Friday, August 12, 2011

What I learned about writing from Phineas and Ferb :)

My six year old has been sick for two days, which means I’m either confined to the couch holding her hand or rocking her in the chair—what will I do when she gets too big to rock? :( ?

So with all the sickness and fevers I’ve watched a lot of kids TV—Disney Channel in particular—Phineas and Ferb more specifically. And I’m becoming quite a Phineas and Ferb expert.

If you’ve never watched P&F (I need an abbreviation, I can’t keep typing that :) you should. Here are a few things about storytelling I’ve learned from P&F.

Have a relatable Villain: Evil Dr. Doofenshmirtz is a great bad guy. He has backstory. He’s funny. In fact he is sometimes so funny, you even root for him. You can relate to his shame and embarrassment. And really how evil is a machine that makes the city smell like dirty diapers?

How to juggle plots and subplots: There are always three plots running through the story: 1) What Phineas and Ferb are making, 2) What Candace is going to do about it, 3) And the showdown between Secret Agent Perry and Dr. Doofenshmirts. Now, I will admit that the resolution of all these plots is sometimes obvious, but it's fun to watch them get so twisted into each other. Plots and subplots should build off of each other. This show is a great example of this.

Quirky characters: A pet platypus that is really a secret agent, a British boy who rarely talks, two brothers who can make a rollercoaster in one hour, a high strung teenage girl conflicted about whether to “bust” her brothers or hang out with her boyfriend, and an evil scientist who just want someone to love him. You root for these characters and want them to succeed even though their goals are in opposition to each other.

It’s funny: Even though it is a kids show the dialogue is hilarious. Not potty talk or burp in your face funny—but clever and witty. Here is a tiny example:

Phineas: Time to test our maze.

Baljeet: Did somebody say “test”?

Phineas: It’s not really a test. We’re more like lab rats going after cheese.

Buford: Did someone say “cheese”?

Phineas: Buford, that’s just a metaphor.

Buford: Hmm, I am to metaphor cheese as metaphor cheese is to transitive verb crackers.

I couldn’t stop laughing. That is funny stuff—and not just written for kids.

I really believe that as writers we can learn from all kinds of storytelling: books, music, movies, dance, TV—and many more. So next time you have a sick day…enjoy it.


How about it, anyone else have any favorite TV lessons or P&F parts?


Josiphine said...

Haha! I love P&F, :) I hadn't thought of it as a writing instructor though.

Chantele Sedgwick said...

I LOVE P&F too! My kids have been watching it on Netflix. I think it's so clever, not to mention hilarious! I love it! :) I also love how Candice is so insane, but Jeremy loves her anyway. Too cute. Yes, it's a kid show and I still love it. ;)

magpiewrites said...

my 7 and 3 yr old girls love P&F and I do too - so many other shows that I hate. Took me forever to figure out that it Perry was a platypus. ( the sound of my eldest rolling her eyes)

E.R. King said...

I love Phineas and Ferb! Such good role models for my boys. Smart kids having adventures while using Science, and it's still funny. It's a win-win for kids and parents. And I agree, very well written.

Angie Cothran said...

Every time Phineas says, "Oh, there you are Perry." I can't help but laugh :)

julie fedderson said...

I love this show, as do my boys. And you're absolutely right, the dialog is so not written for the average kid.

Ruth Josse said...

There are a few kid shows that my hubs and I will watch when the kids aren't around. This is one of them! So funny! And now I will be paying closer attention to learn writerly things:)

Hope your kiddo is feeling better!

Laura Barnes said...

I generally go for dark humor (breaking bad, for example)but I love P&F. I always try to convince my kids to watch it. They don't even get most of it!

Tara Tyler said...

i love P & F!
and not only do they have 3 intricate situations that flow beautifully together, they always have a song to go with it!
great analogy to writing =)

hope your little sweetie feels better!

Angie Cothran said...

I will admit, with only minimal shame, that I may have stayed up until midnight last night to see if Doofenshmirtz ever got the best of Perry. I don't want to give it away but--it doesn't look good.

Kayeleen Hamblin said...

I love how the three plots weave together. Candice is always so close to busting her brothers until Doofenshmirtz's contraption goes awry and magically defeats her. It makes me laugh every time. There have been some real gems. It's a good thing I like it because it plays on repeat at my house.

Abby said...

Phineas & Ferb is probably my favorite cartoon ever! I could be hooked to the tv through that program, chosen over American Idol or anything else! It is BRILLIANT and I LOVE all the points you brought out from it. That's what makes it so great! This is one of my favorite posts. I hope your kid is feeling better soon though. It is so hard when they are sick.

David Powers King said...

Phineas & Ferb came out of nowhere, in a good way. If you've never seen the Avatar: The Last Airbender series, you'll learn even more.

Awesome post! :)

Cassie Mae said...

So sorry so late to this post. I just found your awesome blog! I'm so glad I'm not the only adult that laughs out loud to P&F. I watch it even without my kids. And I knew what episode you were referencing, lol. And I never thought about how the show is a great format to good writing. :) Love it!

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