(If you missed Part 1 of Writing Lessons From My Guilty Pleasure, you can read it here)
Another show that’s part of my guilty pleasure is Phineas and Ferb. I think that this show is the most genius and entertaining thing to hit the world of children’s television in the past decade. I would be more excited to meet the show’s creator, Dan Povenmire, than I would be to meet a high-profile celebrity like Madonna! Here are a few things I love about the show and what they taught me about the craft of writing for children.
A decade and a half
Phineas and Ferb: The show’s creator, Dan Povenmire, pitched the show for 14-16 years before it was picked up by a network. 14-16 years!
Lesson: Perseverance is something that I have touched on before and this is a great example of how it can pay off. Povenmire believed in his work and look what happened! Anyway, I’m sure you know about perseverance, so another great lesson to take from this: Be professional and take your work seriously. If you don’t take yourself seriously, how do you expect anyone else to, especially someone that is investing both time and money to publish your work? Think of it this way, even if writing is just a hobby to you, for editors and agents, it’s often their main source of income. No editors or agents because you went or plan on going the self-publishing route? You are still expecting readers to invest time and money to read your work.
The characters are well-defined
Phineas and Ferb: Candace is high-strung, always trying to bust her brothers. Perry looks like an ordinary platypus, but he’s a secret agent. Ferb hardly ever talks etc.
Lesson: Give your characters something that makes your readers want more. Give your characters a mission, a catch phrase, or a personality trait that helps define them and makes them memorable.
Phineas and Ferb: “Whatcha doin’?” – Isabella
“Where’s Perry?”- Phineas
“Oh, there you are, Perry.”- Phineas
“Ferb, I think I know what we’re going to do today.”- Phineas
Above I have listed some phrases used in almost every episode of Phineas and Ferb. I love hearing these catch phrases and I’m not even a kid! They add familiarity and consistency to each episode, along with a certain element of fun.
Lesson: Kids love repetition. In writing, repetition doesn’t have to be a catch phrase, it doesn’t even have to be in the dialogue, it can be anywhere in your text. Keep in mind that even though repetition can be great, it should not be excessive, it should not obstruct flow, and it should not be placed in the work just for the sake of using it. Repetition can help make a piece of work shine, but only if it isn’t forced.
What have children’s shows taught you?