Saturday, December 8, 2012

How I Write A Grandpa Anarchy Story

How I Write a Grandpa Anarchy Story

Some of my story ideas come nearly fully formed.  "Mostless in Capertown" was a simple idea:  Hostess had gone out of business, and I remembered all of the single-page superhero comic advertisements from the past.  Usually the crime was foiled because the criminals could not resist the lure of twinkies or cupcakes or fruit pies.  I knew it would be funny to do a Grandpa Anarchy story where he tries to stop a bank robbery, and he's all out of Hostess snacks.  From there it nearly wrote itself.  I did some quick research by finding a website that had many of these advertisements archived and after reading 20 or 30 I had a really good idea of how my hypothetical bank robbery should go.  Right after it was announced that Hostess was going out of business, people hit the stores and soon there were no twinkies or ho ho's to be found anywhere... so it occurred to me that my hypothetical bank robbers had only robbed the bank to get Hostess treats.  Grandpa Anarchy, of course, likes to solve things with his fists, so when he has no snacks he decides to end the robbery "the old-fashioned way", even though the bank robbers are willing to give up.  Add in a goofy sidekick named Boy Waitress, and I had my story.

Other stories were much harder to put together, and since I was doing one each day I had to come up with at least an idea and a title each day even if there was no story yet.  For November 30th I decided that a story focused on the silly logic-defying or physics-defying things that go on in superhero comics would make a fun story.  I didn't have a specific idea, but the two examples I could think of were one that my friend Keith had talked about several times before, where a villain/hero in a fight delivers an entire soliloquy while flying backwards into a wall, and the old "rebound off a wall/tree/object" to increase your momentum.  I wrote these down, titled it "Gravity of the Situation" (not a good title) and then it lay dormant for a few days.

When I went back to work on it some more I settled on the idea of Grandpa Anarchy and his sidekick Kid Physics (who is of course appalled by the way Grandpa routinely breaks laws of physics) fighting an elder god of some sort.  I decided to make my god mostly human in shape, rather than a Cthulhu monster, but basically it was a similar idea where he had arisen from a sleep beneath the ocean, on an island in the South Pacific or something.  I jotted more stuff down in my story without really writing any fully formed scenes or sections of actual story.  My god was first named "Derrick the dark god", then later I decided this read more as "lazy author" than actually funny, so I renamed him Dorek.

When I went back to write the story in earnest I revised this name again.  At this point he was a giant black man, over seven feet tall, with long braids and a face like an Easter Island Maori statue.  He needed a tiki-god style name.  I did some more research then made up a new name that at least sounded Hawaiian:  Huameia.  I didn't want to use an actual god's name, and Hawaiian names were more easily researched than Easter Island names, and the languages are related anyway.  So that seemed to work pretty well.

I added two more characters -- Unpossible Man and Dark Dr. Dark, two of Grandpa's allies in the League of Two-Fisted Justice.  I was stumped for other things that heroes did in comics that defied logic or physics however, so I did more research.  Trying to research on "imaginary super hero powers" and variations on that theme got me nowhere, but then I remembered the web site, which makes fun of old superhero comics, particularly the covers of old Superman/Lois Lane/Jimmy Olsen/Superboy/Supergirl comics.  I spent an entire evening reading through this site again -- well, it's funny and pretty addicting -- and came up with some other stupid things for my heroes to do.

When it came to assembling my story I decided to start right in the middle of the battle, with Grandpa and Unpossible Man doing physics-defying things while Kid Physics complained about it.  I'd added Unpossible Man because one Idea I'd jotted down was where Superman traveled through time by spinning at super speed -- somehow -- and this wasn't the sort of thing that Granddpa Anarchy could accomplish, but Unpossible Man probably could.  He's basically an extra-large, extra-stupid superhero in the mold of Superman.  I don't think he flies or has heat ray vision or half of Supe's powers, but he's basically super-strong and super-invulnerable and can probably attempt such silly things as super-weaving or super-landscaping, which are legitimate Superman powers according to the Superdickery web site.

This story involved stitching a lot of bits of dialogue together into a coherent story.  I had several stupid things for Kid Physics to complain about, and I had bits of dialogue from the dark god, who was both powerful and also wanting to catch up on things after a thousand-year sleep.  The island they were on had recently arisen from the depths of the sea, and they had to bind the god before it sank again so that he would once again slumber beneath the waves.  Grandpa and Unpossible Man were trying to subdue him long enough for Dark Dr. Dark to complete a spell of binding.  Kid Physics really wasn't doing anything but complaining.

