3 lessons for authors from cartoons to use in your writing.

“We didn’t make pictures for children, we didn’t make pictures for adults. We made them for ourselves.”

Mel Blanc

One of the best parts of being a kid came on Saturday mornings, waking up and running into the living room and watching cartoons on TV (hello, child of the 1980’s). No school AND we got to hang out in our pajamas and eat Cheerios while watching The Jetsons – how on earth could life be better? Do kids still do that? Or with Netflix is every day Saturday morning?

In this way, before the “writing cave” I now have as an author (the combination of conditions I create that are conducive to writing), I had the “cartoon cave.”

What lessons did I learn from the cartoon cave that I use today as an author? Here are 3 lessons for authors from cartoons.

Lesson #1: Ancient Adages

When in need of a plot premise (or twist), you can’t go wrong with ancient adages, proverbs, and other tried and true wisdom.

A popular one in cartoons back in the day was – “be careful what you wish for because you just might get it.” This is also known as “magic wishes from the genie in the lamp that go horribly wrong” or the downside of the “grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.”

Think of how many times you’ve seen entire cartoon episodes based on this adage. It may seem a little strange, turning to cartoons for plot or premise inspiration. But if you think about it, those writers, especially in the older cartoons, were really good at stripping stories and human behavior to the basics, and then packaging the stories in fresh and entertaining ways. How can you follow their lead in your own writing?  

Lesson #2: Painful Predicaments

When you use your imagination and almost detach yourself from physical reality, you can come up with outlandish, often funny, and sometimes painful predicaments to inflict onto your characters.

This doesn’t mean to be cartoonish in your writing (unless cartoonish is required for your book). The lesson here isn’t limited to the event itself, but also the plot footprints leading up to it. Some of the sequences leading into and out of the painful predicaments in cartoons, are quite clever!

Your book might not actually call for one of your characters to be flattened by an anvil on a desert highway – but how else can the struggles and splats of cartoon characters add a layer of color to your writing?

Lesson #3: Persevere!

The third lesson I learned from the cartoon cave growing up, is that perseverance is everything. Especially as a writer – no matter what happens, no matter how many different ways you get squashed on the highway, you miss the football, you get locked out of the house (and if only the cat would stay out for the night!), defeated by Dr. Claw, or made miserable on the job by Mr. Spacely, keep going! And if you don’t believe me, ask one Mr. Wile E. Coyote.

Related Articles:

Book Writing and Screenwriting Parallels

What I Learned From You About Creativity

Sparking Joy in the Writing Process

 

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