Wednesday, May 04, 2011

How Bugs Bunny Can Make You A Better Writer (Yes, Really)

Those were the days. Instead of sleeping in late on Saturday mornings as a child (that would come later...), I would get up early just to watch cartoons. I loved the Smurfs (though now I don't know why), Garfield and Friends, Alvin and the Chipmunks, and a host of others.

But my favorite had to be the Bugs Bunny & Looney Tunes cartoons.

I loved the banter between Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. I loved the ridiculous Yosemite Sam riding on a dragon or a camel and trying to get that "varmint" Bugs Bunny. I loved Sylvester's incessant attempts to capture Tweety Bird, even though Tweety wouldn't be much of a meal. I loved the Tasmanian Devil and his drool problem, Elmer Fudd's constant attempts to hunt down Bugs, Porky Pig's charming stuttering, and Pepe le Pew's desperate quest to romance a very unwilling cat. And I especially loved Wile E. Coyote, "Super Genius", and his quest to finally, finally capture that darn Road Runner. Even more, I loved all his inventions. Nowadays, I ask myself, why didn't he just use all that money he spent on his inventions to buy himself a good meal?

But it wasn't about roasting up the Road Runner and eating him...not really. It was all about the chase.

The last few evenings, my hubby, daughter, and I have been watching the Bugs Bunny cartoons on DVD.  I'm catching things that I never noticed before, and it makes me realize that the masterminds behind these cartoons created them for children and adults alike. Is this why they've stood the test of time and why they continue to be popular for generation after generation?

That's part of it. But I think the biggest appeal is the characters themselves. Each one is unique and has their own distinctive traits. Who doesn't think of Bugs Bunny without hearing his trademark, "What's up, doc?"? What about Tweety Bird's, "I taut I taw a Puddy Tat!", Sylvester's "Sufferin' succotash!", and Foghorn Leghorn's distinct Southern accent?

This, then, is what we must do with our own characters. We must make them distinct, and set apart from the crowd. They don't have to be as crazy as the Looney Tunes characters, but they must have something that makes them unique in their world. By crafting our characters in this way, they will have staying power. Look at the Looney Tunes. They have been part of our collective consciousness for years and years. The first one was in 1930! And with the exception of how they look, those characters haven't changed much (have you ever seen the early versions of Bugs Bunny? He wasn't as handsome as he is today!). Despite the new plots and technological advances in the cartoon-making world, they still maintain their defining characteristics.

In literature, the same holds true. Here are just a few examples: Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler; Sherlock Holmes; David Copperfield; James Bond; Mr. Darcy; and the list goes on and on. Current novels are also cultivating these same types of stand-out characters. I would be willing to bet money that Lisbeth Salander from the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series will be a character that will live for generations to come.

You now have an excuse to watch cartoons. It's called research.  

You can thank me later. ;-)


  1. Melissa, as I read along with your post, I thought, Oh I know how she's going to end this, I just know.

    But you didn't! Allow me to end my comment with that famous Looney Tunes Line ...

    That's All Folks :)

  2. LOL, Joanne! Strangely enough, I didn't even think of it!

  3. Foghorn is my fave and Bugs is great too but I ain't eating no carrot.

  4. Tom and Jerry, here I come:) I always thought the writers behind that cartoon were brilliant.

    Nice insightful post Melissa! Thanks for writing it!

  5. I never realized how perfectly characterized those cartoons were and what a fun analogy for writers. Thanks for giving me an excuse to watch them again! :D
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  6. Travis - Aw, c'mon. Carrots are good for the eyes! And they're not green like lettuce. ;-)

    Valerie - Oh yes. Tom and Jerry are good examples, too. They definitely have staying power. My daughter loves them!

    Hi Catherine, thanks for stopping by! I say watch 'em all you want, preferably with the kids snuggled up with you! That's the best. :-)

  7. Great analogy, Melissa!

    Sometimes writers say, "But my story is about an ordinary person." What I want to know is, if the character is so ordinary, why are you writing about him/her? Every character is a hero (or anti-hero) in his/her own life. Show us that, and we'll want to read about it.

  8. I loved the same cartoon as you! Pepe Le Pew and the unwilling cat were always a fave!

  9. Christine - You hit the proverbial nail on the head. "Ordinary" people must be "extraordinary" in some way to make us want to read their story.

    Jill - That poor cat! And then when she got into the cat nip and figured Peppe wasn't such a bad catch, she scared off the skunk! LOL


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