Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Construction of a Story

How to construct a story:

I get the idea sometime in August or September to write a story about an entire supergroup of bug-themed characters.  I create the file, name it A Bug's Life, and then let it sit.  Meanwhile, sometime in September when the phrase "Number One Is Insane!" is trending on twitter (as far as I can tell, just because people are posting a particular clickbait link over and over, possibly as part of an ad moneymaking scheme, and not for any more ironic reason), I decide that this should be a story title.  After thinking on it a bit, I also decide  that it involves a sidekick named the Clickbait Cockroach.

In late September or early October I begin working on A Bug's Life.  The first step is to figure out who the group of bug-themed heroes are.  I come up with a B-grade hero group called the Brookhaven Bug Brigade, consisting of Ladybird Beetle Man, the Schoolbus Yellow Scarab, Termite Woman, the Happy Hornet and the Pirate Spider.  While I'm at it, it seems like a good idea to fold my other idea into this story, since the Clickbait Cockroach is also a bug-themed hero.

After some thought I come up with a villain named the Porkin Man, and a scenario in which Grandpa and his sidekick are helping out this group of heroes who are being overwhelmed by their arch nemesis.  I manage to get the first half of the story written -- setting the scene, describing the characters and the situation.  The characters themselves are kind of funny so that carries me for several paragraphs, but now I have to figure out what happens next and how the story ends.

This is pretty typical of how I write these stories.  Sometimes I have a funny ending in mind already, but a lot of the time I just have characters and/or a situation, but I'm not sure where the story's going just yet.  Then I think about it and try to come up with a good, funny ending.

Option 1:  I come up with one joke about the Porkin Man's previous name, the XXXterminator.  But  I decide that this is a separate villain named the Wilmington XXXterminator (from nearby Wilmington) and that he shows up to help -- or maybe after a very tough fight, the bug heroes want help taking on this other villain, and Grandpa's worn out and doesn't want to help anymore.  I could try to sell the idea by involving Grandpa in a knock-down, drag-out fight.  I keep going back and forth on this idea but it doesn't seem to add up to a really funny ending.

Option 2:  Maybe the Clickbait Cockroach defeats Porkin Man by compromising his computer systems (he's a villain in pig-shaped armor, with robot pigs under his command).  Maybe he falls for a clickbait ad!  I keep toying with this idea, which I kind of like since it justifies the sidekick being in the story and he doesn't really have much else to contribute, but I still have a hard time imagining a really solid ending based on this idea.  It seems like a very straightforward ending, no surprises and the "he clicked on the clickbait link!" joke is not that funny or surprising.

Option 3:  Trying to imagine a more unusual and surprising ending, I wonder if the Brookhaven Bug Brigade can summon a giant bug or maybe combine to form some sort of giant robot bug.  This is certainly more like my usual ending -- something a bit more out of left field, but still related to what's come before.  But then one wonders why they didn't do that to start with, or why they needed Grandpa at all.  Perhaps there's a joke in that very question -- why did they need Grandpa's help to defeat this villain?

Option 4:  It occurs to me that the Pirate Spider may be a computer hacking sort of pirate.  In this scenario it's not the Clickbait Cockroach who hacks the villain's electronic systems, but the Pirate Spider.  This possible ending is similar to option 3, in that you wonder why they would need Grandpa in the first place.  But I'm starting to sense a possible ending for this story now, after a week of puzzling over it.  Option 4 is the solution, and the actual joke becomes the answer to the question of why they need Grandpa's help at all -- but in the end, all of the other options are mentioned in passing as well.  I quickly finish the story, and when I'm done, I'm fairly satisfied with how the story ends.  ^_^

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