Comic Talk and General Discussion

Getting the formulas RIGHT - please contribute
ozoneocean at 7:57AM, Aug. 3, 2015
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Quackcast 230, going up on the 4th is about using forumulas in fiction (also tropes, sort of)
Will be here: http://www.theduckwebcomics.com/quackcast/episode-230-getting-the-formula-right/
 
We've talked about formulas before, but mostly in the context of escaping formulas and reinenting them.
NOW however we're talking about using existing formulas to create a story, or creating new formulas and sticking to them to come up with your stories.
Formulas can be a good tool to write with, along with their close sibling “the trope” they take elements that are proven to work and stick them on a solid framework for you to more easily create your story around. All you need to do is plug in your characters and situation and see how it all fits. Formulas are comfortable for people and make it easier for a writer to structure their story faster AND in a way they know should appeal to people.
  
So what are your fave formulars? Have you ever created a formula to structure your stories around? What are your fave tropes?
 
Some tropes we mention in the Quackcast:
Harem
Slasher/monster
Documentary on the slasher formula:
 - Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Movie - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0489062/
 - Youtube link - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PsStQ7yKdI4
Police drama - angry captain, partner cops etc.
Procedural crime scene show
PG wodehouse - farce
Sex farce
Modern ghost house story
Superhero formula
Dysfunctional family
Courtroom drama
Office comedy/dysfunctional workplace
School based manga
Magical companion/girlfriend
The Master plan
 
Genejoke at 9:32AM, Aug. 3, 2015
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Initial light post.
Formulas are formulas because they work. You can take any of those scenarios and make a great story from them without deviating from the formula, but many people will have seen it before. I think much is in the charcters and the writers voice.  One of the reasons I do not consider myself much of a writer is that I rarely consider these things, I just write.  Where many stories fail is that they create the main formula, but forget about the multitude of smaller formulai that make it up and give it life. 
Dysfunctional family? how many have you come across where they are dysfunctional just because?  yeah that's dull. sometimes it's not important, but if they are dysfunctional understanding why or at least alluding to why can help. 
Well written characters can make the most formulaic plot come to life, and dull ones kill a great plot dead.  again it's all in the elling of the story. 
last edited on Aug. 3, 2015 9:36AM
KimLuster at 10:20AM, Aug. 3, 2015
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I'm much like Genejoke in that I never conciously try to follow any formulas, but I suppose I've read enough and seen enough movies to know a lot of them - and I do end up using them, even if unintentionally… 
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Sometimes, thought, I don't really like how I've used them…  For instance, one Trope/formula is that of the Female Protagonist needing to have suffered some sort of trauma or violation to have the motivation to move her to action.  I never conciously invoked this in my story ‘The Godstrain’ but it's right there!!  Even though it was a part of my story from the beginning, it bugs me that I've followed a common (and perhaps cliched) trope…
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Another trope is Science messing around with ‘forbidden’ things, playing God, and subsequently unleashing uncontrollable forces…  It's a common thing in sci-fi these days:  Science=bad!!!  I sorta hate that I've added to that trope in my story, for in RL I believe Science one of the greatest (and most hopeful) of humanity's abilities!  I do wish more sci-fi would make science out to be more positive…  
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All in all I love Formulas and Tropes though, because like Genejoke said, they work!  Plus they're just dang interesting in their own right - check out a website called ‘TVTropes.com’ and be prepared for hours of lost time! ;)
ozoneocean at 9:24PM, Aug. 4, 2015
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Pinky TA has a lot of formulaic tropes. The character Ace is the action hero type, Pinky is the sexy incongurous military officer type who pilots mecha you see in a million animes, much to my everlasting shame I even have a scene with characters discussiing some “masterplan” saying things like “so it begins”… faarrrrk…
I HATE it in comics, books, animes and stuff when they do that. That sort of forshadowing is lazy and crap.
I will redo that page.
 
