Writing a Zany Series and Making it Work

Excel Saga

Throughout my life, I’ve watched a lot of series.  Most of them have long-winding stories or episodes that connect in some fashion.  It all makes sense by the time the story is done even if only a small portion of the episodes hit the main plot.  Character development or world-building occurred all the time . . . It really taught me how to tell a tale.

Then there are the handful of crazy, off-the-wall series that make you question how many drugs were involved in the creation.  We’re talking:

  • No main plot or none that seem to concern anyone.
  • Physics aren’t a thing.
  • Logic doesn’t exist.
  • Characters may die and then come back like nothing happened.
  • Every episode is its own story because its just random.
  • Making a list of factors becomes impossible because it’s not that kind of series.

The best I can really say is that a zany series is all about comedy.  Even if the main character is series (Police Squad/Naked Gun), the events and dialogue make it clear that you’ve entered a really strange world.  The goal is to laugh more than make sense of the story, which is very fluid.  If you go in too serious then you’re going to get confused and come out hating it.  So, know what you’re getting into as a viewer.

For authors, this takes a surprising amount of skill.  As crazy as this series is, you need some level of cohesiveness to get people coming back.  It could be the characters, the setting, or the mastery of comedy, but you need a long-term hook.  Otherwise, you present a hodgepodge of chaos that will only be popular if people watch it while tripping on drugs or being drunk.  I’ve seen some series and movies where a disclaimer given by the fan is ‘you can’t watch this sober’.  Not sure my liver appreciates that requirement.

It’s difficult to really discuss this in a blog form since comedy is subjective.  I might find these series hilarious while someone else think they’re a waste of time.  This is why they can be such a risk for an author to try.  My ‘Bedlam’ books come close, but I never felt like I could go entirely off the road.  So, there are crazy things that happen for laughs, but the plot is clear and there’s continuity.  Cassidy and Lloyd don’t die at the end of a book then show up alive and unaware of their demise in the next one.

That could be another hallmark of zany series.  There aren’t many consequences and risks because most of what happens is erased between episodes.  It’s rare that a big event will leave a mark.  You might get a new supporting character halfway through, which can result in a new voice that is trying to make sense of things.  Locations change a lot, so world building is always happening.  Some places are used for one episode and never referred to again.  Many set pieces serve their purpose and are cast aside with nobody caring, including the audience.  Feels all random.

What are your thoughts on crazy series?  Do you have any favorites?  Check out a few bizarre intros below if you still aren’t sure what I mean:

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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7 Responses to Writing a Zany Series and Making it Work

  1. L. Marie says:

    As you mentioned, comedy is subjective. Yet my family and friends all remember fondly movies like The Naked Gun series, Airplane, Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, etc. Good comedy takes great skill. I can’t help thinking of may old episodes of The Simpsons many scenes of which I can probably quote by memory. (“I choo-choo-choose you.”)

    Yes, I think of your Bedlam series, But I also think about the work of Terry Pratchett whose books are laugh out loud funny.


  2. The zany stuff is what I enjoy. Being able to write it is another matter entirely.


  3. You know I like crazy stuff. It is subjective, but I figure if it amuses me it might amuse someone else.


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