“You’re gonna need LOTS of glue!”

When I was a kid, growing up in Central California, there was a series of PSA-type skits that were shown on TV. They were usually a minute long, and the two puppets who starred in these spots, Charley and Humphrey, related life lessons by example. Humphrey, a confident bulldog in a natty cap, would do something selfish or short-sighted, sure it would all turn out fine in the end, and his friend Charley, a horse wearing a captain’s hat (for no reason that was ever explained), would explain how it could go wrong.

And then, because learning, kids, what Charley foretold would come to pass, and Humphrey would be stuck trying to correct his mistake, while Charley rolled his eyes and broke the 4th wall to give the viewer his best, “You know better than that, right?” look and tell us the moral of the story.

Charley’s high horse was ever so high.

They stuck with me, and years later, I still remember this one verbatim:

What I mainly learned is that passive aggressive relationships are taught as the norm in so many more ways than we realize. The lesson of this episode isn’t just not to take things without asking — it’s that if you screw up, you’ll not only be in trouble for what you did wrong, you’ll also be soundly mocked by the people you thought cared about you.

I wonder about why Charley had to be right about everything, morally superior, certain he knew the rules and ha haHumphrey, told you so. I wonder if it was Charley who taught Humphrey that he had to take for himself because no one, not even his best buddy, would be there for him if he needed something (like a light to read by)… or if Humphrey grew up learning that lesson, and hung out with Charley because it wasn’t happy, but it was familiar.

I wonder if either Charley or Humphrey ever found someone else who loved them enough to teach them how to be caring, and kind, and thoughtful, without bullying them into it. Humphrey, at least, seemed genuinely upset when he did the wrong thing.

Charley — too wrapped up in the expectation that everyone else will see his inherent rightness and follow along with whatever he says — probably wouldn’t have changed. Humphrey wants to be loved, wants to do right, but Charley expects to be loved and seen as right, so he’s never really interested in Humphrey’s thoughts or feelings, only the appearance of being superior.

Poor Humphrey. I really do hope he found a better friend after all.

Writing Advice Clearly Followed by the Writers Writing Last Night’s Episode of The X-Files

Fear not – no (or maybe a few very vague/mild) spoilers below.

Gillian Anderson (left) and David DuchovnyThe X-Files

Want to write like the folks who created last night’s premier episode of The X-Files reboot? Follow these 10 steps, and your readers will be “true believers” in no time…

  1. Your female protagonist/love interest should be clean, neat, well dressed, thin, beautiful, and slightly embarrassed at being seen even a little less than put together, in a refined sort of way. Your male protagonist should wear pants. At least for now. Shaving is optional. Actually, no, leave him scruffy. Scruffy is sexy, right? That’s how you show your male lead is still sexy after all these years. A failure to shave more than once a week.
  2. You’ll need a side kick. Someone eager to win over the protagonists. Someone with vast resources, all the answers, and a desire to share that with only your heroes. Someone to get them back into the game quickly, so you don’t have to do any complicated plotting or character introspection or anything. Oh, and the sidekick should be weirdly perky, in all situations. For fun, let’s have everyone else in the cast pretend not to notice how oddly perky the sidekick is. That’s called “acting”.
  3. Monologues are okay if the hero is doing them. Maybe even the sidekick. But only men can monologue. And, um, let’s say only the white ones. Otherwise it looks too villan-y, and you don’t want that.
  4. Oh, speaking of which, don’t write too many minorities into the story. Your reader will just get confused.
  5. If you do include minorities, make them “safe” ethnicities, like Eastern European, light skinned dark person with no name, or Asian. The normal kind of Asian that you always see on TV: ambiguously Japanese (probably). Don’t confuse anyone by using specifics like “Vietnamese” or “Filipino”. Your reader or viewer only knows the samurai scientist kind and the dim sum waiter kind of Asian.
  6. Oh, and if you do include minorities, they should be the only targets of violence. You have to ease the audience into the idea of violence by starting with the less important characters, so when Important White People are injured later, it will have greater impact.
  7. The female lead should be in the same room as other women only briefly, and only if she can be professionally dismissive, or slightly jealous of the other’s youth and beauty. But don’t make it too obvious, because feminism.
  8. Talk about the past a few times, to establish that yes, you watched or read every single episode/movie/tie in novel. Don’t show anything or anyone you reference, though. Just a few, repetitive, comments will be enough.
  9. Heterosexual men and women should not have too much chemistry together. Heterosexual men should have a lot more chemistry with other heterosexual men. Because bros.
  10. Save the female doctor’s science reveal for the very end, because women shouldn’t science much. Oh, and while she’s had access to the tools, technology, and samples for years, make it never occur to her to have checked these things until there’s a man around to suggest it. We wouldn’t want the story to be that unrealistic.