If you have enough tropes working together you get a formula and if your formula becomes poular enough it becomes a genre. :)
 
I like the Harem formula in anime, to an extent. If they make protagonist too wishy washy that makes it unpleasent and kicks you out of the suspension of disbelief because none of the women would be atracted to him if he was like that for one than and for another, if you had that much female interest that would tend to boost you confidence regardless and you'd take advantage of it.
 
bravo1102 at 3:38AM, Aug. 5, 2015
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TVtropes is still missing it's robofemoid references and the “bravoisms” page.  Also it has an annoying tendency to sort of miss any references before 1970.  Many of these tropes into hard genres happened during the early 20th century in reams and reams of B-movie scripts.  Talk about formula to the point of genius.  Look at Republic serials or Poverty Row double features from the 1930-40s.  You'll see all the genesis of all the tropes used of every TV show ever.
KimLuster at 8:26AM, Aug. 5, 2015
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TVTropes is just fun reading… but I've too have noted Samples that should be in there (not that I took the time to get involved to get them added…)…  Also, I sometimes think they're reeeealllly stretching to make some exampled fit a trope - overthinking a bit
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But still, very fun reading!
usedbooks at 8:33AM, Aug. 5, 2015
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I know we're talking about tropes and common cross-story formulae. But when I think of formulas, it is specific to the series I'm watching or reading.  I watch a lot of long-running series in several genres, and while I suppose they share tropes and sometimes episode/story types, the most obvious formula is not interseries but intraseries.  That's part of why series go stale but also why they are comfortable and enjoyable. Watch a series long enough and you know exactly what to expect. I know if I watch Frasier, there will be a hilarious Kelsey Grammer temper tantrum and ten out of ten times, he will lose. If he meets a girl, he'll sabatoge himself.  Quantum Leap? Sam will discover that what he thought he was supposed to change is wrong and accidentally do the right thing.  I Love Lucy? It doesn't play to a conclusion. It plays to a punchline. Things will get hilariously overblown at the end and not resolve.
 
Whodunnits and crime dramas often start with their own unique premise and plot devices, but when they run awhile, the formulas become obvious. I forget which one it was (NCIS? CSIsomething?), but my dad watched a series where I developed the “second suspect” rule. The second person who showed up in relation to the crime (especially if they are never actually considered a suspect) is the one who did it. That formula worked so well for that series, but also pretty much killed the whole purpose of watching a whodunnit. XD I've gotten very good at deducing not based on evidence and story features but on the writers themselves. “Second suspect rule” worked only for that series. One of my favorite series is Detective Conan. There are basically three or four different storyline frameworks, and you know which one you are looking at within a few minutes. They do still surprise when it gets down to details, but a regular viewer will be able to go “Oh, this is one of those, ‘we know who did it and the only mystery is how’ episodes.” There is also the flow of canon development (which is very slow; the series has been running for 20 years), and you can see/predict the build-up on the way to a two-hour special at the end of the season, where some canon-level conflict will resolve.
 
Used Books has its own formulas. I think all writers develop their way of writing and pacing and flow. When I catch my formula, I try very hard to throw a curve ball, but I end up getting deeper embroiled at times. In my most recent arc, I was debating who to send out to be a hero and who to have as a hostage. I decided Seiko was in the limelight and rescuing people too much, so I made her a hostage. Then I realized (too late) that she was a hostage in the last arc, and about a half a dozen times before that (pretty much whenever there is a hostage taken). So, that's one formula I wasn't paying attention to. 
ozoneocean at 8:49AM, Aug. 5, 2015
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Oh we're MOST DEFINIATELY talking about formulas within series Used Books and your's was one of the comics we mentioned in the Quackcast as being an example of where a comicer created their own formula:
http://www.theduckwebcomics.com/quackcast/episode-230-getting-the-formula-right
 
For long form projects like Pinky TA for example there's not much repitition so there's no point in making a reusable forumula but for things that are more episodic it can be a massive help!
Then of course we have comic strips who use a very tigh forumula that repeats on every page: the 3 or 4 panel gag etc… setup, something something, punchline.
 
