The Argument Against Really Cool Shit

I never thought I’d be making this argument.

You probably think I’m nuts. Hell, I think I’m nuts.

Why would anyone make an argument against really cool shit?

“Really cool shit,” by the way, could include any one of the following:

A super-computer made of lemurs.

A grizzly bear that urinates coffee.

A skateboard that also shoots Pez! And uranium flechettes!

A ruined dirigible caught in the pubic thatch of a giant’s taint.

A leprechaun who is also a leper! A leperchaun! And at the end of the rainbow, instead of a pot of gold, he has a pot of old discarded skin.

Beer candy!

Robot stripper!

A third nipple that foretells the future?

And so on.

Are all those things really cool? Why yes, ma’am. Yes, they are. But as a writer, I’m learning that really cool shit is seductive. I kind of feel like I’m transitioning. I feel like, as a writer, I’m growing up. I’m serious. Don’t fuck with me. I feel it in my bones. I’ve got growing pains. You know how your voice starts to change? My voice, my writer’s voice, is starting to change. It’s the metaphorical equivalent of my literary short-and-curlies coming in. I’m not kidding around over here.

See, once upon a time, what secretly drove my writing was — Ooh! Snap! Really cool shit! Right? You get this crazy idea in your head (a train filled with luchadores training for a wrestling match with God heading toward a cliff’s edge!) and you just want to run to it. You just want to pick up that cool idea and make out with it. You want to stick it in your pants, let it wriggle around.

You want to put it right on the page.

I mean, why not? It’s cool as shit, right? You love it. It loves you. Use it.

Except —

— as I said, it’s seductive. The really cool shit, it’s usually a lot of flash-bang hoo-hah, but once the flash is gone and the smoke clears, you’ve got nothing of substance left. Okay, you ever masturbate, and afterward you’re filled with a weird sense of hollowness inside? A deep longing for something better? Deeper? Something to love? Someone to hold? Peace on earth? And yet, there you are, a tissue slowly gluing to your chest hair, the certainty rising that if you try to stand up, the pants pooling around your ankles are going to send you ass-over-teakettle?

It’s like that.

You want to take the cool shit that’s in your head and oh my god holy crapwich I want to write this so bad my pee stings when it comes out. Except, then you do and — well. Hollowness. Shame.

Pants around ankles.

Case in point: our recent script revisions have seen us take a lot of the cool shit that started us on this project and scrap them entirely. Entirely. Totally awesome tracts of awesomeness, sheared free from the script. Gone. Executed. Kaput. Say goodnight, Gracie.

We rebuilt everything. And we rebuilt everything with multi-purpose in mind. Further, we rebuilt with character and story first. Genre and all the really cool shit that comes with it, that comes second. Or third. Or whatever number it is behind all the other stuff that makes for a truly great experience.

Does this mean that the script is no longer filled with really cool shit?

Ehhhh. No, no, it doesn’t. It’s just… it’s a deeper level of cool shit. But we started with an emotional core, and we built everything around that. The cool shit that lives in there now? It’s meant to be there. That shiznit belongs, by god. It pulls double-duty. It has work to do.

That’s really what I’m telling you creators and storytellers out there. It’s not that I’m saying to completely avoid really cool shit. I’m just saying, beware its seduction. This is like a wacky fuck-all version of “Kill Your Darlings,” loosely rephrased as “Beware Really Cool Shit.” If that really cool shit wants to keep its place (and a merit badge along the way), then you let it know that it has to earn its passage through your story’s darkest channels. Does it make sense? Does it reflect the character and story? Did the emotional core come first?

Does the really cool shit serve the tale’s needs, or is the tale bending to serve the really cool shit?

It must be the former. It must always be the former.

That is all. You may now go about your day and dream of the leperchaun and his cauldron of leftover flesh.