Plungers and principles: What a clogged toilet taught me about comic writing 4

Hey everyone,

This story begins with a clogged toilet. Last week, I did a bone-head thing and poured some old soup into the toilet without checking its contents. By the time I realized what I had done (and pulled out a huge chicken bone), the toilet was clogged. Given that my wife was gone, you can image my trepidation at the possibility of her coming home to “toilet interrupted.” But by the time it was all over, I went from desperation to learning a valuable lesson about writing comics (and probably writing in general).

So what happened?

Before I recap, a few definitions are in order:

Tool A = the basic plunger I already had:




Tool B = the “snake” I brought from Home Depot:




Tool C = The super-plunger I brought from Home Depot, in case the snake didn’t work:




Now for the recap. As you can guess, I immediately tried unclogging the toilet with tool A. And after many tries and weird “straining” faces, I was successful…to an extent. Although I got the water to go down, it went down much slower than it used to before it was clogged. I tried with the plunger many more times, and got the same result. So I was close, but still had some ways to go. I decided to go to Home Depot to get tool C, and the employee suggested trying tool B first. And if that didn’t work, I could try tool C.

Trying to get this fixed as soon as possible, I purchased both, saving myself a trip back to Home Depot if tool B didn’t work. Before trying tool B, I tried tool A again, and got the same result. So I tried tool B four times, and even though it allowed me to get further into the toilet’s pipes than tool A, there was no change in how fast the water went down after I flushed. After each try with tool B I flushed it, and the result was the same.

This is when my “aha!” moment came. Realizing tool B had no effect on the flushing rate, I was about to open tool C and give it a try. But given that it cost $25 (and I couldn’t return it after opening), I wanted to make sure I needed to try it. So before opening it, I tried tool A again, just to see. And what do you know…it’s worked! Initially I was super-excited because I fixed the toilet on one hand, and I could take back tool C and get my $25 back on the other. Talk about a win-win.

But as I thought more about my thought process and these three tools, I started to think beyond the situation. I found it interesting that there was a point when tool A no longer became effective for solving the problem at hand. But that didn’t mean that tool A had become obsolete, or did not have a role to play in solving the problem. Although I didn’t see tool B having an impact (as evidenced by no change in the flushing rate), using tool B was in fact effective…in it’s own way. Tool B did just enough to modify the problem so that tool A can be effective again. As a result of combining tool A and tool B, the problem was solved.

Now replace “tool” with “idea,” and you have what I believe is a useful way to think about comic writing, and for translating your story ideas into workable scripts. Sometimes we may get stuck on an idea, where as we begin outlining or scripting the story, we may feel like the idea’s either “run its course,” or is not working the way we want it to. But as the plumbing situation illustrated, the answer to getting that idea “back into the game” may like in another idea. It may be another idea you’re tweaking, working with in the story, or considering taking a risk on. Sometimes idea A may take on a newfound or different kind of role in your story depending upon the introduction of idea B.

I guess the big takeaway I have from this situation is that it’s not just important to think about how each of our ideas (e.g., A, B, C) individually relate to the major theme or story. It’s also important to keep in mind and be open to the powerful ways in which our ideas relate to each other. With the few scripts I’ve written so far I’ve experienced this many times…and I would like to think I’m improving as a writer because of it.

Let me know what you think by leaving a comment, and please share! Take care and until next time, keep creating.

About R-Squared Comicz

I'm a Christian, husband, student, & comic writer. I like comics, hip-hop, basketball, & learning, and at the end of the day, I pray that my life meant something.

  • Luis

    Good blog, and good reminder of tools we have to get over obstacles to writing. I find that when I’m writing at times I know what I want a scene to convey. What message or feeling I want to get across and then I’ll brainstorm a few ideas of how best to do that. Like you I’ve found that a tweaked or aided original idea (tool) works.

    • RsquaredComicz

      Yes sir, and thanks for reading!

  • VoiceOfReason

    Nice metaphor–creates a worthwhile tip for writers.

    • RsquaredComicz