The Writer’s Alphabet vol. 10; “J” is for Jerkstore


Do we all remember the Seinfeld episode where George gets slammed by a co-worker for eating too many shrimp and George being George can’t think of a good comeback so George being George again spends way too much time trying to think of a witty comeback to shoot down this co-worker but then fails again when his comeback, while funny, shits the bed because his co-worker has a better comeback? I need to take a breath before continuing. Okay. We can say two things about this in terms of writing.

The first is that this is brilliant writing for character. Only George Costanza would be so riled up by something such as this to spend an umpteenth amount of time dissecting words, society, and culture and the dynamics of the “comeback line”. Can you picture Jerry, Elaine, or Kramer doing the same thing? Definitely not. Jerry would have a great comeback, Elaine would probably stare at the person with a classic Elaine look of disdain, and Kramer would just keep eating the shrimp because who cares who called, these shrimp are great! The writers for this show knew their characters well and that is why it succeeded as it did because the audience was never drawn away from the story by questioning the characters behaviour. And it was just ridiculous and funny.

The second is about second looks with respect to the initial stages of telling a story. Early drafts are and should be crap, and sometimes incomplete. The suckage level of an early draft of any piece of writing should directly relate to the greatness level of the final product. I have zero statistics on this “fact” beyond the big assumption that if a writer starts out with a terrible first draft they will put in the hard work necessary to make it better in every way conceivable. They will seek any means to make it the best it can be. Unless they quit. But quitting is for quitters. Anyway, second looks. Every piece of writing needs a second (third, fourth…twentieth) look, because as writers we read, and experience things every day that inform our work and have the ability to enhance it. Detraction is also a possibility but I’m stubborn and I choose to focus on enhancing. Anyway, maybe it’s best you didn’t come up with everything all at once because you needed to live and experience to get more perspective to write the scene, story, or article.

How does that relate to George Costanza? George’s first draft of his comeback was non-existent. He didn’t have one. So he went and used his brain power and worked hard at crafting the greatest retort in human history. One that would be recorded in the Annals of Being an Asshole. He worked hard and it paid off, except George being George, his co-worker did better and the whole thing fell flat. But he did work hard and came up with something that was better than the nothing he originally had. He was outduelled by a quicker wit. That happens. Some writers need thirty drafts and some only need ten, but every writer needs a second look, draft, beer, or helping of shrimp. All I know is, “(T)hese pretzels are making me thirsty.”


About jtkwriting

Writer living in Toronto. "Sneak out of your window darling, let's live like outlaws honey." View all posts by jtkwriting

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