Monday, May 13, 2013

Guest Poster: GEOFF RODKEY!


Hello, Book/Cat/Etc. People! I'm Geoff Rodkey, author of the comedy-adventure-mystery-coming-of-age series The Chronicles of Egg -- which, while marketed to middle graders, seems to go over as big with adults as with kids, so if you're in the mood for an Indiana-Jones-meets-The-Princess-Bride adventure story with a lot of humor, excitement, and even the occasional poignant moment, please check it out. I promise you won't regret it.

Toni asked if I'd like to contribute a guest post on the occasion of the release of New Lands, the second book in the series, and while I'm allergic to cats, I did think it might be interesting to share something I discovered in the process of transitioning into writing books from my prior career as a screenwriter.

During the first 15-plus years of my writing career, I mostly worked on comedy scripts for film and TV--my first paying job was an episode of MTV's Beavis and Butt-head, and I later wrote such movies as Daddy Day Care, RV, and the Disney Channel's Good Luck Charlie, It's Christmas.

The Chronicles of Egg series was a departure for me not just because they were books, but because while there's plenty of humor in them, they're primarily adventure stories. When I started working on them, I wasn't sure how big a challenge it'd be to write the story's many action sequences: the narrow escapes, pirate attacks, and fights to the death that our unlikely 13-year-old hero has to navigate. 

As it turns out, though, when it comes to creating set pieces--those extended sequences in which either the tension or the jokes build, from one moment to the next, until they reach a satisfying climax--the process is the same whether you're writing action or comedy. In both cases, structure is critical--a good sequence is like a story in miniature, with its own beginning, middle, and end, and with each element connected by a change in stakes or circumstance.

For example, early in the first book, Deadweather and Sunrise, someone tries to push our hero, Egg, off a cliff. When the attack doesn't quite succeed, Egg's left hanging by his fingers. That's the beginning, and it's followed by a series of actions and counter-actions: Egg buys time with a distraction while searching for a foothold…then dodges a kick to the head, but loses his grip and finds himself dangling upside down by one leg…his attacker pulls a knife…the knife draws blood…while trying to avoid a second, fatal strike, Egg shifts his weight too far, and the entire side of the cliff begins to give way…. The tension rises at each turn until the climax, in which Egg either plunges to his death or outwits his adversary.

(Spoiler alert: he doesn't plunge to his death. If he did, I'd be stuck with a 90-page book and a dead protagonist.)

The identical structure's at work in a comedy sequence I once wrote for the movie RV, in which a beleaguered father played by Robin Williams realizes the septic tank of his newly rented RV is full, and if he doesn't figure out how to empty it, his family won't be able to use the bathroom for a week. In this case, the sequence begins when Robin's character pulls into a campground dumping station and starts the complicated process of emptying the tank--which, if not done correctly, will lead to raw sewage winding up in places where you REALLY don't want to see raw sewage.

What follows is same sort of steadily increasing tension through action and counter-action -- the discharge hose is missing an attachment…a well-meaning idiot offers Robin a replacement…the replacement doesn't work right, making the problem worse…a second well-meaning idiot arrives, offering even more bad advice that dramatically increases the pressure level in the hose… -- until we reach a literally explosive climax.

Full disclosure: the end of that sequence is pretty gross, even to me. The phrase "a geyser of sewage spurts like an oil strike" seemed a lot funnier when I wrote it than when I actually saw the result on a movie screen. But a lot of audiences seemed to like it. And it did provide me with the unique pleasure of composing an email to my mother that read, "Spent the day writing an eight-page poop joke at the behest of the Sony Corporation."

Oddly enough, I can only think of one ironclad rule that separates action and comedy: in a comedy, you can rain down all sorts of trouble on your character's head (including, but not limited to, geysers of raw sewage), but you can never, ever draw blood. For some reason, blood is the only bodily fluid that's universally unfunny. Even the Three Stooges, whose entire shtick was beating each other senseless, never once so much as nicked themselves shaving. Go figure.

For more action and comedy--along with a pinch of mystery and a dash of romance--pick up a copy of Deadweather and Sunrise. It's a fun, thrilling read, and I promise there isn't a single poop joke in the whole book.

(There aren't any poop jokes in New Lands, either.)

Thank you for a great post, Geoff!
Folks - dont' forget to pick up your copy of New Lands! 

you can order it by clicking any one of these links:

On Deck:

May 17: Fern Michaels
May 21:; Maggie Shayne
May 28: Linda O Johnston

the winner of our Janet Chapman giveaway is: Susan P! Watch for an email from janet!


Incredible Blogging Cat


  1. I got "The Chronicles of Egg/Deadweather and Sunrise" for my grandson but I enjoyed it as much as he did!
    I have truly become a fan, as has my grandson; frankly, we have had a ball following Geoff's booktour posts as well.
    We will be diving into "New Lands" with Egg and friends very soon. We have put it off only fora short time until a few things quiet down around here.
    (If you haven't read about Egg, do yourself a favor and go for it!)
    Continued success to you,Geoff.
    Than ks for introducing his work to us last year, Rocco.

  2. Well, I now have a new author and books to put on my to-read list! I mean, for my kids, of course. ;) Love your humor and post, thank you, Geoff!
    Susan P
    PS. And thank YOU, Rocco, for the giveaway I won last week! WOOT!