10 Things I Learned From Scooby-Doo   Leave a comment


by Elizabeth Huff

 

I love Scooby-Doo as much as the next person and probably more than most, but when watching the cartoon canine I am often reminded that some things just don’t make sense. Although it is a children’s show, it can be quite educational for adults as well. Apart from the fairly illegal breaking and entering that the meddling kids do on a regular basis, here are ten other no-nos that a writer can learn from everyone’s favorite dog.

 

  1. Don’t Complicate Things Just to Make Them “Cool” – The traps the gang uses to catch the crooks is one example. It’s not enough to just jump on the crook, they must have an elaborate chase scene too. Fine for cartoons not so great for writing. Another example is the criminals schemes. My sister told me laughingly one day that most of the bad guys would have had better luck if they had just done a quick smash and grab, rather than some drawn out ordeal. Realistically speaking, if you were going to waste the time, effort, and money on some great plan to steal, you might as well have bought whatever it was. So next time you are writing and feel the urge to complicate that chase or plan, resist temptation. Or at least write it so it’s natural and not contrived.
  2. Get the Timing Right – In my least favorite episode of “what’s new Scooby-Doo” (season 2, ep. 1), the gang is in Tokyo. They arrive in what I assume is the morning, go sight-seeing, meet an engineer in the afternoon, get cursed, and go to bed. The next morning they find that overnight the curse has taken effect. Fast forward to the end and, surprise surprise, it’s actually a giant robot and not a real curse. The explanation: the baddie in question was jealous of the engineer and so created the robot (see rule 1).  He took advantage of the “curse” when he heard it. Now I’m no mechanical expert, but I’m pretty sure if you can create and decorate a fifty foot giant robot in a single night, you don’t really have anything to be jealous of from a guy who makes assembly line robots. My advice: keep the timing realistic.
  3. Make Sure the Right Person is Targeted – From the same episode as rule 2, comes rule 3. This is probably the biggest reason I hate this episode. The whole premise is that the engineer is the target. So why is the gang the only ones who are inconvenienced by this little plot? Chased by police, tricked, cursed, etc. In the end even if the plan succeeded, the engineer probably wouldn’t have cared much. Make sure the person who is targeted by your villains are actually the ones who deserve to be. Innocent bystanders need not apply.
  4. Don’t Give Random People Random Knowledge – All you gamers out there probably know exactly what I’m talking about, but it’s a common phenomenon in movies and cartoons as well. This is that guy who has nothing to do with the story but happens to know exactly where you can find the lost artifact which your entire mission hinges on. This is the woman in the street who just happens to mention that someone she shouldn’t have a clue about has been seen in the next town over. If people know something, there should be a reason they know it. It should be a simple reason. Even if you never tell your audience what it is, it shouldn’t be too hard for them to guess. In other words, it should be believable.
  5. People Don’t Stay in Character When No One is Watching – This happens in almost every episode of the show. Nobody is watching the disguised villain, and the villain stays in character. Why? If there is no one around, why bother to stay in character? If you have a co-conspirator and you believe the two of you are in a safe and secure location, why would you talk to each other in disguise and with phony voices?
  6. Make Sure Your Characters Have The Proper Authority – In the cartoon this is usually subtle. From my reading experience it’s a bit harder to get away with this in written stories. Your fishwife shouldn’t be ordering mercenaries about unless someone has given her the authority to. Just like a group of teens shouldn’t order the police about (no matter how politely) unless there is a reason for the officer to obey them.
  7. Make Sure the Motive Matches the Villain – There should be a reason, a good one, for everything your characters do. If you split up and look for clues when you are being picked off one by one, you better have a good reason for doing so, or your readers will be put off. If your villain suddenly decides to turn good, it shouldn’t be a split second decision, or it’s going to seem a rather cheap ending.
  8. Don’t Use Out-of-Place Disguises and Items – If you’ve watched the show, you’ve seen it. The costumes that come from nowhere or just happen to be lying around. My favorite: a random crate of springs in a cave full of ancient artifacts. (How many places have random crates of springs anyway, even if it’s not supposed to be full of artifacts?) Make your character smart enough to use his surroundings effectively, even if it means you may have to think a little harder on how to work that escape. Your readers will thank you for it.
  9. Make Sure There is Enough Evidence – Favorite Velma explanation when asked how she knew who the ghost was: He’s an art student so he knew the value of the treasure. Really? I’m betting this case gets thrown out of court. By the way, think twice before your villain confesses. Criminals today are rather smart and people expect them to be. If the only evidence against your character is “he’s an art student”, why would your character decide to spill his guts? At least put a twist on the confession.
  10. Don’t Leave Things Unexplained – Probably my number one pet peeve in Scooby-Doo or any show. They show all these mysterious occurrences and in the end almost everything is explained. There is just that one little detail. The footsteps, the way the “ghost” managed to glow, etc. etc. The problem is, if one thing is unexplained the story starts to fall apart. Readers feel cheated. Sometimes not knowing exactly what is going on is part of the fun, sometimes it’s just annoying. Plan your story accordingly.

 

There it is. 10 things I learned from scooby-doo about how to make my writing better. Can you think of anymore? Are you also bothered when you come across these examples when you read? Drop a comment and let me know.

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