Why Futurama Works

As I mentioned last week, Futurama is one of my favorite television shows of all time. I’ve watched it a hundred times. The darling husband and I quote the show almost daily. There are some episodes I can’t watch because they’re too emotionally damaging. There are some I could watch every day and not get sick of them. 

The Star Trek cast in Futurama

Futurama has won countless awards for writing. And it’s with good reason. Now, I know that some of you reading this right now will think I’m being far too generous to a silly cartoon. But I’ll submit to you that I’m not. And the massive fan base that Futurama still holds would agree with me. 

So, it’s time to get it up on the table, break it apart, and see why it works.

There are professionals on the writing staff.

Of course, the writers are professionals with years of creative experience. I would hope the same could be said of most content, but that’s probably idealistic. 

Futurama takes this several steps further, though. Among their writing team, you’ll find scientists, mathematicians, physicists. And if they don’t have a professional on staff, they go find one. 

While this is a fiction show, they want to make sure that the science they use is real. Which makes the rest of the story more believable. As one of their splash screens says, you can’t prove it won’t happen. 

The writers hid jokes and didn’t explain.

If you’re casually watching an episode of Futurama while scrolling Instagram, you’re going to miss background jokes. And a lot of them. That’s because the writers love throwing in hidden jokes and never explaining them. They even developed alien languages and hid messages in the background. They never released a key for these languages, either. 

This means that the show can work on two levels. If you just want to watch a silly show, it’s great for that. If you want to watch it on a whole other level with a ton of in-jokes, it’s great for that too. 

Awesome attention to detail.

In the first episode, the main character Fry is tossed into a cryogenic chamber and frozen. This starts the whole story. But, as you go through the series, more and more comes to light regarding that moment. And every time you learn something else, you can go back and watch the first episode again to see if there are signs visible. 

And they always are. 

The writers trust their audience to be smart. 

The writers can do all of these great things, because of one simple fact.

They believe that their audience is smart. They don’t talk down, they don’t over-explain. They put out smart content, and they trust us to get it. 

Futurama The Sting

It’s time for the wrap-up. What can we as writers learn from Futurama?

– Get the factual parts of your story accurate, and it will make the whole thing more believable. 

-Don’t be afraid to add details or background jokes without an explanation.

-Pay attention to detail, and keep everything cannon. 

-Trust your audience to be at least as smart as you are. 

Is there a show, movie or book you’d like me to take apart to see why it works? Let me know in the comments. 

Paper Beats World is a labor of love. If you want to support this site, you can do so on Ko-fi. 

Life Lessons from Futurama

I heard a nasty rumor the other day that Futurama might be getting a reboot. This is my favorite show of all time, and I think they ended it on an exemplary note. Honestly, I can’t think of a better ending. So whoever had the idea to reboot this and spoil that perfect last episode can bite my shiny metal ass. 

I love Futurama because it’s funny, it’s smart and it’s way more emotional than people give it credit for. And like everything else, it taught me things. 

Next week, I’ll do a Why It Works post about Futurama. But today, I want to talk about some times the show made me think about fairly deep topics. Maybe deeper than you’d expect from a show that included a swearing, chain-smoking alcoholic kleptomaniac robot. 

Fry in Futurama Space Pilot 3000

Karma will out

Every character in Futurama has a moment, often more than once, where they are human. They have flaws, they’re selfish. They let their baser instincts guide them. And almost every time, Karma bites them.

Yes, even Bender. 

Karma will out is a lesson we need to be reminded of, even as adults. And while it doesn’t always work in the real world, it does often enough for our delightful Gen Z to create a delightful new phrase for it. Fuck around and find out. 

Fry kicks Bender out of their shared apartment because his antenna is messing with the tv signal. He fucked around with Bender’s emotions and found out that doesn’t feel great. 

Bender fucks around and steals an expensive cigar and finds out the cops take that sort of thing seriously. 

Karma will out. 

You can be smart and stupid at the same time

Amy is, in my opinion, an underrated character. She’s a college student, taking classes so intentionally advanced that she’s the only one taking them. She’s clever, quick-witted, and kind of a bitch sometimes. But she’s also a silly young adult who has no coordination, has swallowed her cell phone by mistake, and once lost the keys to the ship in a crane machine.

Both of these things can exist in the same person. I think sometimes we get caught up in proving we’re whatever we want to be. We want to prove we’re adults, prove we’re smart, prove we’re responsible and have our shit together. 

I’m smart when it comes to writing, time management, handcrafts, home crafts, art, computers, and a few other things. I am also the fool who once asked, “Why is Honey Nut Cheerios giving out wildflower seeds to help the bee population?”

