Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Everything I learned about writing I learned from...Scooby Doo. Wait. What?

So a funny thing happened last week. Yeah. Not really, but for cliché’s sake (and because I'm still too weak to think of anything better), I’ll stick to that opening.

I. Got. Sick.


For the last almost-week I have been pretty much bedridden. So I’ve left my bed a few times, here and there, but considering how little sleep I usually get, I seriously should have changed my Facebook status to “In a relationship with My Bed.” That’s how serious it got.

Some R&R is a good thing. When you’re coughing so much you’re not sure if you still have a lung, it’s not all that fun to be stuck in bed. I don’t think I would have survived it without Netflix either. I couldn’t read. Too much effort. I couldn’t write. Way too much effort. But I could stare mindlessly at my TV while I laid there and coughed and writhed in misery.

And I renewed my love of all things Scooby Doo.

Ask anyone. They’ll tell you my desk at work has always had Scooby memorabilia on it. Always. I heart the Scooby gang and always have.

The new “Scooby Doo” movies produced in recent years? Own them. Most of them I like with a few misses here and there. But I had never watched Mystery Incorporated, one of the newest incarnations of the Scooby gang.

It popped up in my Netflix recommends cue. So I watched it. Both seasons.

Why have I never watched this show before? Why was it cancelled?! It’s awesome!

Granted, I was beyond annoyed to begin with. I didn’t like that Velma was dating Shaggy and kept suggesting ways to “ditch” Scooby in the first season. Velma was not a likable character to me. But the rest of the gang? So hilarious. Daphne is my new favorite. That girl had me in stitches, and when did she get so smart? Fred? Hilarious. His love affair with traps is too funny. The Sheriff, voiced by Patrick Warburton, was a genius addition. (Don't worry. In the second season, Velma became way more likable again. And funny!) The overall jokes are wicked funny, too. Not inappropriate for kids, which I appreciate, but simply…funny. 

Anyway, I realized as I lay there in my fever-induced sickness watching it, how much Scooby Doo has probably influenced my own style of writing, possibly more than anything else. I write (hopefully) witty mysteries with a supernatural baddie usually thrown into the mix. I have my own Scooby gang of characters working together to solve those mysteries. And I have a dog — two of them — and a cat, who are all sidekicks of a sort.

A stretch? Yeah, probably. Still. Here are a couple of things about great writing that resonated with me after watching Mystery Incorporated. And while it in no way is as good as the original series from my childhood, it’s awesome to see the gang live on in modern times in a worthy follow up. 

Great writing includes cohesive continuity.

One thing that really put me in this new show’s favor was that it kept nodding back respectfully to its origins. For example, some baddies from Scooby Doo! Where Are You! made cameos throughout the series in the town’s Haunted Museum. And the characters maintained their trademarks from the original series, including their dialogue catchphrases “Jinkies!” “Jeepers” and so on. This kind of writing is great for writers of series books to learn from. It gives an insider’s joke feel to longtime readers and piques the curiosity of new ones. 

Every one in the gang is important.

Shaggy and Scooby are the main heroes in any Scooby tale, but Mystery Incorporated really gave each of the members a cool backstory and defined personality. Thus, I felt engaged with each episode. Characterization is so important in writing. You can only have so many two-dimensional secondary characters until the overall plot begins to suffer. Make those secondary characters come alive! And the story will be better for it! 

Romance speaks to all ages.

I never thought much about Fred and Daphne as a couple until watching Mystery Incorporated. But the writers of the show had a lot of fun with their relationship, which changes dynamics throughout the show. By the end of it, I was totally rooting for them! Because who doesn’t love a good romance when it’s that organic?

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