My original idea was that he'd escape their binding spell by travelling through time, prompting Unpossible Man to follow him by the trick of spinning very fast.  But when I got to the end it seemed to work better for Dark Dr. Dark to just complete the spell of binding.  At this point in the fight they were standing around talking about what Huameia missed about the ancient world -- that bakery shop in Pompeii, his favorite playwright whose manuscripts had been stored in the library of Carthage -- all things that no longer existed.  It was funnier to have Dark Dr. Dark complete the binding spell so he could yell, "No fair!  You distracted me, that's cheating!  I only wanted one last pastry...."

I also did research for Dark Dr. Dark's spell of binding.  It needed to sound authentic or plausible.  A quick search led me to the TVTropes website, which frankly has been invaluable in the writing of some of my Gandpa Anarchy stories, since they're often nothing more than a scene built around a trope.  This page stated my problem perfectly:

The nature of the words varies from plain English, through dodgy rhymes and ancient languages, to unpronounceable by human tongue. The more normal the words, the more stringent the other constraints on casting the spell will be. Making the rock move by shouting "Move!" will usually require rare talent or considerable preparation; making it moving by saying "Fthagnchmthesgf fprnjklmpt fhqwhgads" merely requires extreme verbal dexterity.
I did more research on ancient Phoenecian/Caananite gods.  Spells of binding often seem to involve calling upon ancient gods or powers for aid.  I've also seen where such spells involve such things as gods to the left and right of you, or winds or powers -- sometimes the four elements of air, earth, fire, and water.  I constructed a spell involving more obscure names for the Phoenecian gods of hell (earth), the ocean (water) and the ultimate god (air, on the theory that he's up in the heavens), and then added Astarte to represent fire, even though that part makes no sense, she was largely a fertility goddess and war goddess.  It didn't really matter, I had the framework for a spell calling upon ancient gods whose names weren't that obvious to most readers.  I threw in a few lines borrowed from the Lina Inverse Dragon Slave spell quoted at the top of the TVTropes page, and I had a pretty nifty sounding spell of binding.

"Adad above me!" shouted Dark Dr. Dark.  "Mot below me!  Yaw on my left!  Astarte on my right!  I call upon the darkness beyond twilight, the crimson beyond flowing blood!  I call upon the power buried in the stream of time!  Grant my wish and seal Huameia of the elder gods once again so that he may dream beneath the waves in Yaw's embrace!  I bind you within this circle by air, by earth, by water and fire!  Sleep again for a thousand years!"

Much more complex than the story actually required, but I liked it.

There wasn't enough of a punchline however.  I had a great setup line for a real punchline:  Kid Physics saying, "You realize that elder gods were a figment of H.P. Lovecraft's imagination, meant to represent the insignifigance of humanity."  But then... I had no response.

It took me until the next day to write a last line, and I'm not sure it makes the best punchline for a Grandpa Anarchy story.  But at least it's a complete story now.  I retitled it "Let Sleeping Gods Lie" and moved it to my "completed Grandpa Anarchy Stories" file.  That makes 26 of 30 stories started in November now finished.  Only "Two-Fisted Ghost Story", "Trouble Focusing", "Jungle Opera" and "Earth vs. Planetary Destroyer" are not fully written, and three of those at least are partially written.

Several of the stories I wrote in November came together like that -- just the germ of an idea that became something very different when I worked on them.  And since November 30th I've jotted down four more story ideas:  "Turncoat", "Nemesis", "Troubador" and "Love, Grandma".  These are just ideas right now, and probably will change a lot when I write them, but they're all starting points.  "Turncoat" is an idea I've had for a while -- Grandpa's sidekick is kidnapped by the Society of Former Sidekicks (a villain group made up of former Grandpa Anarchy sidekicks).  The idea in this story is that the sidekick joins the enemy by the end.  "Nemesis" is intended to be a big confrontation between Grandpa Anarchy and the same Society of Former Sidekicks... right now I'm not sure if it's really a separate story from "Turncoat" or not.  "Troubador" is the idea of Grandpa Anarchy facing a singing villain, and "Love, Grandma" is Grandpa Anarchy vs. Grandma Chaos and her boys.  That idea came from a line in a Radiolab story about how, at the lowest level, our bodies and cells are not built on order but seemingly on random chaos.  "Stochasticity" from June 15th 2009:  This show contained the line "Grandma means Chaos" or something similar, and I immediately envisioned a villain similar to Captain Dola from Laputa, The Castle in the Sky or the unseen Mrs. Cropper, the mother of Medium Dave and Banjo Cropper from Hogfather -- basically a large and powerful cigar-smoking grandma with a gang of sons to do her every bidding.

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