Friday, May 16, 2014

Captain Obvious

Toppling entire scenes with a single eyeroll!
Collapsing important dialogue with an exaggerated yawn!
And obliterating everyone's best intentions (along with a healthy dose of plot) with a disapproving ahem.
(Look at him.  He doesn't even have to comment on how boring he finds all of this. So irritating.)

That's right!  He's Captain Obvious, the guy we all want to punch in the face the second he opens his big mouth. Quite frankly, he's been making writers look like idiots for years.  There's nothing worse than readers, reviewers, and editors summoning their inner Captain Obvious and permanently shelving your novel.

Since my niche is twisted fairytales--my take on stories that have been around so long we've ceased wondering where they came from--Captain Obvious could have a field day with my work. So, I'm as eager as you to discover how we get him to put a cork in it.

Make 'em Laugh:  Tickling Captain Obvious' funny bone is an excellent way to shut him up (as long as he doesn't see the jokes coming from a mile away). Laughter draws people out of their ordinary lives and dramas while simultaneously shushing their inner Captain Obvious.  A good joke, a nod to your audience, or a good ol' pratfall debilitates ill-humor as effectively as it lifts spirits.

The Element of Surprise:  Action, twists and turns, cliffhangers, and unexpected betrayal keep Captain Obvious from guessing what's coming next.  As my dad taught me at a young age, even if you think you know what's happening next, if the story's good enough, you'll keep reading to see if you're right. My dad's Dun-dun-dun! always ensured a rapt audience.

Activate the Senses:  If the writing is rich enough, if it literally pulls the reader into the author's world, Captain Obvious doesn't stand a chance.  I know this because I'm the nit-picky reader who considered sending published authors notes on improvements for subsequent printings. However, my Grammar Nazi soul shuts her cakehole when the writing is fantastic.Without making your prose so description-heavy it's in danger of drowning, titillate as many senses as possible (including memory) throughout your projects. Just as golden late afternoon light makes everything more alluring, so do scenes that draw the reader in and make them live in that moment.

Make 'em Cry:  This may seem odd given the fact that the first tip is Make 'em Laugh, but the truth is characters who struggle, fail, suffer set-backs, and deal with regret, sorrow, or doubt are more believable and lovable. If you can get Captain Obvious to emote along with your dynamic characters, you have him just where you want him, on your side.

Then, with your newly drafted manuscript and sense of empowerment, you can face Captain Obvious and proudly say:

All right, some of us, like Matt Smith, can't pull that off.  However, we can stand tall in the knowledge that we've done our best to send Captain Obvious packing.

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For more on making 'em laugh and creating dynamic characters, revisit Plot Twist! and Tragically Flawed...or Not.


  1. I've always wondered who I was writing for....turns out it was Captain Obvious this whole time! Doh.

    1. It happens to all of us JC! Sheesh! He sneaks right into everything & mucks it up. But now we know his master plan & how to get around it, he'll have to try a lot harder. Keep writing! ☺️