Since I did nothing productive today

Oh, and I do mean NOTHING productive. I didn't even do any of my bullshit chores. I went shopping. For stuff I didn't really need. It was that sort of day.

(I blame it on sleep deprivation. Between the cats and some extra caffeine I probably should have skipped and some asshole stalker-esque telemarketers who don't understand what the federal Do Not Call list is all about, I've been short on sleep all week. It tells you something about the toll inadequate sleep takes on mental functioning that it took until today for me to realize that I should turn off the ringer on my phone.)

So instead, I'm going to disclose a writer's secret. I learned this from the master, William Shakespeare himself, when I ghosted a Cliff Notes ripoff of Romeo and Juliet. The secret is: If you want to make something look better, surround it with total crap.

Look at Romeo and Juliet from an adult perspective. They're FOURTEEN YEARS OLD. They've known each other for all of SIXTY SECONDS. Is this love going to last? A-HA-HA-HA-HA no.

How do you get the audience to ignore what they KNOW about fourteen-year-old "love" and become emotionally invested in this relationship that would be over by next Tuesday in the real world?

The answer: Surround it by really shitty forms of "love." Dear God, look at Juliet's family. They are horrible. She DIES (or so they think), and they can't dig up any semblance of sincerity. Romeo and Juliet is a fairly terrifying play if you look at the other kinds of "love" on display--superficial, phony,'s a nightmare. Compared to the emotional cripples that surround them, Romeo and Juliet are perfection--they're at least striving for something noble. It's touching. (And it's VERY Will Shakespeare, since the plays he took Romeo and Juliet from are mainly about dumb kids dumbly thinking that they are in love and dumbly disobeying their parents and dumbly dying, just like you will if you are dumb enough to disobey your parents. Stupid kids. Get off my lawn!)

Does this strategy always work? Um, is everybody William Shakespeare? No, they are not. There's any number of extremely tiresome stories centered around horrible people where the author strives in vain to make the main character engaging by surrounding them by people who are more horrible and more horrible still to the point of being simple cartoons of vice. Natural Born Killers springs to mind. Sudden Impact tried to use this tactic to sell a serial killer who blows men's genitals off with a gun not just as a sympathetic character but also as a love interest. This technique was the creative drain Deadwood was circling around before it was canceled: Al was bad, but we were supposed to like Al, so Tolliver was worse, and Wolcott was a compulsive murderer, and George Heart was even worse than that, and had the show gone on for another season I can only assume Beelzebub himself would have made an appearance, eating babies' brains right out of their skulls.

So, clearly, to use this strategy successfully, you gotta recognize its limitations: Shakespeare wasn't trying to sell us on a serial killer (as, I repeat, a love interest), he was just trying to sell us on a teen romance. And you know, don't do it over and over and over again--I don't care how good your actors and dialog and production values are, people will notice.