes me about 30 pages to get into books written
in present tense, so that may have been part of the problem.)
 Death Panelist #4:
I felt like the writing was a bit hard to follow in some places and didn't really think there was much "to" the story.

As the saying goes: give a story to ten readers and you'll receive eleven different opinions. But don't get discourage if one or two or a dozen editors don't "get" your story; I think there's an editor out there for every story, it just takes some time to find them. Doubly so for humor, which has a tough time tickling editors' funny bones.