A Novel Approach

Welcome to A Novel Approach, a weekly note about writing. Join us and follow us. I’ll post the tip on Twitter at JWLBooks, and the full note on Facebook at Jack Woodville London, at the MWSA site, and right here at the blog. Here we go.

Number Four: Lucy and the Football, or, Why You Should Read the Comic Pages Every Day.

In three panels, good comic strips set up the scene, identify the protagonist and antagonist, and jerk the football away just as Charlie Brown swings his foot right through where the football — was. Is there a greater collection of treachery, misery, idiots in charge, unrequited love, angst, or restructured language than the funny pages?

The difference between a good story and looking at your boss’s vacation video is the misery of others, something in which we humans are heavily invested. Every reader does expect the unexpected, with some tension. Will the innocent convict hang? The woman sitting behind me in the movie, on Thanksgiving Day, asked her husband if he thought I was George Clooney. Will the message arrive in time? Will the troops hold out until the clouds break so that supplies can be dropped?

In one day of comics, Calvin has Opposite Day. Rat humiliates Pig. Beetle Bailey hides from Sarge. Haggar leads a Viking boat right into the sea dragons. Comics deliver the unexepected.

You can too.

See you next week.

The Military Writers Society of America asked me to write a weekly note with tips for writing, cruel payment (or punishment) for honoring me as the 2011 Author of the Year for Engaged in War. This isn’t an act of genius on my part – mostly I pass on wisdom from other writers, spun through my peculiar way of thinking and filtered through my word processor. I hope you enjoy A Novel Approach. If you would like to discuss a writing topic, or contribute one, let us know. – Jack

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