usedbooks at 8:57AM, Aug. 5, 2015
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Haha. Gelotology's three panel formula was Setup-punchline-bad pun.
bravo1102 at 9:10AM, Aug. 5, 2015
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I havery met a few TV writers and often those formulas are given to them  as the “writer's guidelines” . So many series are well aware of working within a formula. There's often occasion for cynicism. 
usedbooks at 9:18AM, Aug. 5, 2015
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usedbooks at 12:29PM, Aug. 5, 2015
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Btw, Used Books is long-form but also episodic. The issue is an “episode” can be of vastly differing lengths. I try to cut chapters at 10 to 20 pages, but a contained story arc can last one to more than five chapters. I don't know if UB fits in any genre. I had set out to write whodunnit murder mysteries, but I couldn't bear even minor characters dying (my readers know how much I love my minor characters – they become major characters). Then I went for the anime type action stuff with superpowers, but that didn't feel right. (Luckily, few people can bear looking at the older pages, which suggest super powers; heh.) 
 
 
There are some repeating themes.  The kidnapping thing (actually, I think there's a trope called “alone with the villain” or something, which that fits). The bad guys almost always acheive their objective. And I have one character who ends up injured every time he appears in an arc. I try to identify my “habits” so I can actively break them, but they just turn into other habits. :P 
 

 
 
 
One more random thought. I watched a really good anime series a few months ago called Tiger and Bunny. I was skeptical because it was about superheroes. (I loathe superhero things.) But it became  obvious that it was actually basically a buddy-cop formula – except with superheroes. One guy is the experienced crime fighter whose powers are fading and also he balances family life with work and the other is a young guy showing up everyone else and on a stubborn revenge mission. It was so clearly following that dynamic but in a completely different setting.
ozoneocean at 8:51PM, Aug. 5, 2015
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Tiger and Bunny is pretty good and it gets better. As well as the “buddy cop” formula it follows the “new” trend of the coprorate sponsored superhero that's been around a while but never been that popular.
It goes further with the buddy cop thing though and hints at a gay relationship between Tiger and Bunny… or at least an unrequited one with strong feelings on both sides- only at the very end is that a strong theme. It's funny though because that dynamic is often sort of under the surface in a lot of buddy theme stuff.
In the comedy movie version of Starsky and Hutch I think they have a kiss?
 
bravo1102 at 2:54AM, Aug. 6, 2015
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A classic gag in any parody of a formula movie is of course breaking the fourth wall when something obvious from the formula happens.  Bob Hope and Bugs Bunny were masters of this.  in his films Mel Brooks often gives a tip of the hat to those two prececessors.

Early Mad magazine from the 50's would have fun with the formulas too. They'd often turn it on its head with bits of reality creeping in and ruining everything in comic-book land. That's a formula itself.  And it can still be funny.

 A great movie to watch parodying the formula they had created is Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein.  The film by Universal actively parodies the formulas and tropes Universal's monster movies had created in the previous years.  And there are fourth wall breaking remarks about certain characters who are oblivious to the references or do a double-take. (Lon Chaney jr as the Wolfman for example)
ozoneocean at 11:47AM, Aug. 9, 2015
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Most series anime, no matter what the genre,all follows a particular meta-formula:
Frst they introduce the main characters, usually just two or 3 people, but it varies.
They will give us a big show of their abilities.
In the next few episodes those abilities won't be used as amazingly for a while.
New characters will be introduced along with mysterious hinting at the pasts of the main characters
Their hisotries will slowly be revealed a little bit at a time…
The middle episode of the series will be a recap of all the previous ones.
And so on…
Depending on the sort of story it is there is often a hot spings/communal baths episode, a beach episode and a swimming pool episode.
Any others?
 
bravo1102 at 4:49AM, Aug. 10, 2015
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Well at least anime follows a series arc formula as opposed to  US series which follow an episode formula.  The same series of events every time.
ozoneocean at 7:41PM, Aug. 10, 2015
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True. But the point isn't to be critical of the use of a formula- it's to recognise and explain it.
What formular do they follow in US cartoon series episodes? What are the steps and stages?
 
bravo1102 at 3:55AM, Aug. 11, 2015
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The most well known is the Scooby-doo episode formula. 
ozoneocean at 4:00AM, Aug. 11, 2015
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Which involves what stages?
 

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