Consider this a free lesson in becoming a rich and successful writer, be it in Hollywood, comic books, TV, movies… whatever. Yes kiddos, you too can be a mega-player in the game if you follow my patent-pending advice. And since there’s no use to wasting time, let me get to them write now. Get it?
Copy someone better than you. See, I’m already gonna copy legendary John Ostrander, who in his article this very week gave out five tips to aspiring writers as well. But as you’ll learn, babe, it’s not about who did it first… just who does it next. I recall, fondly, that one of my professors at college had his intro to screenwriting class begin the year by dissecting their favorite romantic comedy for structure, and then literally rewrite it according to the corresponding skeleton etched out. Nifty, eh? So when the chips are down and your screen is blank, just boot up Netflix, and get prepared to appropriate your masterpiece.
Retcon it, reboot it, or make a prequel/sequel! Why waste your time creating an original piece of work when you can start where someone else started? As a natural next-step of copying someone who is better than you, you can get oodles of dollars by simply refraining from even considering originality as an option. DC Comics may have canceled a Batman series recently, but you best believe that someone else will fill in the slot the second they see an uptick in BatSales. It’s their New52 M.O.: when sales spike, it’s time to expand! Justice League look good? Make it dark! Make it American! Make it StormWatch! Err… Simply put, if you want to be a resource to those folks who sign the big checks? Then be prepared to take on the franchise when the original creator is off doing whatever it is “artists” do. Remember, you want to be writer… not an artist.
When the editor says “Jump”, already be in the air. When you’re in the air? Be screaming “Is this high enough?!” You see, in today’s market, the writer is just another tool in the box. One need not be “good” as much as “serviceable.” When he-who-signs-the-paychecks demands you kill a character off, or refrain from being “too gay,” you salute them, thank them for their bold choices, and immediately write exactly what they’re looking for. If they’re vague? See tips #1 and #2 above. You can never go wrong by pitching to them that which they already know. At the end of the day, they want money. The market proves to us day in and day out that one need not break barriers, blow minds, or explore new territory with our creative fiction. What sells today is what sold yesterday… with a shiny new coating.
Kill off as many characters as needed to feel edgy. Look kids: sex and death sell. Nothing in fiction is off limits. Hell, they killed a major character on Family Guy not even a month ago, and boom, he’s back. Captain America? Time bullet. Batman? Time warp. Thor? Ragnorak. The X-Men? Time vortex. Get violent if you need to. Hell, Man of Steel and The Avengers leveled near entire cities to make their point. Better yet, they gave away the secret to how you end things afterwards. Want your audience to leave with a knowing smirk on their face? Have your heroes be a bit witty amidst the wanton destruction, and maybe let them get a sandwich. Need your audience to feel remorse for all the devastation? Have your hero scream in agony, and then end on the witty retort. Boom. Roll the credits, and whatever you do… Do not forget the stinger. Thanks to Mickey, we have to end everything, and then end it again. Or, pull a Jackson: end your piece, and then end it eight more times. Each time make it gayer and more emotionally despondent. People eat that crap up like McRibs.
Remember that the critics, fans, et al don’t matter anymore. In the age of the Internet, everyone is a critic. Thanks to news sites, blogs, somehow-still-alive newspapers, social media, et cetera, every new release is covered by hundreds of would-be pundits. No matter your score, trust me, you’re fine. If you deliver an atrocity? You’ll pop up on everybody’s Worst Of lists, and your sales will spike as rubber-neckers come to guffaw. Get a middle of the road review? Just head to the comment section, and accuse yourself (anonymously) of being gay, racist, or a gay-racist. Then, as yourself, open up an Instagram account, and post angst-riddled notes of how depressing your life is. Soon enough, they’ll forget if your work was any good anyways. Hell, go apeshit and you could end up like Charlie Sheen. He went AWOL, and nabbed a 20/90 backend multi-season pickup for a show so by-the-book, most scripts are handled via an AOL mad-lib generator.
As far as fans go, just know that you’re safe. When you do an acceptable job writing up the expectable (it is a word now.), only elitist Onion readers will get up in arms. Do you really care if a horn-rimmed glasses wearing, curly mustachioed, corduroy and bow-tie bedazzled Arcade Fire fan thinks your work is shallow and pedantic? Do you mind that I just lifted a line straight off The Simpsons? Of course you don’t! At the end of the day, you want a paycheck and a fluffy credit. I want a yes-man. It’s a win-win situation.
The key to this all is simple. The world is going to end eventually. You’re either going to be frozen is actual carbonite (rich people have the technology – for real) or buried in a pine box right off the highway. It’s your call. Live and eat well by doing what they tell you to do, or have a backbone and visible ribs. The choice is yours. Your foolproof plan is laid out above.
When you’re famous, do me a solid and link back to this article. I’m cold, and extra readers keeps my furnace running.
SUNDAY: John Ostrander
MONDAY: Mindy Newell