I’m also the fool who turns on the light on my tablet to look for my tablet in bed. Who forgets to grab a towel on the way to the shower. And who does a million other stupid things while still being a published author and holding down a full-time job in the technical field? I contain multitudes and sometimes that’s not a good thing. But it doesn’t make me dumb.

You can be silly and serious at the same time

My favorite episode of Futurama is The Sting. In it, Lela thinks Fry is dead after he’s stung by a giant killer space bee. The episode deals with not only mourning the death of a loved one but also substance abuse and suicide. This is from the same series that later had an episode about cats trying to take over the world. And it did both of those things exceptionally well.

Life is both silly and serious. There are heavy things we have to deal with. But there are also remarkably silly things. We live in a world where both puff adders and kiwis exist. And while that’s a thought that can get you down if it comes out of nowhere, it’s comforting when you’re dealing with one of those serious moments. 

At least it is for me.

Leela, Fry and Gunter in Futurama Mars University

God is present 

Or the energy of the universe is present if you prefer. 

There’s an episode of Futurama called Godfellas. It won a metric ton of awards and for good reason. It’s amazing. And there’s a line that is stuck in my mind and will probably never go away.

If you do things right, people won’t be sure you’ve done anything at all. 

It makes me wonder how many times my life has been touched by an unseen but present source of love and hope. Just a tap here, a nudge there. How have I been helped without even realizing it? 

I love that, just the question of it. It makes me feel protected. Even if I’m not sure anything’s being done at all. 

Thanks for reading! If you liked this post, you can buy me a cup of coffee on Ko-fi. 

Sylvermoon Chronicles X is available now!

Hey, guys. Just jumping in here quick today to let you know that Sylvermoon Chronicles X is officially available.

If you’ve missed the last few installments, it’s an anthology series with some incredible authors, including yours truly. And this one’s a little sad, because it’s the final one.

Ten years is a massive amount of time, and I just can’t thank the editor, Madolyn Locke for committing herself to this.

Definitely check out Sylvermoon Chronicles issue X. It’s a really fun read from some amazing writers.

Why Only Murders In The Building Works

A few months ago, everyone was talking about Only Murders in The Building. Even one of my favorite writing podcasts, Ditch Diggers, discussed it. It was for a time everybody’s favorite show.

And I’m part of Everybody. I watched every episode, and couldn’t wait for the next one. Honestly, with comedy writing legends like Steve Martin, Martin Short and Tina Fey involved, I’m not the least bit surprised. These are some of the best comedy writers in the business with years of experience. 

Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez in The Building

So today it’s our topic for why it works. Let’s get it on the table, cut it apart, and see why it worked.

Motivated by the characters conflicting wants

Some stories are motivated by a situation. Some stories are about people coming together for a common goal. And some are about characters reacting to something in varying different ways, depending on what they want. 

The latter is a bit more complicated but far richer. 

Only Murder In The Building is about three people with parallel goals, not necessarily the same goal. You have Mabel, who wants to find out who killed Tim Kono. She has several reasons for this, that I don’t want to ruin for you on the off chance you haven’t seen it yet. Oliver wants to have a successful project to prove that he isn’t a failure. And Charles wants to prove that his career isn’t behind him. He isn’t a has-been. More than that, though, he wants to have people love him again. 

Oh, and both Oliver and Charles want to prove that they’re hip enough to have a millennial friend. 

All of these goals can line up, but won’t always. 

Relatable on multiple levels

I think we’ve all had friends who are only our friends because we share a common fandom. People we don’t have a single thing in common with beyond liking this piece of art. It’s a true-crime podcast that brings Mabel, Oliver and Charles together. And I think most of us love a little True Crime

But we’ve also all experienced that excitement when a new episode of something we love comes out. Many of us, unfortunately, know what it’s like to lose someone. We know what it’s like to be hurting for money, or missing someone we’d like to call but can’t.

So we might not know what it feels like to investigate a murder in an upscale apartment building. But we can still absolutely relate to these characters. 

Selena Gomez in Only Murders In The Building.

Twist upon twist upon twist

At any time while watching Only Murders in The Building if you think you know what’s happening, you’re wrong. There were so many twists and turns I barely knew which way was up. But at no time did I feel cheated. At no time did I feel like a twist came out of nowhere or didn’t make sense. 

I want to tread lightly here because I don’t want to ruin anything for you. But there’s more than one mystery to solve. 

This isn’t the sort of thing achieved in one draft. This is the sort of thing that takes rewrites upon rewrites to make sure that the twists are logical, but still hard to see coming. This is what can be achieved when you know your story back and forth. When you’re careful with your craft. When you’ve gone through the damned thing over and over. It takes planning and patience. 

