Uncool Is Timeless.
I used to give a talk at conventions called “Writing Unique Heroes & Memorable Villains.” I still do it whenever I get a chance, but I spend more time exhibiting and selling books than I do giving panels these days. Some people were sharing writing tips on my social media feeds this week, so I thought this would be a good time to share one of my own. This is one of the pieces of advice I gave at my Heroes & Villains talk, and still give when anyone asks me for insight.
Don’t try to write “cool.” You’ll drive yourself crazy trying to keep up with current trends, and it will become a time-stamp on your work. Uncool is timeless.
I was a kid in the 1980s and a teenager throughout the 90s. Much of what’s “cool” to me is informed by that time period, even though I know it’s all horribly out of date. What was considered “cool” behavior in the 80s and 90s is practically laughable by today’s standards. From the fashion (especially the clothes, oh god), to the music, to behavior and language. If I were to try writing “cool” when I was just starting out, none of those early comics would have withstood the test of time.
It helps that I’ve never been considered cool. Like, ever. So much of my creative influences come from me being an uncool dork. Writers write what they know, after all. I made a choice to write characters who were grumpy, awkward, full of self-doubt, or thought they were hilarious in their attempts at lame jokes. Even now, here in STAR POWER, Danica’s attempts at humor are far from clever or smooth (unless you ask the Zicuri, they think she’s hilarious), and it’s one of her most endearing qualities. Uncool characters are never a time-stamp because being uncool is not only a timeless quality, but a relatable one.
Write what you know. Think of some “uncool” things about yourself and make them character traits for your cast. If you think they’re awkward or embarrassing, all the better. You’ll reach someone who never thought they’d have a character to relate to on that level.
The most memorable characters are not always the ones you aspire to be. Sometimes they’re the ones with the same difficulties you’re dealing with.