Every episode left you with a question

When I was a kid I used to love reading Goosebumps. Every chapter ended with a cliffhanger. They weren’t, in hindsight, good cliffhangers. A common one was for the character to open a door and scream. On the first page of the next chapter, it was too often revealed that this was just a sibling or friend startling them. Cheap.

But it did give me a taste for that sort of thing. 

A much better way to handle an ending is to leave your audience with a question. And I mean something beyond the core question of the larger piece. In Only Murders in The Building, the main question is who killed Tim Kono. But in any given episode, you might have any other questions. 

Will the dog die?

Why is that strange ring there?

Why is that hoodie important?

Will this character lose their home?

None of these are cheap gimmicks. They’re real questions that stick with you for the whole week. Until it’s time for the next episode. 

To sum it up, here’s what we can learn from Only Murders in The Building.

-Make sure every character wants something. Bonus points if it’s something different from the other characters.

-Make your characters relatable in realistic ways, and we’ll be more likely to relate to them in unrealistic ways. 

-Plan out your twists and take your time.

-Give us a question, not a cliffhanger. 

What piece of content would you like to see me cover next? Let us know in the comments. 

Paper Beats World is a labor of love. If you want to support the site, you can buy me a cup of coffee on Ko-fi. 

My updated morning routine

A good morning may not make for a good day, but a bad morning will sure as hell make having a good day harder. So creating a morning routine that is no-fail is essential. Especially if you, like me, are juggling a day job, side hustle, sick loved ones and attempting to become a better artist while the world burns down around you. 

And these days, who’s not?

Like everything else in my life, I’m always looking for ways to improve my morning routine. And since it’s been a while since I updated you all on it, this seemed like a good time. 

Now, don’t worry. I’m not the sort to get up at 5:00, go for a jog, make a green smoothie for breakfast before I sit down to write in my journal for an hour. I don’t even really wish I could be that girl. Sleep is sacred, and I’d like to sleep as late as I can. 

Not all of these ideas will necessarily work for you, or fit in your life. But these are the things I do to get my days started positively.

It all starts the night before

I do not wake motivated. I wake irritated. Everything is a struggle before 8:00, and I feel personally victimized by everything


 So anything I can set up in advance is going to help me out a ton. I’m sure you’ve been told a million times before to get your clothes set out the night before and your bag packed if you’re leaving the house. But do you do it? 

Going a step further, I’ve also started meal prepping my breakfast. This is a fancy way of saying I’m making hard-boiled eggs and putting them in my fridge. Meal prepping doesn’t have to be some massive thing that includes chia seeds and weekends spent wrecking your kitchen. It can be as simple as doubling a recipe or boiling some eggs while you’re making dinner. 

Coffee, pets, breakfast

I generally convince myself to get out of bed at either 6:00 or 5:30, depending on when I have to show up at the day job. The first thing I do is start boiling water for coffee because I’m a weirdo who likes using a french press. While it’s boiling I’m taking Oliver out. Then I’ll feed Oliver and Harper. (Bonus tip. If you want to invest in a second alarm clock, feed your cat when you get up. I’ve done this with Harper since she was one year old, and now she licks my eyes to wake me up.)

While the coffee steeps in the french press, I crack open my eggs and move on to my next step.

Getting dressed

Even though I’m working from home right now, I still get dressed in the morning. I even put on a little bit of makeup. I don’t do this to look all fancy for the darling husband or any delivery person. I do this because it puts me into a productive mindset. I could, for sure, choose to spend the day in my favorite lama PJ pants. But I’m not going to feel like really cracking into my to-do list.

Also, I’d have to change to walk Oliver through the day, because my neighbor’s don’t need to know about the lama PJ pants.

Me and the universe

Once I’m dressed and armed with my breakfast, the time has come for some me and the universe time. I take some time to write down anything I remember from my dreams, do some tarot reading and meditation. This normally takes me about thirty minutes total. 

It’s just important for me to have some time, first thing in the morning, when the only voices in my head are mine and the universe. Soon enough all the other voices will crowd in. 

Planning time

Finally, it’s time to check in with my planners. I take a few minutes to update my gratitude log. Then I jot down my to-do list for the day, taking note of any appointments or meetings. Finally, I check my email, mostly for my bank statement. I like to keep track of how much money I’m spending every morning, to keep it from becoming a massive chore at the end of the week. 

All this takes me about an hour. I don’t think a morning routine should take longer than that, or it becomes cumbersome.

This is the routine that’s working best for me right now. So what about you? What do you do in the morning to help you have a better day? Let us know in the comments. 

Paper Beats World is a labor of love. If you love our content and want to support this site, please check us out on Ko-fi. https://ko-fi.com/nicolecluttrell

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